It's true; some days running feels like a heavy chore, and some days I can hardly get my running shoes on fast enough. But all runs end the same way- a little sweaty, a little tired, and much more light-hearted. When life feels hard, running is a tool to help you through it. It helps to clear the mind's cobwebs in preparation for the day and it helps to process and untangle the day's events. Although the after effects are always welcome, sometimes starting a run and sticking to it can be a big challenge- particularly when you're suffering from stress. Here's how I try and work it out:
Getting Out The Door
The technique I use for this step is a pretty simple one. I really break it down into very small chunks. So, instead of thinking 'I'm going for a run,' especially in the middle of a brain powered raincloud, I say 'I'm going to put on my running pants.' That's it. All I have to do. Once that's done, I focus on the next task: t-shirt and hair up. Next, shoes. Putting on a pair of running shoes is easy, and with only one pair, no decision making is necessary.
I find the process of breaking up your thoughts into tiny pieces and goals, really makes getting out the door easier. Occasionally I have days where I get into my gear, go outside, and think 'not today.' When that happens, I give myself a pass. Why force fun? The goal is always to keep this up, to have a lifelong relationship with running.
The first kilometer is sometimes the hardest. I'm cold and running like a stick figure, forgetting that I have joints for this exact purpose, and it is usually the slowest. Often, I'm working through some kind of feeling. Maybe I'm annoyed that its early, or frustrated or angry. Often my thoughts are stuck in a cognitive circle that keeps swirling with whatever I'm particularly stressed with at the moment, or preparing for what's to come later in the day or week. But then the magic kicks in. That out-of-nowhere, suddenly clicking, running magic. My feet and breath become rhythmic, those thoughts settle into manageable pieces. As my feet and breath become rhythmic, those thoughts settle into manageable pieces and things begin to seem a bit clearer and lighter. I find I can harness the negative energy and channel it into the purpose of supplying myself with oxygen and making sure my feet clear the road for each step. It's meditative in practice. This takes some time and slow dedication. I don't push these first few kms, but let them happen slowly.
Mid-run is fun. I'm warm now and really stretching into each stride. This is the fun part because somehow, all those things that I was worried about seem to melt away and I'm focused on the meditative thumping of my feet. Things become clearer, and somehow, the enormity of all of the things I was worried about don't seem so insurmountable anymore. Running magic. I start to notice the day around me. Nature! What a natural stress relief in itself, and how beautiful our community is. I take in the trees, the sun, the fresh air. I focus closely on my steps and my breathing. I wiggle out my shoulders and try to keep them soft. I think about my arms in right angles, rolling through the hip to lip cycle. I listen to my feet contact the ground and try to think light thoughts to keep my stride soft. I feel strong, clear and light.
In the closing couple of kms, I have completely forgotten about whatever was bothering me. I'm generally tired by this time, as I try to push each run just enough to feel like I created some strength. Sometimes these kms are a bit tedious and feel like too many long steps, but working through them gives a great post-run reward. My mind wanders from topic to topic, usually settling on my post-run snack or drink or what stretch is going to feel the best. When I do slow into my post-run walk and cool down, it is usually with a much clearer head than when I started. Besides the endorphins, and meditative quality that comes with running, when I'm feeling stressed, being able to accomplish something like going for a run always makes me feel better.
Running can be hard and it can take awhile to find a groove. Try some music, a podcast, or an audiobook to keep your mind motivated during the run!
For those days when your thoughts are swirling and you just can't calm your mind, grab your shoes, get outside into our beautiful Pemberton nature, and work it out with some running magic.