The other day I was helping a woman try out some shoes when she suddenly exclaimed, “Running is so stressful! It’s just too complicated.” I was taken aback, since I find running pretty straightforward. However, as she explained why she was stressing out, I could see her point.
Runners are bombarded with conflicting and ever-changing information. It can feel like finding the right shoes, using the right nutrition, wearing the right clothing, and performing the correct preparation and recovery routine has turned their workouts into a joyless slog. This is especially the case if they’re trying to systematically improve performance (in distance, fitness, or speed).
It’s easy to get obsessed with running’s metrics and suck all the fun out of the sport. If you are not a professional runner and running is beginning to feel like a job, it’s probably time to take a step back and simplify.
Ideally, running gives us time to be self-reflective, to get in touch with our total selves, and to contemplate our place within the larger world of possibility –– a place that exists outside and apart from the information blender of Facebook, CNN, NPR, FoxNews, and Twitter. It allows us one effective way to unplug and connect with our essential humanity.
Running also reminds us of our capacities. As we push ourselves, we take ourselves to yesterday’s limits and then move beyond what we thought we were capable of achieving. The physical and mental effort to accomplish a long run can make our everyday problems seem solvable. This dose of perspective is very valuable in a world in which every issue seems more urgent and difficult than the last. Running reminds us of the strength of our will –– and our ability –– to surmount difficulty and to change.
Finally, running allows the brain to do some background processing to effectively address everyday issues. How many times have you launched into a run with something on your mind that seemed unsolvable, only to have the solution present itself at the end of your run?
We don’t have to get so wrapped up in finding perfect –– the perfect shoe, the perfect workout schedule, the perfect recovery routine –– that we rob ourselves of our love for the sport. Remember the joy when you were a child and ran across the grass as fast as you could? Remember how you felt when you covered that first mile without feeling like your lungs were going to burst? Remember your last good run, feeling anchored in immediate experience –– in the “now”? That is what running can do for us –– but we have to let it.
You can get the most out of running by “letting things go.” This means never letting the structure provided by goal setting and training routines get more important than the running itself. When you feel like things are getting too complicated, simplify. Leave the GPS watch at home. Run somewhere new. Do as much or as little as you like. Don’t worry about numbers. Just run.
Remember, too, that there are people that can help you keep things simple. If you are worried about training, find a coach or a training group and leave the details to them. Fleet Feet Albany and Malta's Training Groups start up at the end of February and early March. Follow the link for more information and to register: Fleet Feet Training Programs Spring 2020. If you need shoe advice, come see us at Fleet Feet Albany & Malta. We love to sort out the complexities of fit and function for you so that you can concentrate on the running. The same goes for gear and nutrition. Let us shoulder some of the complexities, so that you can enjoy the fun stuff.
Finally, if running feels too complicated, there is an entire community –– the Greater Capital Region is one of the best running communities in the world –– to help you out. Join a club like the FFRC (We're relaunching the Fleet Feet Running Club right now -- follow the link: FFRC Information and Registration), ARE, HMRRC, and you can draw on others’ experience to help keep you running joyfully.