I’ve spoken briefly before about long-distance running being my cardio of choice. In the past I’ve done Capoeira and a Tae Kwon Do based mixed martial art as well, but running has stuck with me more consistently than either of those. The reason is simple: It’s mine.
Obviously the concept of running isn’t mine, but when I run, it’s just me and my music. When I first began running years ago in Seattle, it was mostly indoors on a treadmill (and later a really nice indoor track at WSU.) The advantage of such things was climate control and smooth, even terrain. The disadvantage was that it’s boring and doesn’t prepare you as well for the outside world. But the thing is, especially back then, I really didn’t like running. I didn’t know how to dress, so I was in typical, long gym shorts and I wore Nike GOLF shoes (yes seriously…) because they were the only real “athletic” shoes I owned and I figured they were “good enough.” Thankfully at that point I was probably only running between 1-3 miles anyway or I might’ve actually damaged myself.
So, I needed cardio because my girlfriend at the time (who was SUPER nice about those things) actually admitted I “could lose a little” and my diet at the time consisted of Fast Food, Pizza and the occasional deli meat and cheese sandwich (those were good though, I miss those.) Regardless I was chubby, and the Tae-bo videos I was doing at home weren’t cutting it. So how do you convince yourself to do something awkward, uncomfortable and stressful on a regular basis? Simple: distraction. Running is where I would develop my ideas, sort out my days, and figure things out. I would do everything I could to take my mind away from the fact I was running because the moment I started focusing on the fact that I was running, I felt everything, my legs clumsily plodding on, my bronchial tubes contracting in protest and my heart racing trying to keep enough oxygen flowing to my muscles that were threatening to go on strike at any moment.
Over time I went from daydreaming to focused thoughts and battles with my own inner demons (some of which I obviously, admittedly lost… those jerks are stubborn…) but as my thought processes became more involved and focused, my attention
went further and further away from the running until I developed a sort of auto-pilot that could potentially go on forever. Imagine distracting yourself by sparring with another version of you inside your head. You have to think of each movement, each strike, each block and the reactions to all of those things. Then add in the fact that I’m an avid anime watcher and gamer and you’ve got all kinds of fantasy things going on (flying, weapons, energy beams, etc.) It gets intense in there. So all this distraction, and then all of a sudden you come out of it and realize you’ve already got three miles down and you don’t know where the time has gone. That’s how I developed my natural pace, by distracting myself.
Over the years my runs evolved, by the time my ex and I broke up and I was back in Seattle I was up to five mile runs along with a workout (though still indoors.) The nice thing about a treadmill is that you can manually speed yourself up to improve your pace and then allow your mind to wander off again. Probably the only downside to this is that as you get comfortable, you can incrementally increase your pace, but the numbers deceive you, and though you might feel better about going 6.2 miles per hour instead of 6, the affect it has on you is minimal (granted any improvement is improvement.)
Moving to Florida was when things got serious, but not right away. While I attended Full Sail I have a very similar routine involving runs at LA Fitness on a treadmill. At this point I had to try a little harder to go into my head as that particular location has an abundance of attractive women in tight clothing… it was easy to get distracted. To be honest (and this is just my personal opinion) I’ve always felt like LA Fitness is the place you go to be noticed (both genders.) People seem flashier and it just feels like more of a “look at me!” mentality compared to a place like Planet Fitness where you just go to get the job done. Maybe that’s just my personal experience though…
Eventually I finally hit a point where I was just bored with running and tried other things. There was about three years that I totally supplemented my cardio with Capoeira. The desire to run would come and go, but I never felt motivated enough. It was during my fourth year that I felt like I had become considerably lazier than I had been previously. Additionally, though Capoeira was a fantastic exercise and gave me a great personal support structure, it didn’t do much to deal with my inner-demon. In fact, because of the combatant nature of the art form and the rampant egos of some, it actually FED that side of me and brought it out from time to time. I resolved to return to my runs in addition to Capoeira. There is a convenient running trail that I can run to from my house with beautiful scenery and wildlife (but you have to watch for snakes.. and gators.. seriously.. I almost injured myself avoiding a snake on today’s run.)
Around this same time an avid runner joined my Capoeira group and invited me out to the Disney runs she liked to do. At the time I had a bit of a crush on her, so I was feeling very motivated to impress her. Since five miles had been my staple, I had to adjust to the upcoming “Race For the Taste” length that was a 10k (6.2 miles.) The adjustment was easy and the run was magical. I finished at a very good pace and felt inspired for more. Over time I increased my distance to the point that just last year I was able to complete the Walt Disney World Marathon without stopping. What an amazing experience (walking to the car shortly after finishing.. not so much.!) I took a bit of a break after the marathon but have picking up my consistency more recently. Even with a couple weeks off I can easily run a 10k at the drop of a hat, and could very likely finish a half-marathon with some struggle. But the Walt Disney World wasn’t my last marathon. This year the funds didn’t line up right but I’ll be back one way or another.
These days the hardest part of the run is getting my lazy ass out of the door. Once I manage that, the run is good. I’ve evolved a great playlist to motivate me while I go and have 3 different courses to run depending on where I am. I don’t drink water during my runs because I want to be ready for cardio under any circumstances (you know.. impending zombie apocalypse rule #1: Cardio!) As much as the meditation aspect is great, and I feel great after my run, my main reason is still the reason I started: so I can come home after, eat my Magnum chocolate ice cream bar, drink my ginger ale and sit around writing a blog about why I run while feeling no laziness or guilt what-so-ever. It keeps me acceptable for bachelor-like activities and extends my life span.
The Oatmeal (Best. Internet Comics. EVER.) wrote a highly entertaining and touching comic about why HE runs long distances that resonated with me and I think you will enjoy (far more than all these words, hence I put it at the end of the post.. suckers!)
Check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running
It really is beautiful (check out his other stuff too.. hilarious!) In the meantime thanks for reading!