You ever notice how runners never shut up about running? I KNOW. But there’s a reason for that. And it’s because running will give you so much more than fitness or health or wellbeing. It becomes a great metaphor for your life, really. Because you get out of it what you put into it. But here is the secret, it always gives you more than you give it.
1. You stop placing limits on your life – on your work, on your education and on your goals
When one thing seems impossible, a lot of things seem impossible. But what happens when you do something that you thought you could never do? When you do the impossible, few things seem out of your reach. When you start running 5km seems impossible because you feel like dying after running 300m. But one day, you do it. Just like that. Like it was nothing. And suddenly you question all the limits that you have allowed to creep into your life, like they belonged there.
2. You have more confidence than you ever had before
I think probably what attracted me to running in the first place is that I could theoretically run without anyone really seeing me. Now, of course there might be people at the gym or on the pathway. But at the gym you could look straight ahead and pretend no one could see you and on the path people would zoom on by you in no time. You didn’t have to be in a class where people would be judging you. And after awhile, that sense of accomplishment settles in on your shoulders and it straightens your back a little. And you begin to wonder how much time have you spent trying to be invisible and trying not to take up any space. And you decide, to be seen.
3. You learn to love the journey
When I started it was all about the result. And running had very little to do with the experience and far more to do with shifting some baby weight. But now, the destination seems kind of inconsequential. Once you fall in love with the process, it’s pretty amazing. There is a quote I love from Andy Rooney – “Every one wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.” And once I started to love the journey, it gave me a great sense of purpose which fed into so many other areas of my life.
4. Every day is a good day if you run.
On a bad day, a run will remind you who you are and on a good day it will tell you who you could be.
5. Most of the time you just need to get out of your own way
A lot of the time I had a lot of excuses about why I couldn’t do anything. I was too fat. Or I smoked too much. Or I was too tired with small children. Or I was too busy looking after said small children. But the truth is, I was just scared. And in the end, you need to decide what’s worse – trying and failing or not trying at all. The secret is that staying the same is just as hard as changing. But only one of those things will give you a gift.
6. Everything is temporary.
Pain is temporary. Joy is temporary. Anger is temporary. Happiness is temporary. So you might as well just keep going and enjoy the good stuff, allow the hard stuff to strengthen you and know that nothing will keep you down forever.
7. It’s not about the hill, it’s about how you handle it
It might not be an actual hill. It might be a difficult situation or an obstacle or anything in your life that is hard. But running has taught me that it doesn’t matter what I’m facing, the only truly important thing is how I handle it. How you handle adversity will tell you everything you need to know about yourself. Anyone can be great on the best day of their life. Character is who you are on your worst day.
8. If you want your life to change, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable
I’ve spent a lot of my life avoiding discomfort – anxious social situations, confrontations, anything where I risked being embarrassed. And that’s pretty exhausting. But if you really want it to change, you have to be willing to get really uncomfortable. Growth happens by accepting discomfort. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.
9. Celebrating other people’s achievements will enrich your own
It can be easy to get dragged into the comparison game, but it is meaningless and will only make you feel worse about yourself. Spending time supporting other people’s journeys and supporting other people’s achievements will give you the space to be able to recognise how amazing your own successes are.
10. Exercise isn’t a punishment and food is not a reward
It took me a long while to figure this one out. Probably because when you are starting running feels really hard and there’s enjoyment in the achievement afterwards, but not so much during. But now that I’ve been running for awhile there is so much joy in it I couldn’t conceive of considering it as a punishment. Running taught me to view movement as a reward and food as nourishment (and fun and comfort too!)
11. Everything Counts.
Running taught me that everything counts. Running counts. Walking counts. Great runs count. Bad runs count. Because it’s all effort and time and willingness that you are putting into it. The outcome doesn’t matter. Showing up matters. So I show up.