Tired Legs, Peaceful Mind (part 2)

(ICYMI: Tired Legs, Peaceful Mind (part 1))

My Run Affecting My Mind

I’ll be honest, this part is a little harder to nail down, but I’ve noticed a few general changes.

Full Range of Emotions

For me, a balance of variety and stability in life is vital to functioning well. Too much variety and I’m out of sorts. Too much stability and I become restless and take risks. Running is a good balancing agent. Running feels like stability, a consistent part of my life. I also try to run in the same places, which adds a sense of continuity and builds layers of experience and emotion (<–a neat idea that I’ll try to flesh out in another post).

But each run puts me through the emotional wringer, dealing with fear, boredom, pain, and lots of wanting to quit. At the end, I’m always jubilant, elated, and a touch obnoxious with my need to share this accomplishment.

This play of emotions is important for me, but I ignored it for a long time. I grew up playing sports (which offer most of these feelings) and never thought much about it. In late high school and through college, I was mostly out of the competitive sports arena and only occasionally missed it. But one summer after college, I joined a church soccer league and discovered how very much I missed that range of strong emotions. As a writer, I work mostly in abstract. Words are never perfect. I might have accomplished the writing of a thing, but it is never perfect, never done.

A run is concrete. One foot in front of another until the distance is complete, a time recorded. I relish that.

Managing Negative Emotions

People run for many reasons, but I am, at the core, a stress runner. I am driven to run when I am angry, stressed, or really upset (which is generally an equal helping of angry and sad). I have a robust temper that does not calm very well and while it seldom flares into an outburst, little things have a tendency to build. When I run, anger and stress seem to flow away with each step, leaving me with a tired and content mind. I’m often a little hyper after runs, high on the accomplishment. As that energy wears off, I feel more centered and peaceful.

Confidence Increasing

I am accomplishment driven. In nearly every area of my life, my push for tangible accomplishment is obvious. Unfortunately, accomplishment is harder to find in adult life. As mentioned before, my job isn’t very helpful with this. But running feeds my need for constant accomplishment–new distance! new speed!–and provides regular confirmation that I can do new things and hard things. That confirmation makes me stand a little taller and speak a little louder and generally feel like a more capable human being. And that’s pretty cool.

“What does this mean for me?”

I am the very definition of “amateur” when it comes to running, so I hope that posts like this are just the start of a conversation. If you’re a runner, I hope you’ll share your own stories of how running helps you. If you’re not a runner, I’d love to hear how you stay destressed, calm, and confident.

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