Monday, December 20, 2010

The running cure

When I started running for the first time three and a half years ago, I had no idea how it would transform my life. I never suspected that I would turn into a racing addict, start going through sneakers at an increasingly alarming rate, wear my polar HR monitor more than any other accessory I own, or use 'PB' to describe anything other than peanut butter. I didn't figure myself for a real runner, one who would eventually learn the uses of a fuel belt and bodyglide, and hang race medals off her desk lamp. 

Don't worry, it's no longer used as a lamp. It's found 
new life as a full-time medal displayer!

I started running when I moved in with my bff. He regularly ran a three-mile loop around his neighbourhood, and I was bound and determined to keep up. Not that I'm competitive or anything... Anyways, that first run was a huge struggle. I blasted off at the start, equating "running" with "sprinting". For about 2 minutes. Then I was gasping, clutching my sides, and grabbing the water bottle from his hand to dump over my head in the heat of the prairies in July. I made it through the rest of the run at a slower speed, but it took me a while to learn the fine art of pacing myself. I still wouldn't say I've mastered it because I get really excited about my runs sometimes. But what I was, right from the start, was hooked. As summer turned to fall (for about a minute) and then to winter (I did say I'm from the prairies, right?), my bff traded his running shoes in for dumbbells. I decided to hit the gym too, figuring I could conquer strength training as my next challenge. I liked the weights, but I was addicted to running, so I ended up spending two-thirds of my daily gym time on the treadmill.

And that stuck. I moved away for grad school, and I continued to hit the cardio machines between classes, labs and the library. When it was warm, I took my runs outside and discovered my new city that way. And as days of running became months and then years, I noticed several changes in myself. I wasn't getting sick as often - I felt downright healthy almost all the time. I was full of energy, even when I got stuck with the overnight shift in the lab. I was eating right - I was choosing salads and apples instead of slurpees and copy room snacks. I was meeting cool people with lifestyles and values similar to my own. And, best of all, I was happy.

Something about running always works to kick my immune system into high gear, give a sleepy day a pick-me-up; it makes me thankful and makes me smile. So today, when I was having a crummy day, I ran.

After my transportation fell through, I had to bail on dinner in the big city with two of my favorite girlfriends, and I felt awful about it. Then a new Team D friend bailed on coffee with me. Finally, I had some "sorry, your qualifications were great but someone else's were better" emails from employers. I was feeling a little sorry for myself and wishing I was home with the family already for Christmas-themed comforts. But I believe in getting out there and doing something about it if you're facing a problem. And in this case, I couldn't fix the situations that were bringing me down, exactly, but I could definitely fix feeling down with a run. 

Another 8k, but no fresh snow and I did a new route to spice things up! And I swear, there really is something to the running cure, because not only was I feeling fabulous by the time I got home again, I had a magical mail delivery! Yep, I'm giving running at least some of the credit for the two awesome things I received in the mail today as well as giving me an endorphin boost!

My first freelancing cheque!

Notice for an amazing bursary that reduced my student loan debt!

Yay!! So anyways I think the moral of this story is that running, at least for me, is equal parts health and happiness. And that if you're feeling bummed or stressed, I really do think you should go for a run. At the very least, the fresh air and momentum of your body have a great way of clearing your head. And I suspect you'll come back smiling as well.

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