All histories of people’s passion for running in adulthood start about the same way. They have problems with their health or appearance and they decide to find a solution in jogging.
We are not going to tell you about the beneficial effects of running here. Open any brochure, article in popular magazines or simply type in “the benefits of running” in your favorite search engine. Instead, I will share with you my own experience and how running has strengthened not only my body, but also my mind.
From jogs to marathons
I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. Started, quit, started again. I decided to run regularly in 2009. Yes, the reason, like everyone else, was sticking out and catching my eye. It became uncomfortable to carry a growing belly. After quickly shedding five pounds, I safely abandoned running.
Another attempt was due to the arrival of the Runkeeper app on my iPhone. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Runkeeper allowed me to automatically keep statistics on my runs. I loved watching the growing graphs of miles run and calories burned. After about two months of chasing the numbers like that, I was walking with a stick. I foolishly damaged a ligament in my knee joint. It took me a month to recover and forget about running.
When I moved into a new apartment, I decided to get rid of half of my books. I went to put things in order in my closets and came across a book I bought 20 years ago, “Marathon for Everyone”. This book closed in on my thinking. I decided I wanted to run a marathon. What kind, when, and how much training for it, I didn’t think about. I had a goal, and it made it easier for me to decide whether or not it was worth the time to train for.
This year I decided that I would run my first official marathon. I’m sure there will be others after that. I am not an athlete, so I am only competing against my own laziness and disorganization. Running is more than just exercise to me. Running teaches me a lot.
Running is the best meditation
I often catch myself thinking that my mind is like a cup filled to the brim. I become unresponsive and overwhelmed until there is room for more. The “morning pages” help me out in the morning. I became addicted to them after reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Then freewriting exercises were added.
For many years I thought I was mastering meditation. I practiced yoga, read a lot of books, and asked the instructors. I wanted to find an opportunity for solitude and restorative contact with myself. Now I know the best way to “reset” myself.
Any run over 10 kilometers is a great meditation. I stopped putting music in my headphones. I am more interested in listening to my body. You can count your breath. You can imagine how you inhale energy and exhale negativity.
It wasn’t easy for me to get used to running my heart rate, when I had to run without exceeding a set limit of beats per minute. It was a revelation to me how many factors affect how the heart works. A relaxed face, a certain rhythm of breathing, what you think about while running. The workout turns into a constant dialogue with your body.
After a long workout, I come running physically tired, but with a completely lucid, “empty” head.
In addition to the many creative techniques that help me find new ideas, another condition is important to me. I do not want to look like a dilettante, so I will try to describe my feelings without scientific terms. In order to find a solution to a complex problem or just to sketch out a dozen fresh ideas, I start a “parallel process.
Before training, for fifteen minutes I write down in any form what comes to my mind about the problem I want to move forward in solving. I like to structure what I write as a numbered list of questions. I write, close my notebook, change my clothes, and run. During my run, I don’t think of any questions or problems. After a workout, a shower, and a short rest, I try to find another 15 minutes to freerate. I open my notebook and write.
I often get more ideas in 15 minutes of jogging than in an hour of thinking at home.
What’s even more amazing is that now I’ve even stopped rereading the questions I write before working out. It’s like they’re downloaded into my subconscious, and the answers and ideas can come to mind later in the day and a week later. I have decided for myself that running activates or triggers some “parallel processes” in my mind.
I don’t want to make experts laugh, I’m not a big expert in psychology. But this image helps me. I load questions before training. During the run, I trigger some kind of process. And afterwards, I write out condensed thoughts. And running activates the mind so great that the search for solutions and answers continues from workout to workout, giving out results in the most unexpected moments.
I am probably disciplined by an awareness of limited resources. When you have a goal, and you start to consistently approach it, you start to appreciate your time and energy. Running is a great educator.
First you learn how to allocate your energy over the distance you have planned for your workout. Then you start to plan your day, taking into account the time you need to train. Then you factor in your training, deciding when and where to go.
Running taught me to “lay in the long run”. If you really want to achieve something, you will, in any circumstance, look for opportunities to get closer to your goal.
I take my uniform with me and run in other cities, in other countries. It was the preparation for specific runs with a designated date that cemented in me the rule – what you didn’t do today, you will never do again. It’s impossible to miss a month of training and then make up for lost time in a week of “rush”. This understanding helps a lot not to put off planned activities in other areas as well.
Running teach you how to live in here and now
There is no progress without effort. In almost every training session there comes a moment when treacherous thoughts creep in to stop, to rest, to stop exerting myself. At first I thought that I had to learn to be patient, to overcome myself, to wait for the second breath.
Gradually I came to understand that running is a model of life:
If I endure and wait for better times to come, I may never have a happy life. Running teaches me to stay in the present and find joy in overcoming myself.
Every moment of training is a part of our life. We have to learn not to endure it, but to enjoy it. To distract myself, I learned to cheer myself up. Never before, did I pay attention to what you say to yourself in a difficult moment.
The moment when it seems that there is no strength to run anymore is the best time for introspection.
At that moment, when your body treacherously refuses to run any further, I begin to ask myself the following questions: How do I feel my fatigue? How long do I have left to run? How would I like to feel when I finish?
Sometimes it is enough to repeat to myself “you need work, you can, work harder” and my legs begin to run themselves. It makes you happy to feel that you are overcoming yourself in real time. You regain a sense of control over your own life, at least in a small part of it. The one in which you run and overcome yourself.
We live when we act. When I am not in the mood or have no energy to take on what I have planned, it is important for me to force myself to do something. When I start to act, my motivation, energy, and performance return. Conscious exercise running with set goals is a great way to move yourself from the dead point of uncertainty and stagnation. The main thing is to start acting, gradually and consistently.