Oct. 13 2014 03:51 PM

Zero-2-couch in 10 easy weeks


One of the most gratifying purchases I made this year was a "0.0" sticker for my car. The elation I get from its presence on my rear window is totally unreasonable. Now, this is probably a sad reflection of my character—and, predictably, I'll get letters about what a horrible, hollow human I am—but there's almost nothing as gratifying for me these days as changing lanes in front of someone with a braggy "26.2" sticker on their bumper. Really, the only thing more satisfying is being at a stop light in front of someone with a "26.2" and a "13.1" and a Ragnar emblem or seven. I get elated just thinking about it.

Though I feel no need to advertise it on my car, I have taken up running again after many years. Yet I have zero aspirations to run a marathon. As such, I've decided to share my 10-week plan for anyone who's ever been interested in not running a marathon. 

It seems daunting on the face of it, I know. But with a little determination, will power, some pluck and intention, anyone can not do it. Trust me. It's totally possible. It's important, though, to ease into the training plan gradually. The idea is to transform you from beginner to fuck that shit in 10 weeks.

Too many people have been turned off to not running a marathon simply by trying to start off too fast. Their bodies rebel and they wind up in a mental funk, wondering why anyone would possibly want to not run in the first place. Don't make this mistake. 

In the beginning, you may ask yourself, "What's wrong with me? Everyone and their Aunt Joyce from Decorah who just had a hysterectomy (except for the left ovary) are running marathons. Why not me?" These are excellent questions and Week 1 is all about tackling them. 

Begin by mulling them over in 20-minute intervals during bouts of insomnia each night during Week 1. If the answers prove daunting, ease up and try every other night instead. If this still doesn't work, take a sleep aid or a Xanax and play Sudoku on your iPhone until the drugs kick in. Most importantly: Don't lie in bed and compare your belly fat to that of the lady with one ovary. This is unproductive.

Week 2 steps up the intensity of the middle-of-the-night contemplations. Use these insomniac hours to visualize yourself at the gym. Contemplate getting out of bed and going; it's open 24 hours, and you're awake anyway. Picture yourself pulling on your gym socks in the dark and simultaneously come up with excuses not to go: You might fall asleep if you keep trying, the walk between the parking lot to the gym is dangerous in the dark, etc. Play some Sudoku while trying to decide what to do.

Week 3 includes some actual-versus-imagined exercise. If, like me, you're a non-ambitious, non-insane runner, your Runkeeper app will chime in to let you know that you just ran one mile in 12 minutes and 37 seconds. 

Now visualize 26.2 miles. Now do the math in your head. 

If you're a walker, there's no need to track your time. Just estimate that it would take you several days plus meal and pee breaks to complete a marathon. Emit several gasps of exasperation at the mere idea of such folly and feel superior that you've chosen an activity that will preserve your knees.

Week 4 will be a repeat of Week 3, but with at least one 7-degree incline. The math is getting trickier as your pace will be inconsistent. But you feel the burn in your legs and estimate the depth of misery of doing even half a marathon. Give up and walk up that hill backwards and contemplate pinging Uber to take you home. If a marathon seems preposterous, you're well on your way to success. But be cautioned: The next part of the plan is deceptively simple. Resist the urge to skip ahead. 

Indeed, Weeks 5 and 6 are largely mental gymnastics. Every day during your drive to work, imagine the freeways cordoned off. Imagine the energy and camaraderie of thousands of people rockin' and rollin' alongside you. Imagine the water stations. Imagine yourself running down the middle of Highway 163 in a tutu and shoes made especially for pronators. Wow, you might think to yourself. It really is far from Mission Valley to Downtown. Indeed. Much of it is deceptively uphill, too. 

Week 7 is all about rewards for your hard work so far. Treat yourself at least three times this week to a scone from Extraordinary Desserts. Take it to Balboa Park and eat it with a cup of coffee from the Mingei Café while watching joggers go by. Feel guilty that you're not out there and then let it go. Just like a lone ovary in a middle-aged woman, guilt will not serve you. Also, make a mental note that the Cabrillo Bridge is pretty damned long and sit pleasantly with the realization that you have no desire to run across it. Ever. 

During Week 8, do 10 sun salutations each morning, eat greens for breakfast and swear off all refined sugar—until you're re-watching The Wire from your couch at night while eating a bowl of 31 Flavors Mint Chocolate Chip. Know the ice cream is going to ruin your stomach and wonder what you would do if you were running a marathon with gastrointestinal distress. One word: Port-o-Potty. 

Weeks 9 and 10, focus on research. Check out one marathon website each day and see photos of all the beautiful, happy people, happily running their 26.2 miles, earning their happy car stickers. Recognize these people are crazy and buy yourself a "0.0" sticker so you can feel happiest of all. And congratulations on being ready to not run a marathon!

Email Aaryn Belfer. Aaryn blogs at aarynbelfer.com and you can follow her on Twitter @aarynb.