Friday, May 20, 2011

Running, Zen, and Me

I love finding spiritual growth in unexpected places. The wonderful Husband S and I started the Couch to 5K running program a little over a month ago. It is designed to get sofa spuds like us from the couch to a non-stop 5K run in 9 weeks. So far, so good. 30 minutes, 3 times a week, we have been sticking with it really well.

I chose this program because I was looking for something cheap to help me get into shape, and something for S and I to do together. So far, it has been successful on both front, but I didn’t expect any other benefits. I have never been a runner, even when I was young, healthy, and thin. I have never thought running was anything but exhausting. It was something to endure if necessary and avoid if possible. I think I am changing my mind about that. Through a series of events, we decided to turn off our music and just listen to the timed instructions. The quiet run turned everything around for me.

We are not yet good runners, but we are now to the point that we are no longer gasping for breath constantly and can actually jog and walk for the directed times without focusing solely on survival. I’ve heard runners talk about how their head clears when they get into their “zone” while running, but these were people who liked to run, so I didn’t really believe them. I have been amazed this week by how it feels to be able to tune into my body and my surroundings, while ignoring everything else. Actually, I am totally astonished that I am capable of such a thing. I have been practicing meditation for the past couple of years, but have only been successful while seated. I find walking meditation almost impossible and active mindfulness is generally an exercise in frustration. But running is hard enough that my mind does not swing through the daydream trees in its normal monkey state.

Neither S nor I feel like running when it is time to go, but this week we have both felt great afterwards. I know that some of this is the endorphins, but I think the meditative aspect contributes to how good we feel. After yesterday’s run I actually felt like I could complete the whole program for the first time. It was always my intention, but I don’t think I actually believed I was capable of doing it until then. It was an awesome feeling. Running is helping me put myself into my physical body. I have written before about living mostly in my head. Running is helping me to understand that the legs pumping and moving me down the path are just as much me as the mind writing this post. Once I get passed the stage where I just want it to end, I find I view things a little differently while running – in a good way.

I am not sure what we are going to do this winter since I don’t see myself being hardy enough for outdoor winter running, but for now this is working even better than I expected. As an addendum, I opened up a Dove Dark Chocolate Promise while finishing up this post. The message on the inside said, “lose yourself in the moment”. Exactly.

1 comment:

  1. Your observations about running - that it's more than just exercise - call to mind the book Running and Being by Dr. George Sheehan. You might appreciate it.