Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Running Away

I am not one to condone running from your problems, but sometimes we all need a good run.

I wrote this to a friend earlier, and the thought has really stuck with me.  Sometimes all we need is a good run. 

Lately, I have been extremely stressed.  I've been waiting on some news (hopefully good) and balancing budgets and training dogs.  I've been focusing on time management and on weight management.  I've been trying to work hard while still giving myself time to relax.  I've been busy.  Last week, I took a few days off from training.  Monday was planned because I'd worked out the previous 7 days.  Tuesday was cancelled because we ended up staying up later than planned on Monday, so we needed extra sleep.  Wednesday was cancelled so I could bathe dogs instead (at least I was being productive).  By Wednesday afternoon, though, I felt the effects.

Wednesday was not the most fun of days.  In waiting for the news, I felt as though I could not leave the computer.  I barely got anything done, and every movement was painful.  I felt stiff, sore, tired, and depressed.  I wanted to eat everything and anything in sight (luckily I controlled this urge).  I'd felt this coming on, but Wednesday was really bad.  All I really wanted to do was cry.  I also wanted to go to bed and sleep, but I was too fidgety to seriously contemplate that.

As I was driving to pick Hans up from work, I couldn't stop tapping my fingers or shaking my legs.  My mind was going a mile per second and I couldn't seem to harness my thoughts or stay on track.  My stomach was in knots and my chest was tightening.  Something needed to change, but I couldn't figure out what.  And then it hit me.

I needed to go for a run.

It was too late to go for a run by the time we got home, so I made sure to set my alarm for early Thursday morning.  The goal: Run 3 miles.  It wasn't far, but I knew I just had to get out there, and a quick run would do it.

I set out early Thursday, and I felt sluggish yet anxious during my warm-up.  My body was still waking up, but my mind was screaming, "I want to run!"  As I started my jog, I was excited, but all I could feel physically was the tension throughout my body.  My legs were tight, my arms were tight, and my chest was extremely tight.  I focused on my breathing.  Breathe in, left, right, left, right, left, breathe out.  Breathe in, left, right, left, right, left, breathe out.  Breathe in, hold it, breathe out.  Breathe in slowly, fill up your lungs, drop your diaphragm, take in more air, hold it, breathe out.  Clear your mind and focus on the breath.

As I did this, I felt myself begin to relax.  I started to allow other sounds to register.  Step.  Hear Cody's collar jingle.  Step. Hear his panting.  Step.  Hear my breath.  Step. Breathe. 

All this happened within 1 kilometer, a measly 0.64 miles.  Around the 2 kilometer mark, things really changed.  All of a sudden my chest opened up.  My arms relaxed, and I felt myself begin to smile.  I wanted to run more.  I did a quick check of Cody to make sure he was up for more, and then I continued on. 

I hit my half way marker, but instead of turning back I rounded the corner and continued down the block.  I passed multiple opportunities to turn back, but I continued on.  I ran to the next light and decided that would probably be enough, so I made the turn to head back home.  Three quarters of the way home, though, I knew I wanted more, so I turned off my route.  I added a few more blocks.

By the time I reached my usual ending spot, I was done.  I had run 4.03 miles, I was ready for my cool down, I was relaxed, and I was happy.  I walked and I allowed my breathing to return to normal.  I allowed the sweat to begin to evaporate.  I allowed my heartbeat to slow.  I allowed myself to smile and enjoy how relaxed I was.

When I started writing this post, I was merely going to talk about how great running (or any workout for that matter) can be when it comes to dealing with stress.  I was going to talk about how exhausting your body physically can help you mentally.  I was even going to mention how it can help your dog too.  While writing this post, though, I realized just how meditative running can be.  I realized how focusing on the breath is such an important part of any meditation, and how it's both the first and last thing one will do in yoga.  I realized that by allowing my mind to clear I was able to temporarily forget all my troubles and just live in the moment.

If someone were to ask me why I run the answer may vary.  You may hear, "Because I really love dessert." or "Because it makes my a** look great."  or even, "I need to wear out Cody somehow."  While all those responses definitely have some truth in them, none of them are the full reason why I run.  I run because I feel good when I do it.  I'm happy when I run.  I could be in pain, sweating buckets, and thirsty, but I am happy.  Not only that, I am happy after my run.  I am happy the whole day after my run.  I am happy when I see others running down the street, and when I go to the gym.  I am happy as I lace up my sneakers and strap on my heart monitor.  I run because it makes me happy.

And so, when I am stressed or sad or tired, the first thing I want to do is run away.  The run is just what I need.


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