Making Time for Running Adds More to Your Life Than You Think
I understand the look of shock, confusion, and even disgust when I tell people, “I love running.” It’s not easy to love something that can be seen as painful, obligatory, or in the worst cases a form of punishment. But I think how we look at running, how we talk about it, and how we fit it into our lives can help us be a little more excited to get out the door and put on our shoes, even through the hardest times to stay motivated––like the dead of winter, for instance, or maybe the days and weeks when it seems stress will never stop piling on.
While I truly love running, I know it’s not easy to be consistent. It takes time to find that motivation and feel good about it too. In a society that orbits work, hustling, and productivity, the idea of adding running to our lives, or running more often, can be intimidating or exhausting. Yet it is because of the nature of this society that I find running not only worth loving, but essential to my life. If we reframe running as a source of stress relief, as something we get to do, and as a time for ourselves and no one else, it gets a little bit easier to find joy in this sport and stay consistent. In this mindset, we come from a place of gratitude, perceiving running as something not everyone has the luxury to do––but if we make time for it, we are making time for ourselves.
We should never see running as punishment. Running should not be a way to justify what or how much we eat, to change our bodies out of self-deprecation, nor to inflict any harm upon ourselves in any way. Redefining our relationship to running means reclaiming agency in the sport. It means we have the power to choose when we run, how long or far, and how we run. To make sure running isn’t painful for our minds and bodies, we need to slow down enough, physically and mentally. Make sure to take those easy runs and long runs at a conversational pace, to be able to be in the moment and find solace in what your body is capable of while using it as a break for your mind from everyday stressors.
As a busy graduate student, running seems like my only time of peace amidst constant work, classes, and the looming pressure to find a job. When I run, it is time all for myself––time when I physically cannot sit in front of my computer, stare at my to-do list and assignments, or be tortured by emails begging me to be productive. It’s my chance to learn from interesting podcasts, sing along to music (and disregard any strange looks I may get), or just get in touch with my breathing and footsteps. I see running not as additional stress or something I have to do, but rather something I want to do. And that’s what keeps me getting out the door day in and day out.
We are in the dead of winter, however, which never makes going outside feel easy. Running in the winter is a great opportunity, though! It’s a time when we don’t have to worry about heat and humidity sucking the life and sweat out of us, leaving the opportunity to run even faster times. It’s also so important to get outside in the winter––seasonal depression, lack of sunlight, and low spirits can contribute to serious mental health struggles; but, running almost gives us that little boost at the time we need it the most. We get those endorphins and if we’re lucky, some sunlight, to make us feel alive and excited on frigid days. Also, what’s prettier than running after a fresh blanket of snow has coated the trees and landscapes? Just be careful not to slip on any hidden ice!
Another useful way to keep me accountable and consistent is signing up for a race. Knowing that a goal is at the end of the tunnel and I’m actively working towards something makes it even more exciting. The goal is for myself, but it’s something I share with family and loved ones; on the hard days, when the run seems like it will never end, I visualize seeing my dad at the finish line shouting my name, and the pride I’ll feel knowing what I’ve accomplished throughout weeks of training to get to that point. And you may even find a community from it! Local run clubs––like our very own Fleet Feet Running Club! ––or nonprofit groups who put on races are great places to find people who love the sport, and who may help you love it too while keeping you accountable on group runs––and who may make those chilly days a bit more tolerable. Just by joining Fleet Feet’s run club or even stopping by the stores in Albany and Malta, you’ll find runners from all skill levels who will not only help you see what running adds to your life, but what the people within the sport can add to your life.
Not only do I want everyone who can run to love running, but I truly believe it is possible for anyone to fall in love with this sport––sometimes all it takes is a new perspective on what running adds to your life. Once you find that love, it’s hard to let it go, so you may find yourself more consistent than you’ve ever been.