This post comes from our international contributor, Beckie. 

It’s not me, it’s Beirut. That’s the confirmation I got last night.

To recap: Last week, for my first post on 2fatnerds, I decided to go for a run for the very first time outdoors in Beirut, Lebanon, where I live and work. My goal is to prove to myself that physical activity in the city is possible.

The oglers and hilly terrain aside, running on the street was an incredibly uncomfortable experience. My lungs were aching about a kilometer into my run, so I abruptly turned around and walked most of the way back home.

I was pretty sure that I wasn’t that out of shape, that it had to do with Beirut’s air and me being unconditioned to it that made running so hard last week. I did a little research and found that Beirut air pollutants are 200-250 percent higher than what the World Health Organization recommends. Car density and reliance on electricity generators in the city are the biggest problem.

In my neighborhood, for example, which is perched above the slaughterhouse district, we get the distinct smell of sour meat wafting through the streets several times a week. It just lingers there for hours and fills up the apartment until your nose becomes numb to it.

I don’t like saying bad things about Beirut, because it’s actually a lovely place and my home right now. But I was really determined last night when I went to the gym for the first time in an embarrassingly long time to prove that Beirut’s pollution was to blame for my inability to run down the street and back.

So, I did! Last night, I ran 5.2 kilometers in 37 minutes. It’s probably the worst 5k I’ve ever run, but it felt really good to prove that I haven’t lost everything while sitting on my butt at the office 45 hours a week.

And I had another epiphany. My workout philosophy has always been to get exercise done in the morning, before work wears me out and so I can put my mind in health mode for the rest of the day. But I’m finding more and more evidence that I have more stamina and more mental control at night, when I’ve put all my work for the day behind me and I’m wide awake. I always cut workouts short in the morning because I’m stressed about all the things I need to get done at work, and working out at night remedies that issue. I can just keep running for as long as I want.

Yesterday was a national holiday in Lebanon – Hijri, the Isalmic New Year – so I spent the day catching up on housework, reading “Into the Wild” and cooking. I also spent most the day blissfully alone. I noticed how much a really relaxing but productive day at home affected my energy levels. This is probably really obvious, but in order to maximize my workouts and really achieve fitness goals, I need to pair more physical activity with more meditative activity, such as reading, walking to music or just hanging out alone. Why not make a change body AND soul.