I used to run a 13-mile loop without ever taking a day off—and then I quit, just like that, cold turkey.
Running, to me, wasn’t something that I forced myself to do either—although surely there were days—it was something that I loved.
I lived to run—and then I didn’t.
Recently, however, I’ve been battling stress, and the thing is that my rather anxiety-prone personality is the main reason that I adored running in the first place.
I’m fully aware that many people loathe running, and up until this morning, for the last nearly 10 years if you had asked me, I also would have told you that running isn’t good for your body. But what about when you need it for your mind?
For those of you who have never even considered running around the block, this is why people run, and for those of you who practice yoga, I firmly believe that runners are also practicing yoga, just in a different setting.
The reason that people lace up their tennis shoes to pound the pavement (or, in my case, a tree-lined trail) is simple: it gets you out of your racing, monkey mind and back into your body, reducing stress and depression while increasing feelings of elation and health.
Runner’s high is not made up.
I only ran a mile today.
I promised myself that I would run a mile, even if I had to walk in parts (I was elated to discover that I didn’t)—and I also promised myself that I wouldn’t run more than a mile.
Why? Because I’m no longer an over-achieving, classic type-A anorexic with an exercise addiction—I’m a mama, a wife and more than anything, I’m a woman who also adores moderation.
So why could I never manage to be a moderate runner?
My all-or-nothing personality was evident, including with my running, from pretty early on.
I might have mentioned (cough, cough—read my bio) that I studied geology in college. For one summer, I had to go to field camp (insert nerdy joke of choice). Needless to say, there was a lot of hiking involved—a lot—and I still ran every single morning beforehand.
One of our professors was also a runner. He ran on his collegiate team during his undergraduate years. At one point, we lived in the same neighborhood and would frequently pass each other on our pre-class runs.
One morning at field camp, as we loaded up the vans for our daily outing, he asked me about my running—my history, how often, etc. In return, I learned that he ran an estimated two or so miles several days a week, maybe even less on some days. I didn’t understand how someone could stop after such a “short” distance, when for me the high was just beginning.
Of course, logically, I understood—and I understand even more now.
When you do “healthy” things excessively, they’re no longer healthy, and almost anything falls into this category—including exercise.
It took me years to recover from my anorexia and to learn how to get in touch with my passion—as well as my physical, mental and emotional needs—for working out, while simultaneously not letting it derail my life and ultimately, my health.
So when I recently decided that I needed something more than my regular yoga practice and my other fitness routines in order to shake my recurrent edginess, I decided to lace up my running shoes once again.
At first I was scared, but I knew that it was the right thing to do.
Physiologically, it provides the release that I need right now, but I’m actually talking more deeply about my own need to conquer my fears.
For too long, I’ve avoided something that I had previously intensely loved because I became afraid of this very intensity.
I’ll admit that I wanted to keep going after my mile ended, but a promise is a promise.
I broke a similar promise once upon a time and I still regret it.
In junior high I went on a school outing to Cedar Point (a huge roller coaster park in case you’re not aware). I was deathly afraid of roller coasters. (As a child, I sobbed profusely after going on the “baby Gemini.”) As luck would have it, one of my girlfriends was also terrified. We decided to go on one roller coaster, coming to the acceptable conclusion that if one of us loved it and the other not so much, then we would both abstain for the duration of the day.
I loved it—and I ditched my friend for the other kids who wanted to ride roller coasters with me. (Yeah, I’m still ashamed to tell that story.)
Well, this would not be one of those times.
I’ve not disappointed a friend so willingly since, and I wouldn’t disappoint myself now either.
So I laced up my shoes—and I had a blast.
My lungs pounded, sweat trickled down the inside of my tank top and my spirit felt re-lit, like a match had been hidden inside the soles of my turquoise and mesh tennis shoes.
I’ll admit to you I loved it so much that I went out and got fitted for a pair of the brightest, most ’80s neon running shoes that I could find, and that I almost can’t stand having to wait until next week to pick them up.
What’s my point? I guess I have a few.
First, tackle your fears. They might win, but they might not.
I ran a mile, and you know what? It was good enough. I don’t see myself needing to run over 10 miles again, but I do see myself lacing up my brand spankin’ new shoes at least a couple times a week.
Secondly, never say “never.”
I’ve always subscribed to this philosophy, and now I’m appreciating why. I know that I said that I would never ever run again—and, boy howdy, was I wrong.
Thirdly, don’t limit yourself. We’re all guilty of saying that we can or can’t do something—yet how do you know unless you try?
For me, running felt like getting back on a bike. Perhaps there’s something that you’ve been wanting to attempt and you haven’t taken that initial step because of your “I can’t” attitude. Well, stop it already, would you?
Finally, get out there and do something. That’s it. Just do something.
Too many of us sit on our duffs and dream that tomorrow will be the day that we eat better or start an exercise routine, and what are we waiting for? Throw away your bucket list and do it now—if for no other reason than you’re putting off your own happiness.
So yeah, I laced up my running shoes after almost ten years, and I’ll tell you what, I won’t wait another ten years to get back on the horse if the rodeo calls.
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Ed: B. Bemel