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On Running, Rest & Routines

by Tara

What started as a simple desire to move my body, is slowly transforming into something much larger. I've decided that I want to love running. More to the point: I want it to be one enjoyable part of my now active lifestyle.

While reading about running (too) late last night, I found this inspirational quote:

"This experience is
a newly discovered
form of meditation
one more way
for you
to discover you.

whatever you do
with your running,
you only cheat yourself
by pushing, pressing, competing.
There are no standards
and no possible victories except
the joy you are living
while dancing your run.
in any life
joy is only known
in this moment -- now!

so feel the flow
of your dance
and know
you are not running
for some future reward --
the real reward is now!

     in the running
     in the run
     --- now ---
     why not start

The Zen of Running, by Fred Rohé, 1974

…and then I promptly sat down to read the entire book it came from. I was pleased when everything the author had to say rang true for me. It was full of thoughts that I always wished could be true, but dismissed, because somewhere along the line I picked up a different idea:

Running only 'counted' if I kept pushing myself, if I stayed disciplined despite loathing it, and if I did it every single day until the day I died. Which, frankly, sounded terrible. I was relieved by the validation I was reading: maybe I could stop running before I wanted to kill myself! Then I would enjoy it and actually look forward to doing it on a regular basis. It sounded so right.

Absorbing all of this inspirational text lasted well past 2AM. This sort of thing (staying up too late reading and writing) is easily the most frequent killer of our optimistic plans to get up bright and early. By the time I closed my laptop and went to bed, very few hours remained before I would have to wake up and actually do what I'd committed myself to doing.

My early-morning brain (or rather, my sleep-deprived brain) is a strange thing. Somehow, the assertive part of myself that usually rules the roost takes a backseat to another voice. It seems logical, in the moment, but it is downright wily! This morning was a great example:

It is 7AM. The phone rings. A wake up call from reception. I leap up, disgusted at the blaring affront to my rest, pick up the receiver, fumble to replace it, and stumble back to bed. This is the part where I'm supposed to wake up, put on my shoes, and go out for a run.

90% of my brain is cool and collected, saying, "Just lay back down for a moment, think of how good just a bit more rest would feel. You can get up in a few minutes!"

…and then the meager 10% pipes up ever so softly from the deep recesses of my brain. The voice is weak and faint, barely able to traverse the vast distances between sleep and wakefulness. "Doooon't doooo itttttt", it pleads, a tiny little cartoon mouse peeking its head out from the void.

Then, big booming 90% smacks 10% out of the way, hurling it with great force deeply into dreamland. 90% takes over with the cocky self-assuredness of a used car salesman. "OOOH hush," it says, putting its arm around me in a grand and welcoming gesture. "You will be just fine. Just lay back down and close those eyes!"

As 10% disappears into the blackness, it squeaks a final plea, "But- but- but- he's lyyying don't liiiiiiisten!!!!"

"There you go, get back in bed, pull those covers up nice and cozy."

"but but…"


It's amazing how the big fat 90% just makes so much sense at the time.

So of course I went back to bed, because that was the obvious thing to do in my sleepy daze. I did manage to wake up a little while later, extricate myself from the cozy bed I shared with Tyler, and put on my shoes.

Then, I leaned over, kissed him, and asked if he wanted to come with me. He mumbled something incomprehensible and rolled over, my voice probably small and faint from a land far away from his thick, vivid dreams. So I let him sleep, and set out on my own.

What a relief it was to have a single, simple goal for my new hobby: to run. Forgetting about time, distance, and speed, I could simply enjoy myself. I didn't have any rules, I didn't have to sprint to the finish, and I didn't have to push myself to go more, more, more, and more.

As I ran, feeling my lungs expand and deflate, I said a quick thank you to the universe that all my limbs worked and were capable of transporting me. The whole thing felt so good. When I decided I was done, I came jogging back to the hotel feeling energized, already looking forward to going again the next morning.

It's not easy developing a new routine, picking up a new skill, or staying disciplined, but I'll take it one day at a time. Hopefully my 10% will get stronger with each passing day!

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I'm kind of envious! I'd love to enjoy running. Sometimes I have dreams where I'm running and it's so easy and I'm going so fast and I'm kind of more bounding than running. I always wake up from those dreams feeling like going for a run but then remembering it will just be a world of pain and deflated go back to sleep. I am a schlub :)
Posted by Katherine on July 1st, 2010 at 2:06 PM
You go girl! I used to hate running, too. But then I started running just a few blocks at a time, spending most of my "run" speeding walking. Working up to more and more running blocks felt so awesome because I was doing it for ME- my health, my strong legs, my heart-- not for anyone else. So no pressure! Sounds like you are the same, hope it continues to go well!
Posted by Liz Kelley on July 1st, 2010 at 9:14 PM
Wow, Tara! That was inspiring! I was just saying to Katherine that if running was something I could get into, I would totally be out there pounding pavement now. Alas, I remember too clearly the crushing agony when we were running to catch the bus the other day ;-)

You write so beautifully!
Posted by Michael on July 2nd, 2010 at 12:32 PM
Great that you are enjoying running. Hope you have the genetics (back, knees, feet) to sustain it. I did it for 30 years and loved it (only 4 miles a day). Then the orthopedist said I ruined my back and I had to bike or swim. I disliked biking kinda like you disliked running. Now after a year I'm really into biking. The Volea recumbent arrives tomorrow! Keep up the running and biking.
Posted by Al Thoma on July 2nd, 2010 at 1:34 PM
Katherine - Well I'm late in replying to this so I already know you that you did go running! I'm so happy for you, and yes, even a slow run counts as a run. :-) Baby steps!

Liz - Thank you! :D It is going well, though I am afraid that without a set routine I do it less and less eventually peter out. So I think I need some sort of structure, as much as I hate it. But I still love the way I feel when I run (and sometimes walk). It's just as you said, I'm doing it for me and it makes my body feel good!

Mike - Thank you! It's funny, I don't know what shifted in my head, but one day I hated running and then I just decided to enjoy it. And so I don't go far or fast or anything unless I want to. Anyway, give it a shot, you might like it! :-)

Al - Oh that really sucks about your back and knees! :-( Glad you got into cycling though! I definitely prefer biking, but since I can't right now, I'll stick with running. Once we have the bikes back, I'm not sure I'll keep up with the morning jogs. We'll see!
Posted by Tara on July 28th, 2010 at 5:45 PM