When I first started running, I didn’t enjoy it at all. In fact, as a child, I grew up playing softball which involved minimal running (mostly sprinting), which was never the most enjoyable experience. It was a necessity. As I got older and needed to find other ways to stay active, I thought running was a great option. And as I experienced in my younger years, it was not enjoyable…at first.
The problem with my early running days is that I had this expectation that I should be the best and I shouldn’t feel any struggle with it at all. I would look at other runners on the greenway and think, “Wow, how are they running so fast?” or “I wish I could keep that pace.” I was constantly comparing myself to others and as a result, kept myself from progressing at my own pace and ability. No, I had not been a long distance runner for an extended period of time, but I was comparing myself to others whose running journeys are so very different from my own. So at this point, I recognized this unhelpful chatter in my brain that was holding me back, and I told myself to run at my own pace and not worry about anyone else. This is the point where my experience of running shifted completely–when I stopped judging myself!
When I started to focus on my own abilities and progress, I started to feel more confident and at ease with my running. I started to recognize how accomplished I felt after finishing a run. I started to take in all the amazing sights and sounds in nature that I could be a witness to- deer eating on the side of the path, spider webs that extend from tree branches all the way to the ground, beautiful sunrises, the peaceful river that meanders next to the path, owls in the trees at sunrise…so many things that I would not have noticed if I allowed that unhelpful chatter in my brain to continue.
Sometimes when I tell people that I enjoy running, they look at me with confusion. So many people have not found the joy in running that I have, and I would love for more people to discover it. Some things that I’ve learned from running that can also be applied to life:
Some runs (days) are harder than others and I can still persevere and make it through
I can do so much more than I ever thought it would be capable of- what holds me back a lot of times is myself
Consistency is key- I will not improve as a runner or any other skill if I do not put the time and energy into it
Quality sleep and nutrition are important! Taking time to rest, recover, and nurture my physical body is necessary in all aspects of life
I cannot control things outside of myself- for example, the weather definitely impacts my running schedule and plan, so I always need to adapt and adjust to the situation when needed
I do not always know how a specific run (or life event) will go, but I can always keep putting forth my best effort
Research that supports that consistent exercise can boost overall mental health and wellness. I have experienced this first hand, and my hope is for someone to read this and consider going out to the greenway or to a local park for a short run or walk. So many times we think that we can’t afford the time in the day for this simple activity, but after experiencing the benefits, I can’t afford to not do it.
Marie Carey, LCMHC is a therapist at Wisdom Path, PLLC. She enjoys yoga and running as part of her own mental wellness practice.