I'm afraid I have a confession to make, and it's probably going to make me look like a bit of a hypocrite.
For years, well, my whole life, really, I never understood runners. I would mock those who got up at five in the morning to run around in the dark, crick my eyebrow at those who talked about the high of running, and scoff at those who thought running was fun.
The trouble is, I'm starting to sympathize with those people. In fact, I think I'm becoming one of them.
This crazy change started a few weeks ago when I started up a workout schedule again. I was settled into my new routine, and I suddenly found myself with way too much time on my hands--and it was making me antsy. So I decided to factor exercise into my life again.
My apartment complex has a workout room, not to mention the great outdoors outside my apartment complex, but I'm too chicken to take advantage of either of them. For me, exercising is a very personal thing, something that I don't want to share with anyone unless it's a conversation piece. I don't want people watching me as I struggle to push myself at something I am not inherently good at. I run for me, and me alone, so that means no one else can participate, even from the sidelines.
So, I've taken to running around my apartment. And yes, I know how pathetic that just sounded. But, it gets the job done. I have enough room to allow me to work up a good sweat, change my face to a lovely shade of puce, and experience some of that good pain that says your body is getting stronger.
When I've established exercise goals in the past, it has always been for physical reasons--to get into shape, to stay healthy, etc. However, once I graduated from college, I started working out for additional reasons that were mainly psychological. It gave me a sense of movement and made me feel like I was doing something with my life.
Now that I'm in goodish shape, I have seen many un-planned-for benefits of running. It feels so good to come home after a long day at the office and run off the frustrations and sedentaryness that have built up during the day. There's also the sense that you are outrunning your problems: when I thought I was going to have to deal with a $2000 car repair, I jogged for a half hour, and while that worry was still there, the hopelessness and despair was gone; as I've been dealing with personal issues, a good bout of exercise is enough to boost my spirits and to help me rise above my emotions. I've actually felt that high that runners are always talking about. I don't think I ever felt it before, because I was too preoccupied with the pain my body was going through to realize that my body was ecstatic about the extra nourishment I was giving it.
It's also helped fill a void that I've been feeling pretty strongly lately--the void left by my lack of piano. This is the first time in my life I haven't had access to a piano. Even when I was living in Provo, I always had the option of running downstairs to the basement, walking up to campus and pounding on one of the hundreds of pianos spread across the classrooms at BYU, or I could even make a quick trip to my parents' house if the need became intense enough. I don't have any of those options anymore (except the running to my parents' house thing, but that requires more planning and time; it's not something I can just decide to do on a whim). The piano has always been a wonderful, wonderful tool that helped me work through my sadness, frustrations, fears--every emotion known to man (or, well, woman)--and after pounding out some good Jon Schmidt stuff for an hour or so, I would feel better. Not having that in my life has been far more difficult than I ever anticipated it being, but running soothes me in a somewhat similar way and makes the separation more doable.
And I've learned a few eye-opening things, too. Like the value of shoes, for instance. When I first started jogging in my room (I can't let my roommate stop me from getting my exercise, now can I? And I can get a good 6-7 paces in before I have to turn around) I did it barefoot, but soon the carpet started hurting my toes a little, so I put socks on. Then, I noticed that my calf muscles were sore all the time and finally made the connection that perhaps athletes wear shoes for a reason. I've always thought that shoes were designed primarily to protect you from the elements. Apparently, they do a lot more than that, though; they protect your legs from physical exertion. Who would have thought.
So it's taken me a long time to get to this point, but I get the whole running euphoria now. I'm not going to be running any marathons any time soon, probably ever, but I've never been so grateful for my own two legs before. And a body that allows me to get a little physical. Maybe some day I'll be able to work up the nerve to go out and enjoy some of God's beautiful creations while I'm rejuvenating myself, but--baby steps. Don't wanna overdo it, man.