Do you remember running as a kid? It always felt so effortless. It always felt so free. I remember running around the local park after school with a group of friends, still in uniform, chasing with each other with sticks and jumping across ditches.
I can’t never remember feeling tired from it. Endless energy while being young.
I’ve run through town drunk and played tag with girlfriends during my teenage years and slowly become increasingly sedentary, which I’m sure is relatable to a degree.
I never ran for fitness purposes. Or regularly. Or did anything exercise-related for that matter. About a year ago, I ran for the first time at the gym and I swear it nearly killed me. I nearly threw up in the changing room toilets.
Yup, it was really that bad.
However, sick of my tired and achy, and fairly unfit body for a 25 year old, running seemed like a good place to start getting into shape. It’s free, and you can easily improve. Goals can be changed easily. Let’s give it a go, I optimistically encouraged myself.
I still remember going to the gym for that first run.
Hey, I said to myself, I was pretty good at running in school and was always one of the fastest in my class. How hard could it be? I then precede to whack the speed of the treadmill up to a double digit setting.
You know some people say ‘use it, or you lose it.’ Yeah. They’re not wrong.
I can’t emphasize how much I sucked. Being only 23 at the time and only being able to run 2km in 20 minutes made me feel shameful. Made worse by the apparent gym lovers and athletics surrounding my treadmill that day.
I tried and I tried to get better. I made improvements here and there, averaging around 5km in 36 minutes after the first few months. Yes, months.
Yet, over time, I felt myself becoming healthier and fitter. It was slow progress, but I felt my body rewarding me for my perseverance. I felt accomplishment with every few seconds I shaved off my personal best. I was growing stronger.
I ran once a week like this for a year, skipping running day more than a few times over the year here and there.
Then lockdown and COVID-19 happened.
Gyms shut — time to take matters into my own hands. I needed to exercise to stay fit, so I downloaded the Strava app and got running and fuck me, it changed my life.
A month in, I’ve covered over 178km in just under two months, average five runs a week, and have been smashing my personal best times repeatedly. Nearly every run.
Whereas I started with a time of 58 minutes on a 7km run, I can now achieve 10km in under 50 minutes, averaging a speed of 4:48/km. That’s literally double the pace I was running last year.
And, more importantly, I’m loving every second of it.
I don’t say this to brag.
I say this to open your eyes to what you can achieve.
I’d be lying if I said the improvements I’ve experienced through running haven’t affected every single part of my life and has played an active role in helping me see the beauty that this world has to offer and growing to be my best self.
Here’s five ways it’s done just that.
. . .
You can do whatever you put your mind too
If I flashback to the me of a year ago, pulling the emergency stop out of the treadmill after 15 minutes because I felt so exhausted, and have a conversation with him right now; the me of today would say one thing;
‘Don’t give up. It’s tough now, but you can do it.’
Whatever you want to achieve in your life, whatever dreams you want to fulfil and whatever milestones you want to reach, you can do it. If you want it, you can make it happen.
Let me say it one more time because it can never be understated. Think of something you want right now. It can be anything.
Something small. Something big. Anything you want.
You can do it. You can make that thing happen.
For me, I wanted to run 10km in 55 minutes, and I did.
I made it happen because I set the goal, and I achieved it. In that same week, I finished the first draft of my first ever novel, started reading regularly, and felt the happiest I have been in a long time. Hitting running goals gave me the motivation to achieve other things in my life.
It feels good.
Never stop growing as an individual.
There is always someone better than you
Using the Strava app, I started following a load of people in my local area, just for motivation and the support network.
Okay, I also wanted to be a little competitive, obviously. But besides the point, turns out a lot of people in my area love running. By loving running, I mean, they do it every day and have done for years. They are fast.
Turns out many of these people put my times to shame, and they do what I class as ‘ridiculous distances in ridiculous times’, and you know what, that’s okay.
In life, there are always going to be people who can do something better than you, just as there are people who will do worse.
Someone will start a business than makes more money, or writes a story with better reviews, or has a nice house, or lifts heavier weights, and there’s nothing wrong with that because they’re not you.
You are an individual living your life among seven billion other individuals.
What you choose to do with your life is your choice, and when you’re competing to be the best you can be, but you’re competing against yourself, your potential is limitless.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does one day click
I’ve tried to change a lot of things in my life over the last few years.
I want to be happier. Work harder. Earn more money. Travel more. Quit smoking. Play video games less. Write books. Be healthier. Be more emotionally stable. The list is quite endless.
Rewind two years ago; I would lay in bed at night and say something in my head along the lines of;
Tomorrow is a new day, and it’s going to be the start of a new me.
Guess what? It wasn’t. It never was.
I would wake up late. Hit the snooze button. Wake up even later. Watch videos. Smoke. Eat shit food. Tell myself that tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again. Not once did I wake up, and suddenly everything fit into place.
But in a weird kind of way, looking back now, it actually did.
I look at myself now and how different I am. I see how much has changed. All those things on my list have been improved, but it wasn’t something that happened overnight in one sudden change, but rather a series of small little changes that happened over time.
With running, unless you really push yourself hard, you’re not going to consistently take off minutes from your personal best. It doesn’t happen. Instead, you keep pushing a little harder each time, and you never keep up.
Each run, you take off a few seconds. On a good day, maybe ten or even twenty seconds. Most of the time it’s literally one single second.
You keep going.
Over the course of a month, or a few weeks, suddenly, you’ve taken off five minutes — eventually ten — eventually 15. You keep going and going, and you look back thinking, ‘huh, I’m so much better than I was.’
The change didn’t happen in one run, nor will it for any aspect of your life. Real, sustainable, long-term change comes from putting in the work every single day and realizing that even taking tiny steps forward is still means you’re moving forward.
The only way you’ll never make it is if you stop trying completely.
The many problems holding you back are all in your head
I’ve been really knuckling down with my practice of mindfulness recently, and one of the key elements that are repeated over and over again is this;
You are not your thoughts.
Reality is not what goes on in your head, but instead the physical sensations of what’s happening in real-time, in the present moment. When you’re running, you reach certain points where you think to yourself, ‘okay, I need to stop’.
“This hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It’s too much. Fuck, this is hard.”
You push on. You get through it. You keep going. Everything is okay. I’ll stop at this corner. I’ll just keep going to this lampost. I’ll just go a little further and if it’s still bad, I’ll stop then.
Most of the worries, anxieties, and stresses you have about things in your life are all your head and aren’t actually the reality you’re living in.
If you’re stressed about work, or you’re anxious about something in your relationship, or you feel judged by something, most of the time these are worries created by your mind.
I’m writing a book at the moment and some days I’ll look at it and think it’s great and I’m really happy with it. Other days I look at it and seriously consider deleting the whole lot and giving up.
Yes, these feelings are uncomfortable, and yes, it’s not very nice, but push through it. You keep going. No matter how you deal with these feelings, up until this moment, you’ve always found a way through to the other side and look at you now.
How beautiful is it that you’ve come so far?
The trick to freeing yourself from these uncomfortable feelings is simply to be aware of them.
If you want to get better at running, you notice the mental barrier, and you push through it, and then you’re okay. The same applies to everything else.
Don’t stand in your own way.
Always make time for you
I used to hate running in the past. I actually despised it and did everything I could to get out of it.
Over time though, I’ve learned to love it because it’s an hour I’m taking every day to love myself and really just be with me. I changed my perspective from forcing myself into something or doing something for me because I love me.
When running, I’m working on myself. Losing myself to the world. I can be present, or I can let my thoughts flow. I can listen to nature, or I can listen to my favorite playlists. I feel better. I feel happy. I feel energized.
I feel excited to be alive.
Why the fuck have I not spent time in the past not doing things that make me feel this way?
And why aren’t you?
It doesn’t matter what kind of life you have; you always have time to spend on you. Run, read, walk, meditate, journal, do some garden, bake something, write something, have a bath.
Whatever brings you joy, it really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that for some duration of time every day, doesn’t even matter if it’s ten minutes or an hour, you’re doing something purely because it makes you feel good.
If you feel good, life feels good, and everything gets better from a place where your being feels like this.
Who’d have thought the formula was so simple?
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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