Off the Beaten Path

Running Diary, Week Nine: Spontaneity

I’m rather impressed with myself. I’m impressed that it took nine whole weeks before I used the cliched expression of running “off the beaten path”. This nearly didn’t happen though because I had temporarily debated using the phrase “the road less travelled” instead. Anyway this is neither here nor there but I thought it was worth mentioning. (I promise you I don’t fully understand how my mind works.)

Returning to the matter at hand, last week was rough for me. There were a number of significant changes in practically every facet of my life, some for the better and others for the worse, all of which left me reeling. Of these, I’m not entirely sure what triggered my mood but for the majority of the week I felt melancholy and unmotivated. On Tuesday when D asked me to go for a run with him I laid on the sofa and told him I was dead. I simply couldn’t muster the mental fortitude to do anything. Yeah, things were bad. When D came back from his run he told me he had gone off our regular routes and had a great time enjoying the process, and he felt much more refreshed. I automatically felt guilty for not going but since it was 11pm at this time I resigned myself to my blob-like mood for another day.

Two days later, D and I arrived home early from work and he had some errands to run which left me with a considerable amount of free time. Inspired by D’s run from the other night I figured I would push myself to run, telling myself that I had no agenda or goal other than to have a good time, so that’s exactly what I did. I was about to head out the door when all of a sudden I remembered a conversation with my colleague and friend about music and running, so I decided to grab my phone and see if it would help me at all (it didn’t but that’s mostly because my earbuds kept falling out. Technical question: does anyone have recommendations for ear buds?). I ran my usual route and everything felt fine but when I got to the end of the first kilometre, for whatever reason I decided to keep going, passing the usual markers and headed further than I had before. I ran to a park and as I crossed the field I noticed the track behind the high school, and again, taken by the spirit of doing something different, I started running laps. It was great and so much fun. By the time I got home I had run more than 5km excluding my laps and was sweating hard but I was smiling, and the troubles that had seemed insurmountable felt more manageable. The point is, last week was a major breakthrough for me: I let myself be spontaneous and actually enjoy the process of running, making it an activity that I like rather than something I must do. Such a small and subtle shift completely affected the outcome of my mood.

Yes this is a terrible photo. Yes I look like a complete goofball.  No I haven't had this much fun running in a long while.  In the end, despite all the weird glances I received, these photos were totally worth it.
Yes this is a terrible photo. Yes I look like a complete goofball.
No I haven’t had this much fun running in a long while.
In the end, despite all the weird glances I received, these photos were totally worth it.

As anyone that knows me or has worked with me before can attest, I have these work-horse type tendencies. When given a task, my focus becomes singular and I have a hard time drawing boundaries between working hard and going overboard. There are no half measures. While this trait is acceptable in the work place, although it’s not conducive to a balanced lifestyle, it can’t be uniformly applied across the board to all areas, at least not for me. It is my sincerest belief that in order to enjoy exercise, you have to allow yourself to enjoy it and that’s not always possible if you focus on it as merely something to be checked off your “to do” list; there should be at least an ounce of pleasure. This week, I found that joy and pleasure by ignoring the “metrics of success” and instead focusing on letting myself just be. I left my compulsion to make lists and get things done, which allowed me to achieve what I truly needed. It was a good week.

The rewards of a good run: exercise, stress relief, and quite moments like this.
The rewards of a good run: exercise, stress relief, and quite moments like this.
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