A good friend of mine once asked me if it is possible to learn to like running.
Her question, my quick response, and the possibilities of the problem led me to ponder it ad nauseum for quite some time. My innate propensity to overthink things did not make this process any quicker, or smoother. However, eventually I came up with quite a few ways in which one could attempt to acquire a passion for running.
The first way, the most critical, is one I have already touched upon. I prefer not to think of it as learning to ‘like’ it. ‘Like’ is such a diluted word. When I think of things I ‘like’, these things are things I can do without. For instance, “It would be nice if I could get that sweater in blue, because I ‘like’ blue, but I’ll get it in black instead,” or “I would ‘like’ to run through Starbucks today and get a latte because I ‘like’ lattes.” I can take it or leave it, depending on the circumstances.
Instead, I turn the ‘like’ into ‘passion’, thereby making it something transformative, something nurturing, something substantive. It might be something you cannot live without. Or, you might be able to live without it (because we CAN live without many things) but if you did you would be consumed by thinking about it or how to get it. An example from my world is my writing. I have a passion for writing. On those days when my schedule prohibits me from writing, I still think about it frequently throughout the day. Sometimes I feel an intense guilt, a pain, when I cannot write. When I am finally able to do it, either in the form of my blog post or working through a story, I feel fulfilled, complete, and successful.
In other words, the pursuit of ‘passions’ correlates directly to the growth of one’s intrinsic values and self-worth; the pursuit of ‘likes’ simply augments us on the outside but has little ability to penetrate to the core.
It is not easy.
The first and most important step is to make it a priority. In other words, make exercise ~ whether it is running or cycling or walking ~ a priority.
In the beginning, it is very important to establish a pattern that works well with your daily schedule. You do not have to run every day; but, it helps if you set aside time every day to be active.
This achieves three goals:
- Time set aside just for you. No phone calls, no texting, no laundry, no computer, no kids, no dogs and/or cats, no spouse, no work. You can get out of the house and focus only on you. I bring my phone with me, but it is always on silent.
- Time for training your body and your mind for what is to come. Challenges are forthcoming on this path. You will challenge yourself to push through walls, both physical and mental. Daily and gradual training is the first key to meeting and surpassing these challenges. I use it as quiet time: I talk to God, I work through problems, I talk to myself. Quite liberating, actually.
- Time to form a habit. Without practice, you cannot succeed, much less excel, at acquiring a passion to run. Practice is achieved through habit and discipline. I plan my exercise schedule, including days off and what activity I will do on which day, on a weekly basis. Sounds rigid, but it keeps me focused.
These are methods that work for me. I use them because running did not start out as a passion for me. I had to learn to embrace it and that has taken time.
In fact, it started out with pain. I battled terrible shin splints when I ran in college. I later found out, about 15 years later, that the shin splints were caused by inproper footwear and inadequate stretching. Of course, now they tell me that you can’t run with court shoes. And stretching? Really? What did I know as a sophomore in college anyhow? Who stretched back then?
Running was something I took up as a result of social pressure. Not a bad thing in all cases, but for me it became something I did because I wanted to be liked by someone else…and running is something that other person did. She set the schedule, the course, the speed. I just followed along, whether I really wanted to or not. Today, I am a very different person. The person I am today would say to the friend of yesterday “No…my legs hurt like hell and there’s no way I’m running with you. Check back with me tomorrow. But, have a nice run!”
This made the perfect recipe for the exact opposite of passion: hatred. I hated to run. It brought back memories of pain and social confusion.
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