To Run or to Dance? That is the Question. By Holly Mittelmeier

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Holly Mittelmeier is an Assistant Director of Student Activities at John Carroll University. She is a dancer, a dreamer and more recently — a runner. Follow Holly on Twitter: @HolllyGoLightly ( yes, there are 3 L’s in Holly)

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So I am a runner. I think. Actually, no, I feel more comfortable calling myself “someone who runs frequently.” I am a dancer though. While I may not take class regularly, I still keep my 20+ years of lessons instilled in my brain nearly every day. They still apply-the discipline, the grace, the posture, how I present myself, how I walk, how I listen to classical music in my car (oddly nodding my head and applying hand movements that flow with the music). Somehow, I started running too, little by little, and here I am, 2 weeks from my first half-marathon.

It is quite comical that I am running now. I think there were two times I ran a mile in gym growing up — once in sixth grade and once in high school. I wasn’t able to finish either time and nearly passed out in nausea the second time. Way to go, Holly! My sister was always the runner ( she ran track and cross country) — and was a also a dancer. I would go to her practices and meets with my mom and wonder why anyone would get joy out of running for hours.

My sister still runs, and my brother-in-law does IronMan competitions and has done an Ultra Marathon (running 100 miles-WHOA). They regularly do the Akron Turkey Trot run on Thanksgiving morning, and a few years ago they asked me if I wanted to participate. I was home from grad school, and I had been working out and taking ballet classes at the time and was feeling pretty good, so I said yes. My sister mentioned there was the one mile run I could do, I shrugged my shoulders, and said, “Hey, why not? Anything to make myself feel better about all the food I am about to eat today.” So we get downtown that morning — and guess what? –we showed up too late for me to register for the one mile run. It was either four miles (through the way-hilly old cemetery, mind you) or nothing at all. I decided to go for it. I was already dressed for a run and I knew I would feel terrible if I watched everyone else run and then regret it later.

I started running. It was cold. I could see my breath. I saw all the runners in their fancy gear that looked way serious and felt a ping of self-doubt. Who was I kidding? I was developing that gross cold-sweat that we all hate. BUT-I finished it! And I ran the whole time. I couldn’t believe it. From then on, I started running. Then I met my partner, and he runs too. So we run together quite a bit. Last year, I did my first 5k. Followed by four more 5k runs. Then this past May, I did my first 10k in the Cleveland Marathon. It felt amazing. So my partner and I decided we would run a half together, and I somehow am pulling out nine and ten mile runs. WOW!

But here is the thing, like all forms of exercise, they all work your muscles in different ways. After my first run on Thanksgiving, I went back to school and resumed my ballet classes and running, and my classes were awful. My legs felt like bricks! I could not jump, I could not bend my knees without them hurting, my legs essentially felt like cement. I had never felt this way before.  I asked my teacher about it afterwards (she was a professional in Indianapolis, so I figured she would have some kind of advice for me) and she did…and it was pretty depressing. She told me that runners couldn’t be dancers, and she had many colleagues that tried to take it up for the cardio strength, and they had the same results. While running strengthened my legs, that is all it did — strengthen and build muscle. Dancing, obviously builds strength, flexibility, and nimbleness.  She said I could keep doing both, just not at the same time. What is a girl to do? I loved both, and I liked how both exercises made me feel at the same time. I was working my body vigorously and I felt so great (except for the super sore legs).

Fast track to now.  I am ashamed to say how long it has been since I have been in a dance class. For one, tuition is really expensive! Each month I say to myself that I am going to take money out to get that class pass at the contemporary dance company down the street, and then “life stuff” (like bills, rent, car repair, random doctor bill, etc) comes and my money is put towards other things. Needless to say,  dance classes fall by the wayside. Running is essentially free for me to do, because I can do it anywhere and I can do it anytime I want. I get the flexibility and stretching from the free yoga classes at lunchtime that are offered from Recreation at the institution of my employment.

I may grow tired of running at some point and take the plunge and go back to class because  I miss it terribly. I  will often do center exercises in my head, and I play the long versions of the classical pieces I am used to doing Barre exercises to at work. Although personally I have found  working in student activities makes me tired with little momentum to run after a late night program I am still working through the life long struggle of fitting in my workouts with a busy work schedule. But at the end of the day, I am just happy I am staying fit and exercising — doing SOMETHING.

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