I have written plenty before about my struggles with weight, exercise, dieting, and running (see posts here and here and here). This is not one of those posts. Although it is about running, it has little or nothing to do with running for the sake of “exercise” or “running to lose weight.” Instead, this is the REAL reason why I run (and why I need to run more).
I run for my mental health.
I run for meditation.
I run for peace of mind.
During a foggy morning run the other day, I had an “ah ha” moment for myself, and it only happened because I ran in total silence. The only sound was my the sound of my breath. I had my headphones in, but couldn’t decide what to listen to — an audiobook, a podcast, music … I couldn’t decide. And, so, I didn’t decide. I just ran. I kept my headphones on with no sounds to distract me, except for my own breathing, and what happened was truly magical. I began to meditate. While running! (Believe me, I am fully aware that I am not the first one to come to this realization — see the book, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami, but it was a new and important insight for me.)
Just as with meditation, my mind turned over my short-term and long-term “to-do” lists, replayed conversations I had within the past 2 days, while I kept directing it back to the breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. And I ran. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in a long time. My pace was faster. I didn’t struggle with thoughts of quitting. I just ran. And repeated – inhale, exhale. I did not think about how many calories I was burning. I did not tell myself I needed to run faster and longer in order to burn off that Thanksgiving meal. I was not running to punish myself for eating. I was running to center my mind. To calm my racing thoughts. To focus on the ideas that have been racing around my mind. I ran to find peace. And it felt amazing. I felt amazing. I came home with a clear mind and a deeper feeling of inner peace than I’ve had in a while.
Things have been tough lately. My world has become much smaller since my dad has been struggling with his health. I am in the house all the time. Other than work, I haven’t been able to leave the house much at all these past few weeks. And my stress level has gone through the roof. As a result, I’ve been making some unhealthy choices in order to “cope” with the added stress. However, during this “quiet run,” I befriended my stress and befriended myself. I cut myself some slack for those unhealthy choices. I forgave myself. I acknowledged the additional stress I’ve been under, and I spoke encouraging words to it. I thought about healthy ways to handle this new stress, including meditating more and running for meditation. I committed to making time for myself. And at the end of the run, I smiled. I am going to be okay. This situation will be okay. Everything will be okay.
And that is why I run.
What a gift!!