What I think about when I run

What do you think about when you run? This question is something I’ve thought about while running recently.

For me the answer is often about a problem that needs more attention than I usually give it. Running is free of distraction.

Or someone who motivates me when the run is feeling tough. There’s a point between starting and when that runner’s high kicks in that requires a little push for me.

Or something as simple as observing the landscape if I’m running somewhere with a view that catches me off guard. I notice each time the scenery makes me smile without thinking about it.

I’ve been running every day for over a week now. It’s a shift from my previous routine of only running on Sundays. My goal is primarily to close the Activity rings on my Apple Watch, but I’m starting to appreciate how free from distractions running can be.

When I exercise with my elliptical I’m usually watching videos or reading, but when I run it’s just me and the music. My whole body is busy and the music serves to push me and distract me from the sound of my breathing, feet hitting the ground, and quietness of my environment. It syncs better.

But that leaves my mind free to exercise as well. I need something else to do mentally if I’m running for 30 minutes. It’s the same experience as mindful minutes and the whole concept of mindfulness I think.

You don’t plan what you think about. It just comes to mind. I do math in my head. I make plans. I make mental lists. After a run, I’m usually energized with something I’d just been thinking about doing and now I’m actually able to put the thought into action. It’s a rewarding sensation.

Sometimes ideas turn into reality days later. That’s an even better feeling. It’s like discovering purpose in running aside from health and fitness goals.

On days that I find especially stressful now I’m counting down the minutes until I can fit a 30 minute run into my day so I can be relieved of the constant motion and move my mind to this floating state.

That’s not to say that on parts of my run I don’t just think “OK this is a real effort and it would be really easy to stop if that wouldn’t bother me more than going forward” but those thoughts are a flash in the pan and don’t have any real impact.

I also think about my Granny Patsy. It’s a frustrating thought. She raised me for most of my childhood and always found a reason to be proud of me, but I feel like she would be tremendously proud of my lifestyle today. Not just my lifestyle but my life in general. My work, my family, most of my decisions.

My weight got out of my control in the years before she died and stayed that way for a few years after. She never bothered me about my physical appearance as long as I was happy, and for the most part I generally was.

She might have mentioned being possible activities I might enjoy a few times. I really can’t recall. But I’m positive she would be most proud of my lifestyle change. That’s partly why she comes to mind when a run feels particularly tough.

I wish she was still here today to see me and share this experience. More than that I wish I would have made this lifestyle change during her lifetime.

She died far too young at 65. I was barely 23. Time is a funny thing. Perspective defines it. It’s doesn’t feel like it was only two and a half years between her death and the start of my fitness journey. Maybe my math is off, but it could only be by a year.

I also find myself thinking about the scenery and my environment. Starting a run at 5:30 am can look so different at 5:40 am and 5:50 am as the sunrise transforms pitch black into the day beginning.

Running more often means running in new places when I’m away from home. I recently ran at a bamboo forest park that I’ve visited plenty of times before. It was suddenly much smaller after I used the lap around it to meet my distance goal. Something like 10 laps plus the run there and back.

I also changed directions around the loop which also changed what I saw. Same location and path but a different perspective.

I find myself doing a lot of math in my head when I’m running a new course. How can I make this path equal my distance goal?

Earlier this week I thought about the downpour of rain and how my AirPods would hold up as I was getting drenched (and how I hoped the lightning wouldn’t return). I thought about how the rain wasn’t so bad and my Nike running shoes were holding up well at the toes but how the area around my ankles made them fill up and get heavier (I replaced my training shoes with real water-resistant running shoes after the first run through rain).

Sometimes when I drink a coffee or bottle of water before a run, I think about how I really just need to pee and how I really wish I could pause this run.

I also think about ex-girlfriends and the general concept of rejection — it’s motivating.

Running feels like control. There are definitely limits. I’m currently comfortable with a half hour run or just over 3 miles at a time, but I’m running more often and soon will try to run further and longer.

But there’s something about the way running forces me to think. My body becomes a vehicle and my mind is suddenly a passenger. As long as my body keeps driving, my mind can observe, process, recover.

When I first started, running felt like this big amount of work that I was about to do. Now it feels more like a break from the rest of the day.

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