I have been running on and off for over two years and consistently for about a year. Recently, I started to actually think about running, to fully experience it and make the connections between running and my life. Doing so enables me to integrate running wholly into my day and allow me to use running wisdom in my life. I’d like to share some of my insight with you.
Insight 1. Sometimes we need a gentle push
My running journey started by pure coincidence: I simply said yes to a coworker’s suggestion of doing a team race together. Then race after race, running gradually became a part of my life. However, even now, I sometimes struggle to get up in the morning. Once in a while, I’ll sit in my parked car staring into space for minutes hesitant to go out. More often than not, I need to give myself an encouragement speech in my head before the first step.
What makes it so hard to start? Inertia. We are creature of habits. It is so easy to stay in our comfort zone, operate on auto pilot and repeat the same old routine – even when what we are doing completely bores us out of our minds, sabotages what we want to accomplish, or causes unnecessary and excruciating pain. Yet in our mind, changes seem worse. It is difficult to break inertia but what it really takes is a thought – I’m going for a run today; an action – open the car door; and a click – let the time on Fitbit start. Sometimes what we need is a gentle push, and that small step leads to our exit from the seemingly unbreakable cycle.
Insight 2. You are perfect wherever you are
I liked the concept of running before I liked running. Except it was someone else’s concept – running as the only time body and mind could unite to cultivate inspiration. I desperately tried to generate this kind of liberating experience every single time. You can probably guess that, more often than not, it didn’t end up the way I had hoped. Some days I was tired and literally had zero bandwidth to think. Every ounce of my energy and strength were used to get more oxygen in my lungs and prompt my legs moving forward. Other days I was perfectly fine physically but had only mundane thoughts coming in my head. All I could think of were random daily tasks, or judgment of what I should have done the day before. Once in a while creativity struck me like lightning, inspiration flowed through my body, and new insight flashed in my mind. However these bursts of ingenuity were few and far between. I was disappointed! Why couldn’t I have the synchronized experience? What is wrong with me?
Then I remembered how proud I was when finishing ten miles for the first time. I recalled the smile on my face when running and waving at my fellow runners on the trail. I could still feel the excitement when I spotted two deer in the woods on an early morning run. I realized that for me running is energy, physically and mentally, from both people and nature. Such energy empowers me tremendously, and it doesn’t need to be a narrow concept of “synchronization” or “inspiration”. For me running is a process, not a destination. The joy of running originates from the joy of the process, filled with wonder and adventure. With this new wisdom, now I can enjoy my runs, slow runs, mindless runs, energetic runs, and fun runs. Now I can enjoy my life knowing I am perfectly fine wherever I am.
Insight 3. Let it flow
When I was training for races, I became a time slave. I set up my Fitbit to buzz every mile, which popped up a summary of my time, speed, heart rate, etc. Clearly that was not enough for me as I caught myself checking Fitbit even between miles to see how fast I was running. I would then think, calculate, and adjust. This obsession became a problem during winter. Taking off gloves and rolling up layers of sleeves to check my time every single mile during the run was nearly impossible. I had to let it go and only check my time when I finished. Surprisingly, I finished that long uninterrupted run at my fastest speed! Certainly checking time and adjusting speed have its own benefit; however when it turned into an obsession it consumed more energy than I realized. When the focus shifted back to running itself instead of a specific time target, my speed naturally increases.
Similarly, I caught myself raising up my shoulders attempting to swing my arms faster when I was tired. I don’t know how long I had been doing that but only noticed it when started to pay more attention to my running posture. When I intentionally told myself to relax, my shoulders immediately dropped, and my body became less rigid and leaned forward. In hindsight, my original stance was counterintuitive; however that is exactly how we react in real life. We control and we fight. We have moments when we over-analyze a situation and try to manage the result, but end up not making a decision. Or we suppress our sadness or anger, wishing it can go away, but find it return in full force. Ironically, the more we control, the more we lose; the more we fight, the more things fight back. Take it easy, let it flow, and things will work out the way they are supposed to.
Our tendencies in one area of our lives show up in all areas. Keep your eyes open, and discover your own insight. They might be hidden at the least expected places!