But you will also know that running is fairly solitary and just involves a lot of time. You may run for a huge range of reasons, but what you can be sure of is, if running gets into your blood and becomes part of your being, you will spend a lot of time doing it. And often on your own – running buddies are great, but it’s not always possible to coordinate schedules and lives.
I was reminded in the last couple of days of how running can take us to places that our feet never can. It made me think about what we do with our minds when we run. You can be focused in the moment, or be mentally transported somewhere else. You can be running in silence other than the sounds of your feet, or you can have sound being pumped. You can be contemplating the past or the future.
I figure for all of us, given that we spend so much time on our own when we run, running has to take us to a head space that we need, or else we wouldn’t keep coming back for more. There are so many different things that running can bring you mentally, and in so many different ways. Some of the headspaces that I find when I run that are most meaningful for me include:
1. Solve a ProblemRunning on a treadmill is one of the best places that I take my problems and figure them out. Sometimes these are tangible problems (how do I calculate the right figure for a work report), and sometimes they are philosophical problems (am I making the right life choices for myself and my family). Often I will postpone making a decision until after I know I can get in a run, because I am almost guaranteed to have an answer (or at least an idea of how to tackle it) by the time I turn the key in my front door.
2. Blank Out
Sometimes I choose to run to clear my mind. Whether I’ve had a stressful day at work, or I’ve spent a bunch of time hours with people (being an introvert, that can get a bit much for me), sometimes I just want to find a little space for myself not to think. It’s kind of like another version of veging out in front of the tv where before you know it an hour has past. But when I veg out on a run, that is a blissful hour of my day – both my body and my brain thank me.
3. Fill My Head With Music
Other times, I want to drown out the internal noise in my head, so I’ll put on some music and just try to lose myself into it. It’s kind of the same outcome as the one above – focusing on the music stops me thinking and worrying about other things. And usually if I choose some of my favourite songs to listen to, I also finish feeling a lot happier and light-hearted than when I started. I love how music can do that!
4. Seek Refuge in a Good BookYou know I love to read, and I’ve started listening to audio books when I run now and then. At the moment I’m listening to The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Although I don’t always want to listen to a book when I run, it’s perfect for a long treadmill session, because you need to focus on the story to keep up, and time just passes by. I like audio books when I’m trying to find a calm, low intensity groove – the speed of the speaker keeps my brain nice and mellow.
5. Catch Up on TV Shows!The gym I’m currently a member of is the first one I’ve joined that has personal live TV in the treadmills (I know, we can be a bit behind). My morning run on the treadmill is one of the few times I catch up on the news by watching the morning shows. If I’m up early enough, I can even catch some of the US versions. I also love watching a cooking show when I run! I’ve found that on weekend mornings at about 7:30am there is an Australian cooking show called Good Chef, Bad Chef that has two chefs who share both healthy and decadent recipes. I will keep running just to keep watching! I’ll also stick around for a bit of Jamie Oliver.
6. Enjoy the Feeling of Running
Sometimes when I need to be reminded of why I run, I take an opportunity to run consciously. I listen to my feet falling and my breathing, and the feeling of my arms and legs moving in sync. I feel my muscles extending and contracting – when I turn a corner and feel my core activating, or I jump up a step I enjoy the extra strength in my quads. Our bodies are pretty amazing creations, and some days it is just about acknowledging and marvelling a little in what we can do.
7. Take Notice of the Things Around MeConversely to a few of the above examples, on a beautiful morning when it is early and the air is crisp, and the sun is just starting to warm up, it is such a humbling and rewarding experience just to notice the things around you. After spending my week in an office in the CBD, I most enjoy observing nature – listening to a bird chirp, see a dog run across a park, or hear the wind rustling through trees. I always finish this kind of run feeling refreshed and calm.
At different times in my life (even just from day to day!) a run can bring me to a place I need to be to face the world – and enjoy my part in it. That’s why I keep running.
PS. I had so much fun looking at all the running pics online! These are just some of the ones that struck a chord and provided me with a little inspiration.
What kind of headspace does running put you in? What tools do you use to take you there? Why do you keep coming back to run again and again?