Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Simple words of inspiration reinvigorate my daily running habit

For the past few weeks, my daily run has been….well, less than ideal.

It seems my pace gets slower and slower. We’ve had some really hot, humid weather already this summer, and our new neighborhood is a lot buggier early in the day than our old neighborhood was; even if I protect myself with a hat and sunscreen, the horseflies cluster around my dog’s ears and annoy both of us.

So even as my daily streak approaches its four-year anniversary next month, I’ve cut back just a little on distance, reducing my typical weekend 5- or 6-milers to just four miles the past couple of weeks, and not even trying to go beyond my weekday 2-mile route the other five days of the week.

But even though I’ve maintained my daily running streak – which is at 1439 days as of this morning – it just hasn’t been fun. In fact, it’s been a drag. I drag myself out the door. I drag myself along the road and back. I drag myself through the paces of running, day after day, without my usual enthusiasm.

And then yesterday morning, I was going through my usual early-morning routine, the one that begins even earlier than my daily run: I write Morning Pages and then check email before I lace up my running shoes.

Normally, waiting in my email box at this early hour is a daily inspirational quote from And most days I find this helpful. Some examples are more meaningful than others to me, but I almost always find something insightful, encouraging, educational, illuminating or thought-provoking in the words of the daily quote. But over the past several days, no daily inspirational email had arrived. And then yesterday the bottleneck was apparently broken, and there were five. But none of them struck me as inspirational at all.

“All attack is a call for help. When you know this, you begin at once to look deeply into the question of what kind of help is being called for,” said one, attributed to theologian and writer Neale Donald Walsch.

“Let us accept the invitation, ever-open, from the Stillness, taste its exquisite sweetness, and heed its silent instruction,” wrote the late British philosopher Paul Brunton.

Some days these missives inspire me, but on this particular day, they neither made me feel like going out to live a better life nor like going out for my daily run.

And then on Twitter I found this one, from Maurilio Amorim, a marketing and technology entrepreneur and runner in Tennessee: "Morning workouts help me clear my mind and awaken my creativity."

That’s right, said the ever-present voice in my head. That’s the part I’ve been forgetting recently. Running isn’t just about the physical sense of well-being and strength. Sometimes, on hot humid days or for any number of other reasons, that sense of physical wellness just isn’t part of the experience. But this is the part I’d been overlooking as of late. I don’t run just for the physical power surge it gives me; I run because, as Maurilio Amorim says, it helps me clear my mind and awaken my creativity.

Stop thinking about how you feel, I reminded myself – the humidity, the sleepiness, the ever-annoying horseflies – and remember this part: the mind-clearing part. That’s still the most important reason. Rather than thinking that your muscles are moving slowly, think of the run as the part of the day where you gather together your dissipated mental energy and channel it into the creativity and initiative required for the day ahead.

Those thoughts stayed with me as I headed down my driveway. Somehow in recent weeks I’d forgotten about the mental clarity I gain from running; I’d let the physical aspects, most of which have been negative lately, overrun my consciousness. And it wasn’t philosophers or theologians, motivational speakers or athlete-gurus, who put me back on track. It was one cyber-acquaintance in Tennessee, with eleven words that I needed to hear.

I suppose it goes without saying that running hasn’t felt so good all summer as it did yesterday.

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