Thursday, February 3, 2011

Exercise Therapy

I look at running as meditation. It allows me to decompress, download, and get rid of a lot of negative stuff. That's my secret. I go inside myself. 

-Jeff Corwin, American animal and nature conservationist

I started seriously running between my sophomore and junior year in college to stay in shape for lacrosse season. I remember when a 2 mile run was a struggle for me; I never would have thought I’d want to run a half marathon, let alone a marathon!

No matter what, even though on some days I hate having to force myself out for a run, even when I’m burnt out or injured…I always find my way back to running. I’ve come to realize that it’s become a form of therapy for me.

Here are some of the therapeutic values of running:
·         Running gives me time to think. Whether it’s coming up with ideas for dinner, planning a yoga sequence or just filtering events of the day, it gives me time to really get into my head and understand what I’m thinking and feeling. I don’t run alone much anymore, but even the moments when I’m not talking to Brandon, I have the time to go deep into the folds of my brain.
·         Running gives me time to talk. There have been numerous runs on which Brandon and I have been able to talk out our problems, our ideas, our life goals, you name it. I am so thankful to have this time with him, because any ancillary anger or reactions that we might spout under normal circumstances, we often choose not to waste precious energy on because we’re mid-run. Which brings me to my next point…
·         Running is a way for me to channel my energy through a more positive outlet. Exerting myself physically helps me steer clear of expending energy on things which don’t deserve any energy expenditure from me, like negative thinking, petty arguments, etc. Why would I spend my time dwelling on these things when it is only going to leave me feeling more exhausted?

Let me give you a few examples of how exercise is analogous to therapy for me:

Exhibit A: I had a miserable lacrosse season my senior year of college. I was a captain but didn't play a lick. My coach asked so much of me, to motivate my team, to put in extra hours, to house recruits, and the list goes on. It got to the point that I wasn't even playing during practices anymore (most of the people who weren't starters didn't). That's when I turned to running. I would run after practice and games for miles and miles because I wasn't even vaguely exhausted. Running cleared my head when I was so angry at my coach I couldn't see straight. Running helped me take control of my emotions when all I wanted to do after standing on the sideline for two hours was sit in my room and cry.

Exhibit B: After I graduated, I left all of my friends to move to Akron, Ohio for my brand spankin' new engineering job (aside: I work for a medical device manufacturer designing implants for orthopedic surgery). I didn't know a soul in Ohio. Well, okay...didn't know a soul in Akron, Ohio. All by my lonesome, in a new city, with new people, I turned to running. I didn't have much to do outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. so I ran before or after work. I decided to train for my first half marathon. It gave me a way to fill my time when I didn't have any friends to surround myself with. 

Exhibit C: I can't tell you how many runs I've gone on with Brandon that we've been able to talk our issues out. I do believe part of that comes from our ability to communicate openly and honestly, but while we're putting everything else out there physically, it's easy to mentally lay it all out for each other as well. At the same time, we're not wasting energy on any petty arguments or cheap shots at each other. 

So there you have it, the more I think about it, the less I can adequately articulate how important running has been in my life, for so many more reasons that just staying in shape. It's helped me mentally stay in shape as well, and that, my friends, might just be the real value of exercise.
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