Running to burn off calories, running ‘X’ amount of miles because of what you have (or haven’t) done the day before, running so you can eat a certain food, running for a specific time, running a specific day every week however you may feel, saying ‘no’ to friends because you’ve planned to run at that time instead, running up hills and not stopping at the top to admire the view, pausing your running app every time you stop for a breath?
This list could go on and on, but when you read all those questions, if you found yourself mentally answering ‘yes’ to quite a few of them, then you may be enslaved to running. I found myself here a few years ago, and I hope I can enlighten you in what running should feel like, I hope, like me, you can find freedom in running.
I’m on a mission to get rid of all negativity in my life, especially around exercise, challenging negative thoughts in order to boost my confidence, I’d recommend it, it’s super uplifting.
Exercise has been an escape from school work for me, this year especially. I have been in year 13, my final year of school and so the biggest exams of my life so far, running away from my A-level revision for just half an hour, is absolute bliss.
As my exams drew nearer, I cut down my exercise, and fitted smaller runs into my full-on revision schedule, but I still stayed active. I didn’t punish myself for doing less exercise, as I knew at this moment in time, I had to let go of running ‘X’ amount of miles, burning ‘X’ amount of calories or running just to eat a certain food, because A-levels were more important than that. As exam season came upon me, my usual exercise routine was in complete shreds, but I knew my exams were more important, and I had to remember that.
When summer finally arrived, I was so excited to get back in to my previous exercise patterns, but to my surprise, running had become a whole lot more difficult, despite the fact I had mostly kept up my running schedule, I was sure this would be the one sport that wouldn’t have been affected, but I was wrong! I soon conquered my irrational thoughts and I knew that nothing disastrous was going to happen, and that in a few months I’d probably be back to normal. But still I pushed myself too fast too quickly, and new if I didn’t do something, I was going to fall out of love with running.
I started to write this blog post in my head whilst on a run, or namely what I would call a plod, one beautiful summers evening, after all my exams were over. I stopped plodding and started walking, not because I was so deeply out of breath because I’d pushed myself too hard, but because I was in love with the view that I had ignored on so many other runs. I felt the breeze run through my sweaty hair, and I let my arms hang loose by my side, I took a deep breath of air through my nose and I smiled. A cyclist whizzed past, and you know what? I didn’t care what he thought of me, whether he thought I was a rubbish runner, a slow runner, a girl with all the gear and no idea (he realistically didn’t even think about me!) but last year, I probably would have been afraid of what that cyclist might have thought of me. Last year I would stop my running tracker whenever I stopped running, or to be honest, I wouldn’t have stopped to look at the glorious view in the first place. And in that moment, this moment when I stopped running, breathed in the fresh air and appreciated my situation, I realised how much I genuinely love running!
I love the countryside, I love where I live, I love running this route, I love this view and I decided this is what it means to have freedom in running. I had no rules, no time frame, no expectations, just pure joy from my plod, so what if it is a slow run, so what if it is a whole 10 minutes off my best ever time? THIS is what running should be about.
This cascading thought process, I believe, was triggered by an email from parkrun, it had been five whole years since I had signed up and printed my first ever barcode. 125 parkruns in 5 years I could be at 250 parkruns by now if I had tried harder, I corrected myself, yes, but I also want a life, I have been on holidays, I have been too tired to even open my eyes on a Saturday, I had been to see family on a Saturday and you know what? 125 parkruns is actually pretty impressive.
The point I am getting at is that, when you think about running, what do you assoicate with it? Whilst there is no right answer here, my answer has changed significantly over the last few years. I have gone from associating running with pain, time limits, frustration and tiredness to associating it with beautiful views, stunning scenery, group catch-ups, happiness and most of all freedom. Running provided me freedom from revision, freedom from my thoughts, freedom from the indoors and freedom from the negative association with exercise.
In my opinion, this freedom in running, developed over several experiences, the having to reduce exercise for exams, the joining of an amazing running club where speed is the last thing any memeber thinks about, the learning that running can also be a social thing (chatting with friends) and the learning that time is not always of the essence as running is for enjoyment!
I would absolutely LOVE to know what you think about this post and whether you think that freedom in running is something that you have, or would like to have! Please feel free to share this post!