Running Is About So Much More Than Exercise For Me, And This Is Why

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This winter we’ve had record-cold temperatures where I live, and every morning I hear my joints crack and creek when I get out of bed. I get my kids ready for school and want nothing more than to crawl back under my flannel sheets and snooze with HGTV in the background, but I don’t because this is real life, I’m adult, and there is stuff to do.

Nothing gets me out of my morning slump like putting on my running clothes and hitting the pavement. There are days when I can’t wait to get out there and think about everything and nothing and lose myself in a quiet space I create just for me.

Before heading out, it never fails: I look over at the stack of bills and my never ending to-do list. I see a floor that needs vacuuming, and a dog who would prefer if I stayed inside and laid on the floor and rubbed her belly. I have stories to write, an overflowing trash can, and a laundry basket that won’t quit.

I have so many other things I need to be doing for other people, but know I can do a much better job with all of the duties that lay before me if I take this time for myself first.

I’ve been running for three years, and I’ve never once said, “I really regretted that run.”

I get out there because there was a time I didn’t believe I could ever be a runner. That was something amazingly athletic people did, and I wasn’t one of them.

But I started doing it to prove myself wrong even though I could only make it a few yards down the road and it felt foreign to me. Everything hurt, and I hated everything about it. My body was telling me there was no way in hell I could ever run more than a quarter mile without feeling like I was breaking down. But one day, my mind started telling me something different, and I’m so glad I listened and pushed through my initial hangups.

The benefits of running are so much more than just getting some exercise — running has gotten me through my divorce. Running has allowed me to relieve stress. Running has shown me exactly what my body can endure. Running has given me all the benefits self-care is supposed to give, and then some. Running has been the constant thing in my life that gives back.

It gives me a great energy boost, it helps me sleep better, and it forces me to go out and get some fresh air. But the biggest thing running has done, is shown me how strong and powerful the body and mind — my body and mind — can be.

There are definitely days running kicks my ass and I can’t wait for it to be over, and yet I welcome that feeling because there’s nothing like a good ass-kicking to make you realize what you are capable of. And if I collapse on the floor or think, I’m never running up a hill like that again, I know deep down I still did it. I still tried. I still accomplished something that was really damn hard and, of course, I’ll do it again — because I can. I’ve proven to myself that I can set my sights on something, and make it happen. It’s beyond empowering.

I believe anyone who has the ability and desire to run should try it. And I don’t mean that in a sanctimonious or preachy way. I didn’t start until I was almost 40. I went from running one mile with a few breaks, to three miles straight, and now I do a few half marathons each year. I never ran or played sports when I was younger, either. If you want to be a runner, grab some shoes and get started, take it slow, and you will amaze yourself.

It’s amazing how pushing yourself to do something physical — something you didn’t think you were capable of — helps you believe in yourself in other areas of your life. It can make going through tough emotional situations a bit easier. It’s a physical release, yes, but when you push yourself physically you are reminded how tough your mind really is too.

So many people who run don’t get up and do it day after day after day just because it’s good exercise, although it is that as well. They do it because it does something for them on a spiritual and emotional level they just can’t explain.

Runners see nature unfold in front of their eyes through a sunset, or falling snow. They see lazy towns, dirt roads, and wave at fellow runners. They smell the earth, and feel the rain, and let their mind wander.

People will often ask me why I run in the rain, or in the cold, or why I go out when it’s snowing or too hot. And after seeing what I have seen, and feeling the way running has transformed my body and soul, it’s really hard for me not to flip the script and ask them why they don’t run. It’s so much more than cardio.