Thursday, August 4, 2011

Running, training and the rest of your life

So as I've said running started out for me as a misguided attempt to improve myself by force. I thought if I could make myself do something I disliked it would lead me toward my goal of being a disciplined person. Unfortunately or fortunately for me the opposite happened and I found love in the thing I was forcing myself to do. It's partly a function of working really hard on form and gait, changing my footwear etc, but more than that I think it's about embracing something difficult by appealing to a gentler approach. Rather than beating myself into submission, I just kept trying things until I found something that felt really good and free. For me that was taking my shoes off, running really slowly and letting my kids laugh at me for having no shoes on. They were the only other people on the street without shoes after all.

My wife home-schools the kids and one of the books we read together talked specifically about chores. It said that one of the most important things your kids can see is a loving approach to things that are normally treated as annoyances. This means the kids need to see a loving approach to washing dishes. That's a difficult thing to do but when you get it right everyone appreciates it. I see this in the barefoot running community. They are not the ones with deep furrows in their foreheads at every race, chugging along despite the agony. Generally they are the ones smiling and laughing at themselves along with the rest of the crowd. This really appeals to me as that deep furrow is what drove me from running for most of my life.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is a gentle and loving way to do anything. To my mind running and exercising in general ought to be treated as a therapeutic outlet rather than a punishment for all of the twinkies you've eaten in your life. I recently advised a friend of mine, who isn't in the best shape, to stop trying to push his speed faster on the treadmill. I gave him the conversational pace rule: if you can't chat with your neighbor you're going too fast. He discovered that running this way made him feel better after his run not drained.

My advice is this:

1. If it sucks...go slower and slow down until it doesn't. If that means you become a boy scout pace run/walker fine, but you won't keep doing it if it feels awful.
2. Know thyself shall be the whole of the law. Figure out the approach that will lead you toward enjoyment. Do you love gadgets? Do you love company? Do you love solitude? Fulfill those desires.
3. Smile the whole time. Even if you have to force it, smile and smile some more. Other people will reinforce it for you by smiling back

Let me know what you think.

...and check out Jason Robilard's article on a related topic:


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