“I hate cardio,” I used to always say whenever someone asked me about working out. After trying various forms of exercise, I had figured out that yoga was my favorite and started doing only that. The challenging power and vinyasa classes I took burned fat, toned muscle, stretched me out, and improved my kinesthetic awareness at a deliberate and non-haggard pace. By my own standards, I looked and felt fine. That is, until I started traveling.
Manila doesn’t have a strong walking culture. The sad state of our infrastructure and public transportation had me relying solely on Uber to get around. So when it was time to bust my lungs abroad, commute, and cover ground on my own two feet, I found myself getting tired easily. I learned the hard way that you need a good level of endurance to meet the physical demands of exploring a place and maximizing the experience. Cardio, I decided soon after, had to happen.
I started by joining the weekly Beyond Sculpt class (a unique combination of cardio and calisthenics) offered at my yoga studio. A few months later, I bought my first proper pair of running shoes. The fitness gods seemed to be paying attention, because I got invited to join the Nike+ Run Club (NRC) Manila the week after that.
Running around BGC
NRC meets every Tuesday and Thursday at exactly 7:34 p.m. in front of Nike Park Fort on Bonifacio High Street. Joining is free and open to all levels (I made it clear that the last time I ran was around the UP Academic Oval during college). There were coaches, including the likes of Rio de la Cruz, Ian Banzon, and Ico Ejercito to lead the drills and runs. They were also there to keep you motivated, crack jokes when you felt like dying, correct your posture, and share helpful running tips (e.g. when you feel like collapsing onto your knees between reps, you’ll actually feel better if you put your hands behind your neck, spread your elbows, and open your chest to the sky — it sounds counterintuitive, but it works). They also checked-in your bags for safekeeping and provided free water.
Apart from these conveniences, I generally prefer to work out with a group, even if I can do the exercises on my own. Having an external structure to work with gets you out of your head and helps you maintain the intensity and integrity of your workout. I only have to be motivated/faithful enough to show up. After that, the group’s infectious energy rides me through the rest of the work. There is no such thing as stopping to check your phone or being a little too nice to yourself when you have a fit group to keep up with.
We started with a few drills to warm up, and then split into several groups when it was time to run around Bonifacio Global City. Needless to say, it was hell. Just because you finally choose cardio, that doesn’t mean all the reasons you hate it will magically go away — the panicked huffing and puffing, the extremely dry throat and air passages due to said huffing and puffing, cramping along your midsection, and feeling as if your lungs and heart desperately want to explode out of your rib cage.
But this time, I knew exactly why I was doing it. The week before, I had just gotten home from a personal trip to Tokyo. The only means of getting around were trains and lots of walking (their famously expensive cabs were out of the question). The first few days were extremely exhausting. My ankles felt as if they might detach themselves from my legs. But towards the end of the trip, there was so much space and strength in my chest that I had not felt before. Adapting to the Japanese’s heavy walking culture, even just for a week, gave me a level of energy and endurance that I just never had while I lived in Manila, daintily hopping from one Uber to the next. Stairs that usually winded me, I could now choose to power through, appreciating the simple, basic pleasure of being, well, physically strong and capable. And when I came home, I just didn’t want to lose that. So I ran.