So I started running.
I hope you’re getting the right mental picture here.
Imagine you’re out for a brisk jog. You’re enjoying the soft breeze, the dappled sunlight through the trees, the birds chirping. All of a sudden, imagine that you see a profusely sweaty, red-faced girl wearing two different kinds of running shorts (listen, I have thick thighs and one pair meant lots of chafing), an over-sized tee shirt with some sort of flame symbol on it (Lee University, what what), huffing her way slowly along the running trail and occasionally tripping over the curb as she zig-zags her way confusingly across the sidewalk, often stopping abruptly and gasping for air like it’s going out of style. You’ll probably be a little horrified and quicken your pace so you can pretend you were too into your run to notice her or make eye contact.
That’s about right. I feel a little embarrassed as I plod along and watch all the other runners who aren’t sweating like every drop of moisture is leaving their body simultaneously pass me in glorious ease. I mean really. They’re not even breathing hard most of the time. And I’m over here dying. It’s really not fair. How do that many people look so good while they exercise??
Starting wasn’t the hard part, honestly. It was a beautiful day, I felt restless but motivated at the same time. I even did much better than I expected to when my feet hit the path that afternoon. It had all the ingredients to give me a “runner’s high” and kept me going back the last few times.
But today. Oy. Today was hard. Wednesday was hard, too, but I knew it would be because my legs hurt from the combination of crazy work days and the past few times I had been running.
Today hurt in a I-just-hit-a-wall-and-I-think-I’m-dying kind of way.
I didn’t want to run today–I wanted to be a baby and walk the whole time. Sure, the first stretch that I tried running felt OK… But once I hit that wall I wanted to give up and go home. I’d be going at it and all of a sudden my legs were screaming at me and my side had a terrible stitch and I couldn’t hardly breathe and I couldn’t think about anything else. So I’d stop, once even bending over to try to breathe a little better. And I’d walk for a few minutes before I psyched myself up to try running again, only to see the same results 2 minutes in. Stop. Walk. Run. Repeat.
I struggle with making myself do hard things. There are the few facets of my life that came easily here and there. For example, I was actually able to transition to eating Paleo fairly easily, and sticking with it has often been easy.
But there are so many aspects of my life that I find myself stalling and making excuses and procrastinating. Exercising has often been one of those–I work a high-intensity job that requires me to be on my feet for 8 hours at a time so I figured that I was OK and didn’t need to engage in any sort of physical exertion besides that.
And, on some level, that’s probably true. I’d be OK without it.
But the psychological aspect is that getting off the couch, tearing myself away from Netflix, tucking my phone away and getting outside to huff and puff for an hour is a far, far better thing than sitting in my apartment and distracting myself by binge-watching episodes of Scrubs. Wasting time in fruitless distractions never got me anywhere, and I know that conceptually. It’s the finally doing something about knowing it that is insanely hard for me.
Making myself do this particular hard thing has already given me so much: the security in knowing I can exercise my self-discipline, the good feeling of having made my body work, and the ability to channel the overwhelming feelings from the 8,659 thoughts in my head into something concrete and fairly therapeutic.
Sure, I may be listening to a playlist that is full of break-up songs, angry lyrics, and generally p*ssed-off outlooks (which may or may not include a few Taylor Swift numbers…), but at the end of it I needed something to do that wasn’t Netflix, eating my feelings, or just sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I let myself feel all the things while I’m out there beating my feet against the concrete and in return I feel a little less hopeless and overwhelmed when I get home and face my quiet apartment once again.
So, I’m running.
Don’t mind me, I’ll be the sweaty mess who stops all the time and probably looks like a duck trying to sprint as my feet flop all over the path, but I’m out there and I’m making myself do a hard thing.