For the majority of the last four years, running has been a transformative part of my life.
My day entails me getting up at 4:30am, turning on the coffee pot, grabbing my garb, lacing my shoes and heading out the door. My practice has taken me to several races, crossing finish lines that I never thought possible.
Once I got into the groove, the adrenaline rush, endorphin release and general stress relief was unparalleled. Very quickly after I began, I started seeing visible results. I lost weight. I became stronger. I was able to manage the exhaustion of raising three children without needing narcotics or to be admitted to a mental institution. And, I found a community of friends who also enjoyed being active and making it a priority in their busy lives.
I started this regimen when my youngest daughter turned a year old. Last month, she turned five. And for really the last six months, I've been in a running funk the likes of which I've not seen during this season of my life. At first, my friends told me to take a break...that I'd been getting up too early for too long and that my body just needed a rest. Others told me that once you hit 40, you're not exactly able to do the same physical activities with similar gusto. While another contingent said that I should put running aside and focus on pilates or yoga or spinning or couch aerobics.
Letting myself sleep in regularly for the first time in a long time, felt really good, until it didn't. Until I woke up and found myself exhausted, frustrated and feeling guilty for not taking care of me before my family...because once the children rise, well, the world gets busy and noisy and rarely do I carve out time during the day to make a run happen.
Commence this morning. My husband had warned me. "Get out the door" was his command. "I don't care if you walk, run, crawl, skip or hop down the block, but your ass needs to see the sun and lace up your shoes. And no coming home until you've put in the time."
And so reluctantly, I did. It was the first long run in a very long time that catapulted me back to my regular 8-10 mile Saturday morning running regimen. It helped that it was 50 degrees and the snow had most of the week to melt. It also helped that I'm a rock star cold weather running girl instead of a summer heat one. And somewhere in the mix, I remembered what I had forgot for so many weeks and months...why it is that I keep running as a part of my life.
Contrary to what others will tell you, running feels good. Truly. It is the only cardiovascular exercise I have ever done that elevates your heart rate, teaching you how to control your breathing and your pace, while giving you a burst of energy in the process. The primary reason that it feels good is because it's not easy. You've got to be in it. Paying attention to your breathing. Thinking about how to pace up the next hill. Monitoring your feet and the road or the trail for ice or potholes.
Such that when you finish, whether you've gone around the block, a mile or a marathon, you feel and genuinely deserve to feel, like a rock star.
Miraculously, as I round the bend and return home, all of the same stresses are still there...kids who fight, dinner that needs to be made, towels to fold and that same piece of shit couch that needs to be replaced...but for a little bit, I don't care. Because I've taken care of me and given myself space to breathe and be again exempt of all of the bullshit that really doesn't matter.
So, whenever I'm questioning whether it's a good idea to run or not...I just need to stop, take a breath and remember why I do it...I'm certain at that point, it will be a no-brainer.