“I Don’t Always Run, But When I Do…”

I don't always run, but when I do...
Does my head look big?

Someone asked me recently, “Sam, how many miles do you run every day?”

Well, I don’t always run, not every day. The premise of the question is mistaken. That happened in a way similar to the way in which messages become distorted in the child’s game, telephone. Two weeks ago, among a group of acquaintances, there was a conversation about running. It turned out that only a few of us were runners. While discussing goal setting, I said, clearly, that I run only two or three times per week and my goal is to run more often than that. Somehow, Sam is now the daily runner among the group, the star sprinter, the leader of the pack. Oh, that it were true! But look at me. I weigh 215 pounds. If I ran daily I’d certainly be less hefty.

I don’t always run, but when I do run, I run five miles.

Five miles is a good distance for a decent workout for me. It allows me 35 to 40 minutes … ok… 50 to 55 minutes (sometimes 57 if I walk too much) of effective aerobic exercise. It works my legs sufficiently. And it’s enough time to achieve a measure of stress reduction.

I don’t always run, but when I do run, the endorphins make me happy… and that is safer for everyone.

The psychological and emotional benefits of running are more of an incentive for me than the physical benefits. Analytically, I understand that running strengthens my heart and lungs, muscles and bones. It helps keep excess weight off. It’s good for my blood pressure. Having once had a blood pressure problem and having been on medication for it, I have proven that running and losing weight can significantly improve blood pressure. I have been off medication for three years now. Those things are all huge motivators for me to continue running. But the emotional uplift I get from running is even more appealing.

Think of this: I sit in a cube eight hours a day, chained to a computer, often working on complex logic problems, often having more on my to do list than can realistically be done in one day. In addition, my team spent the last three years working on a high priority project, all of us working many extra hours under a lot of pressure. In addition to that, our company has been going through continuing reorganization of our IT department. That equals STRESS indeed.

Phew! Writing that last paragraph makes me want to put my sneaks on and go for a run right now! (10:15 PM) I sit in my cube all day and I feel like a sponge that is sopping up all the stress and negativity all around me. I get soaked and soggy and STRESSED. I reach full saturation and then I need to sweat it out. I need to hit the road. Sometimes it’s tempting to run five miles straight away from the office and not come back! Getting out there and getting my feet moving helps my knotted thoughts unravel. Often, after spending half the day frustrated over a difficult problem, I find a solution while running at lunchtime. Sometimes this happens suddenly, as if my subconscious had been working on the problem while the rest of my brain was focused on keeping my legs going. When those problem solving runs occur, I tend to run a little faster so I can get back to my desk to put the solution into action!

I don’t always run, but when I do run, I become a genius.

Beyond that, running makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot about running that does not feel good. Almost without fail, the first half mile of every run makes me question what the hell I am doing to myself. “An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.” So said some guy named Isaac Newton. It was his cousin, Fig Newton who similarly said, “A body at rest WANTS to stay at rest.” That is too often the precept by which I live. When I start down the road and get about 99 steps into a run, a voice inside my head starts yelling, “Hey, Sammy! Let’s go back and eat cookies! Or cake! Let’s eat cake!” The only external force that can act upon my desire to remain inert with a large piece of cake making its way to my belly is my own will power. And the thing that builds my will power is the incentive of tasting the sweetness of emotional release that waits for me somewhere around mile three of my runs. Runner’s high exists. It’s more satisfying than the most scrumptious banana split. But I’m talking about an emotional release that is more general than that. It’s a warmth that moves through my being. It grows slowly. It pervades me and I invariably end up thinking, Why don’t I run EVERY day?! Before the end of my five miles I always end up planning my next run. The emotionally benefits are that good.

I don’t always run, but when I do run, I can’t wait to do it again!

Hopefully I can manage to do it more than just a few times per week.

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