I used to hate to run. I used to think people who enjoyed it were nuts.
The problem was:
A) I was running for the wrong reasons, and
B) My mind was working against me.
I used to run in college, and back then I was weird with eating and exercise. I was way too worried about my body and weight--and that was my motivation for running. This totally ruined my enjoyment of the run. I used to dread it all day, but I would force myself to do it anyways. Then I stopped for 8 years.
When I restarted running a few years back, I still wasn't quite right with it. It was better--this time it was marathon training (read: real slow marathon training--speed walkers pass me), not weight control. Having a real purpose (and an end date) made it much better for me. But my head would tell me the whole time how much I wanted to stop. How my legs hurt and I couldn't breathe. My mind was sure my body would be happier if I would just sit down.
I remember the first time it happened. I was running and this thought accidentally slipped into my head, "This doesn't feel bad, I feel sort of good." I wasn't struggling to breathe, I wasn't hurting, and I had a nice rhythm. I almost rejected the thought outright, because that is not the kind of thought I have when I run. It is kind of an unwritten rule.
It is not as though I never felt bad again when running--there were struggles after that experience. But I have found that has lessened to the point where I really no longer struggle in my runs. I am even working on a faster pace rather than simply trying to survive.
The difference lies in paying attention. If you choose to think on and on about some body part that is uncomfortable, it just gets more uncomfortable. If you focus on how hard the wind is blowing against you, it just feels that much harder to move forward. But if you see the wind as cooling you down, or are grateful it is not also raining, the movement becomes much easier. If you realize that the pain will decrease as you continue to run because of endorphins, then you can focus on the rhythm of your pace or on "eye of the tiger" blaring in your iPod.
As your perspective on running improves, you may find this translates to life. Your thoughts are your life. Whatever you put your attention to; you will get more of that.
Because of my history with exercise (many years of forcing myself to do it--part of my eating disorder I didn't know I had), I now go through long periods where I choose to do nothing fitness-related. I do not run unless I am itching to do so. So do not read this as coming from some health-nut running guru. I just think it is amazing to see how thoughts relate to experience in running and in life.
There is a very inspiring book called Born to Run which brings you back to the natural drive to run. As kids, we couldn't be held back--we were bursting to do it. The whole idea of doing it to be healthy or control weight has really made it un-fun, and I refuse to do it for those reasons. As with all fitness activities--do it for fun or don't do it at all.
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Jennifer Pereira MA, RD, LD, CSCS, LPC - WISE Therapist & Dietitian
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