Archives for category: Running

There are reasons to feel good about yourself and to do things to feel good. There are also reasons not to do things, especially those who will make you feel bad. The first thing you need to do when deciding to go to the gym is to realize what is motivating you to do so. Is it health oriented? Are you worried about your weight for your own wellbeing? Or is it a result of some tabloid or some drop dead gorgeous young model dressed strategically to flaunt all her thin and perfectly toned features? If it were the second example, i.e., the model, going to the gym would be a good action mixed with bad motivations (Making yourself feel bad by comparing yourself to a skinny photoshopped model is not good or healthy motivation). In that case your good action is made inherently bad. That being said, the best way to feel good about yourself is to make sure that your action and your intention are both things that make you feel good: i.e. good actions.

To explain, an action may be a good one but it is made bad because of the intention behind it. A bad motive is one that is unauthentic to you or made for reasons other than what are good for you. If the goal is to feel good about yourself and your motivator is based on insecurities or other objectives that do not make you feel good about yourself, you can hardly expect to end up with you feeling good about yourself. Intention is everything.

Think about Martin Luther for instance. He believed that all humans are inherently sinful because every action we ever accomplish, good or bad, is for our own selfish benefit. We enjoy helping an old lady cross the street with her groceries because it makes us feel like a good person afterwards. It has nothing to do with the fact that she was struggling across the crosswalk and we want to make her day a little easier. Or at least, that’s his argument. If nothing else, for him, we want that internal reward.

I’m not going to say Martin Luther is entirely correct in his argument. I believe it to be a little extreme, and that humanity is not inherently bad. But that is far from my point. Where Luther’s beliefs relate to my own argument is where motivation and action affect each other. We both agree that the intention is definitive.

For example, if I decide to read Dostoyevsky every night before bed, I have to ask myself why I have come to that decision. If it is because I want to benefit my own intelligence and to push myself to the challenge, then good for me (hypothetically of course). But if it is instead because I want to later be able to say that I have read Dostoyevsky, or it is because I want to appear academic or intelligent, then it is not so good. That is an unauthentic motivation behind my action, and inherently makes that choice somewhat pompous based on my intentions. If my intentions are pompous, so is the action. And even further, that would reflect that I myself am pompous, which I do not see as a positive attribute and it is one that I do not wish to emulate. Therefore, I must not read Dostoyevsky every night before bed because I am not internally motivated to do so.

In this light, I return to the initial statement. It is good to feel good about yourself. It is great to do things day to day to feel good about yourself. But you must constantly be checking yourself and your motivators for good incentive vs. bad ones.

I realize that this is highly existentialistic. And perhaps that was not my intention. But I am a big believer in mediating extremes. I think that many belief systems are founded on extremes because grey areas can get messy and filled with exceptions. So here is my advice. Make your decisions for the right reasons. Go to the gym if you want to. Go for a run if it is in your best interest and it will make you feel great afterwards. Don’t go because some asshole said you needed to. Don’t go because some skinny model is plastered on some billboard. Go for good reasons. Go for you. What could possibly be a better reason than that?

Edit: To make the message a little clearer 🙂

Running is a great form of exercise: as much for your mental health as it is for your physical fitness. Running does not only improve your cardio, tone your muscles, and make you feel great afterwards when your brain is swimming in endorphins. It also heightens your own awareness of your boundaries and your ability to deal with challenges: both bodily and psychologically. And ask any philosopher: self-awareness is key.

So. If it does all those things for you, why don’t people do it more often?

Well, running is very difficult is an easy answer.  A more complex answer would be that running is marketed in a way that is great for people who are interested in it for about five seconds, and for the wrong reasons. We are told that running is simple and a great form of exercise. (Knee issues and any other long-term health risks associated with running are not mentioned.) We buy all the merchandise and then think “I’ve just spent a small fortune on state of the art running shoes, shorts that are short enough to be motivation, breathable shirts, fancy socks that supposedly prevent blistering, and a pretty new water bottle with flowers on it. After this investment, there is no way I can quit.” And then a week later we have used all our new gear perhaps once and are totally turned off of the sport.

The reason why? I think it’s partly because running just sucks sometimes. It’s not always really that fun. It takes time, energy (and being anemic and a full time student I understand that those are hard to come by), and mental strength coupled with internal motivation.  I also think that people get into the sport for the wrong reasons. In fact a huge percentage of runners, including myself half the time, are running for someone else, or something else. Not for themselves. Very few people are self-aware enough to be able to go out and run just for the pure benefits of the sport. Those motivators that don’t include vanity and fitting into that new pair of jeans.

Running shouldn’t be about how you look. Ever.

It shouldn’t be about anything other than feeling better: and I don’t mean feeling better about how you look. Because it should be about how you look. EVER. Rather I mean feeling good day to day. Fueling your brain with natural endorphins, eating the right foods because they make you feel good after a satisfying run. Pushing yourself that extra mile because it gives you a sense of accomplishment different from other achievements. It makes your heart beat hard in your ears, forces your blood to rush through your veins, allows your lungs to squeeze air through your throat pumping your blood with oxygen. It makes your head swim afterwards, allows you to feel good about relaxing later on the couch. Lets your muscles strengthen themselves, tighten when you sit too long. Running makes stretching worth it.

Running makes you stronger, mentally and physically. It makes you want to go that extra gruesome mile for the reward of accomplishment: to force your limbs to keep moving, to push farther, faster, even though it hurts. Running gives you a regular routine of practice because when you’re in the habit, it feels wrong if it has been too long. Your muscles bunch, you feel antsy. There’s nothing like getting out to move them again: it’s a release.

When people get into running to feel better about themselves, the sport can get caught up in a messy bundle of predetermined insecurities. That’s a difficult thing to overcome regardless. When people are convinced running is for them, and it’s not, or they don’t quite realize the mental challenge to it, they fail. The sport is blamed, or put aside.

Instead, I would like to point out these few flaws in the mentality of wannabe runners. Running is beautiful in its challenge: it makes you push yourself. There’s a muscle in your brain that you don’t use for things that are easy. It gets old and lazy and stiff with disuse. It’s called determination. Or motivation. Or maybe insanity. Whatever it is, it’s pivotal to the sport of running. It requires a hard-line attitude. It requires perseverance, and no amount of sympathy for yourself in a weak moment.

It’s this muscle that allows for the rush of endorphins to overwhelm your sense at the end of big runs. It’s the cause of the contagious smiles you see on racers at the finish line. It’s the satisfactory ache you feel in the pit of your limbs at the end of the day. It’s the reason for the reward.

And so yes, running can suck. It can hurt; it can feel like your dying. It’s a practice that takes a hell of a lot of conviction some days, and less other days. But it’s the muscle in your brain that needs to be toned, used, nurtured until it’s as hard and unrelenting as your thighs. Running needs to be the result of some other internal motivation that is entirely separate from external motivations. Running is for you. For your own benefit and that’s it. Forget about vanity, and about the media, and about societal pressures when you put on your running shoes. That feeling of exhalation at the end of your run is entirely for you, earned by you.

So good luck you future runners. With your new clothes and your fancy watches and wristbands. Remember the benefit, and the real reasons behind your choice to become a runner. Take your time and ease yourself into the practice. Or don’t. Go run a half marathon, that’s what I did and now I’m set to run a 30km in August. I’d like to think that my method worked.

 

Good luck!