Monday, September 05, 2016

Why I Run

Ever since seminary, I've been trying to be more conscious of my health.

In those days, I had taken to eating McDonald's a couple times a week including as a late night snack. I was drinking soda and alcohol just as often. I largely stayed away from vegetables and fruit. And the rigors of graduate school had me frequently sitting somewhere reading and writing without a lot of physical activity.

All of this added up to a lot of weight gain and the potential for worse physical problems given my family's health history.

Those years featured a lot of false starts and good intentions when it came to changing habits. Multiple resolutions to watch my eating and head to the gym usually petered out after a week or two. I recognize now that I'm a stress-eater, and I experienced quite a bit of stress in those days.

My last semester, I finally decided to get serious. I really did start going to the gym 3-4 times a week, I cut out fast food completely, and I severely limited the amounts of soda and alcohol I consumed. My goal was to lose 20 of the 35 "seminary pounds" I'd gained by graduation, and I was able to hit it. It was a wonderful feeling, and I wanted to keep that up as best I could.

I've had better seasons than others over the years regarding this commitment. The times immediately after both my kids were born stand out in particular, as well as other major transitions that required me to figure out a new life rhythm. They were also times when I'd seek out comfort food as my coping mechanism for the added stress, so I'd tend to dig myself into a hole.

Nowadays, I've become much more of a runner. Let me just say that I don't really enjoy running. I still have awful memories of gym class in junior high when the designated activity of the day was running a mile around the school. Even so many years later, that experience still has some part of my brain convinced that I am not a runner. My preferred method of cardio over the past 10+ years has been the elliptical machine: it's easier on the joints and placates the fearful 8th grader within me still holding firm that running is not now, nor will ever be, my thing.

Lately I've finally been fighting back against my subconscious on this. I've been supplementing my elliptical training with jogs around the neighborhood or on a treadmill. Thankfully, the former has conditioned my breathing so that I'm not wheezing after a few minutes, and I can do a few miles with little problem, even if the last stretch can still be a bit trying.

For years I've wanted to sign up for a 5K, just to do it. I want to show the past self within me still trying to dictate things that, actually, yes, something like this has always been possible if ever I'd buckle down and put in the effort. In fact, how many of these could I have done already if I hadn't waited until my late 30s to get serious about it? So a few weeks ago, I finally committed to a race. I have a little over a month to train for it, but I'm at a good point even now where if it was held tomorrow I'd feel confident.

Even besides the issues of health and self-confidence that influence my exercise, there's also something spiritual about it. I am very aware of my body during my workouts: my muscles straining and moving, my breathing and heart rate as I get further into my routine, my aches and pains, the natural cleansing process of sweat, the need for rest, rehydration, and nutrient replenishment after. I've been able to become more in touch with my body through running and other forms of exercise.

So this is why I run. I'm at the point where I can't not do it. I enjoy the health benefits, the self-assuredness, the spirit-body connection that it forges. And so I keep running.

If only my junior high self could see me now.