Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When you're too busy to go running...go running anyway

I was too busy to run yesterday. So I did the best thing to do when you’re too busy to run. Avid runners will know exactly what I’m talking about. What’s the best thing to do when you’re too busy to go running? No, not use the treadmill. Not take the day off and double your workout the next day. Not even concede gracefully to the reality that there are days into which a run just might not fit and refuse to dwell on the fact that you didn’t go.

No. At least speaking for myself, the best thing to do when I’m too busy to run is…go running.

I may seem like the wrong person to talk about making a choice to run. As a USRSA-registered streak runner, I’ve committed to run a mile or more every day. In another month, if all goes well, my running streak with be one thousand days long. But yesterday was one of those days when it was so tempting to tell myself, “Okay, but just a mile today. You can spare ten minutes, but that’s it. You have way too much to do to fit in a good run. Just do that mile and get back to your desk…your kitchen…your telephone…your errands list.”

But I didn’t. I’d spent the first 90 minutes of the day up at the elementary school attending Holly’s class’s Iditarod presentation. And while I love being invited into the classroom, starting my work day 90 minutes late is never something that feels great to me, devotee of routine that I am. I was feeling frazzled by waiting to hear from two different sources for two different articles whose input I urgently needed in order to complete and file my stories. When I got back from the classroom event, I had three e-mails saying that school library volunteers had to reschedule their shifts, which is my responsibility as library volunteer coordinator. I wasn’t at all sure that my older child had finished a big homework assignment due later this week, and I hadn’t even started the brainstorming part of an essay I promised an editor I’d draft in the early part of this week.

That was just the deskwork part. On the domestic front, I had committed to make two batches of oatmeal cookies for events taking place that afternoon, and we’d invited a guest to dinner. Though I had a general idea of the menu, I hadn’t done any of the cooking yet. I hadn’t even checked very carefully to ensure we had the ingredients I needed.

And, of course, as a streak-runner, I knew I had to fit in my run at some point. Even if it was only ten minutes long.

Instead, I took a leap of faith. I said to myself, “Deadlines, dinner menus, kids’ homework, housework…no. Just go running. So you don’t have time to run. Just Go Anyway.”

So I set off on my favorite weekday loop. But instead of getting more frazzled as the time away from my desk and home unspooled, I found that the opposite was happening. As I ran, I thought about the dinner menu and what I’d need to prepare when, in order to be ready when our guest arrived. I remembered that I hadn’t bought any salad ingredients but I did have some leftover steamed broccoli, which I could sauté with tomatoes and corn in place of a salad. I mulled over ideas for the essay I’d promised my editor. I reassured myself that the two story sources I urgently needed to hear from would probably call later in the day. I reminded myself that now Tim is in fifth grade, he almost always gets his assignments done without asking for a lot of help or making a big deal of it, and this was probably one of those times.

Seasoned runners will be able to anticipate how this ended: when I returned home after the run, even though I’d squandered a half-hour that I really didn’t have to spare, I felt better about all of it. I was all set to start dinner preparations, having planned out in my mind what needed to be done. With my brain rejuvenated, I felt that I could call the tardy story sources and ask them for the information I was waiting on, and I could at least start jotting down ideas for the essay even if I didn’t start drafting it yet.

So, once again, the best thing to do when I was too frazzled to fit in a run was to fit in that run. After that, time seemed to shift and work its way into my hands again, where I felt capable of organizing it the way I needed to. I’d run the frazzle goblins right into the ground. Literally. Mentally refreshed, my afternoon no longer seemed quite so overbooked. I felt great. And not even all that busy after all.

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