Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Run?: Procrastination, Me-Time, and Anxiety Relief

Since my last post, I've been thinking about what I should discuss next. I realized I didn't really talk much about my reasons for running and the personal benefits that I've received from running. I'll share a little bit of the positives and negatives of running, along with a couple horrible photos for your viewing pleasure! 

Why run? That is a question that I ask myself constantly. Especially after 10 miles in stifling, sweltering 80 degree heat. Why do I run? The answer is simple, it's where I find my zen. 

Me and my mom on September 20, 2014 holding the metal I won the first time I placed in a race. I placed 3rd in my age group in the Braswell 5K.

I decided to start training for my first full marathon in June 2014. Since then, it's been a ride. Actually, I wish it were a ride; it's more like a tedious trek. I mean 26.2 miles... really?! Running is definitely easier in the summer, when I'm not teaching and I have all day to get it done. Even though I still play a mind game with myself and tell myself, "O I'll run in 20 minutes" which turns into 3 hours later and I'm still sitting on my couch watching the Big Bang Theory. It's also a lot easier to run when you don't have piles of homework to do (grad student) and piles to grade (teacher). 

Even though I love running, I still try to snake my way out of it. I'm constantly convincing myself that it's time to run and then talking myself into or out of runs. Just because I like to run doesn't mean that I always want to run. I get that feeling you get when you know you have to go to the DMV, you literally have to mentally prepare yourself for it.

Run procrastination at it's finest. I'm not even sure what I was doing... Beavis and Butthead impersonations anyone?

At times, running is agonizing from the time I put on my tennis shoes until the time that I stop. But then, I have a run where everything just feels amazing. The weather is beautiful, I see wildlife, and the sun warms me.

So I didn't choose to do another form of exercise for many reasons. I always felt silly doing fitness classes, not that you my dear readers should feel silly taking classes, it's just me. I like to arrive to appointments on time and I'm always the one in the back of the room quietly waiting for the class to begin looking all awkward. I'm also horrible at making a plans and keeping them, so doing classes with friends was always difficult. Plus, training for a run gives me the structure I need to keep running. You can't just go out and run a marathon, at least I can't. You have to run at least 3-4 times weekly for many weeks prior to a race.

Most importantly for me, running is what I do for myself. At times when life gets completely crazy, it's the only thing that I do to take care of me. It's self-indulgent. 

Running is the perfect only child sport. I'm slightly introverted. After long periods of time working with other people and being with others, I have to have time alone to decompress. It's kind of taboo to like being alone. I'm not saying that I'm a total loner. It's just that I do enjoy being by myself; it gives me time to think, organize my thoughts, and do all the embarrassing things that go along with being alone such as sitting in your house in your old, ripped college tees while eating a bucket of ice cream straight out the container... oops I dripped some on shirt, o well I'm home alone. So running time gives me some of that only child isolation time. I don't feel any pressure to please anyone else. I'm simply able to run as fast or as slow as I want and sweat like a July-Floridian with no shame. 

If you don't like being alone for a couple hours on end, like me, but you still want to try running, you can get a running or walking partner: human or four-legger.

My running buddy after about 1.5 miles. Needless to say, he's not an endurance runner more like a sprinter.

What I feel after running is nothing short of tremendous. There is no feeling of accomplishment (besides seeing your child do something truly amazing, I would assume) like crossing the finish line. After my first half-marathon, I cried like a baby. I literally went from having constant body aches and fatigue to running 13.1 miles in 11 months. It was one of those moment when I felt completely humbled.

It was a wet first half: snow, freezing rain, and tears. 

Running relieves some of my anxiety. I don't think I really understood how much anxiety and stress that I was holding in until I started running. It can take anywhere from 1 mile to 5 miles before I start to let go of my thoughts, unwind, and settle into a run. The only time that my mind has ever been anywhere near quiet is after miles of running. At that point, the pitter-patter of my sneakers on the pavement has relaxed my mind and thoughts to a whisper.

So I want to stress that just because running works for me doesn't mean that it's for you. I am not telling anyone else to go out and run unless you really want to do it. It's a personal choice and it's really not for everyone. Running takes a great deal of discipline, work, time, and insanity. My advice is that you find an activity that gives you a feeling of peace and serenity and then do that! 

Find the activity (knitting, scrapbooking, Zumba, yoga, painting, kayaking, whatever) that does for you what running does for me. That is, make the world seem like a more beautiful place. 

Now on to 18 miles tomorrow! Let's hope for a dry day.

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