Art by Gianne Encarnacion
Just like any other overweight kid with a paranoid mother, I grew up playing a sport I didn’t really like to shed unwanted “baby weight.” I was around seven years old when my parents enrolled me in karate classes. I gladly obliged in the hopes of fending off the bullies and maybe showing off a few high kicks during family reunions to get the extra moolah. Looking at the medals I’ve won competing at the national level and the brown belt hidden in my drawers feels like all of it was productive. I mean, I wasn’t able to lose my chubby cheeks but I had cute photos of myself in a kimono standing on top of a podium. But I also know that our training process also contributed to the development of my poor relationship with exercise a few years after I left the sport.
Being an overweight athlete, I finish a barefoot sprint seconds after my teammates, feeling all their stares in front of me as I inhale the last breath of air needed to push to the end. Even playing patintero as a cross-training activity felt like an invitation for scrutiny for always being part of the losing team. Because of these childhood experiences, I’ve always been ashamed of running so I stayed off the treadmill until two years ago. All it took to get me on it again was a very stressful week of work and the appeal of running with an Olympic gold medalist.
Gymnast Simone Biles won the Olympic gold medal — and my heart — back in 2016. Just like me, she started training for her sport when she was around six years old; the only difference is she’s really good at it. When I found out that she has a special episode with Nike Running Club, a guided run app that you can download for free via the App Store and the Google Play Store, I was intrigued but that intrigue spiked even more when I saw the word “fartlek.” For the uninitiated, fartlek basically means that you run intervals without stopping for breaks.
You can run slower but absolutely no walking allowed. That seems easy for a seasoned morning runner, but for someone who still trembles and gets wild flashbacks when thinking about running, it’s next to impossible. But for the love of Simon, I gave it a try.