Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Not-Run Run

Ok folks, it's the dawning of the new blogging era I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, in which I write about stuff that's kind of about writing anything I want to. I enjoyed writing this; I hope you enjoy reading it, too. 

So last Wednesday, I didn't go for a run.

Perhaps this doesn't sound like news. I understand. For most people of varying fitness levels, it's probably not too unusual. We all have off days: days when the sky is too gray or it's raining too hard or the thermostat hovers around stupidly cold, or days after the nights we had a little too much to drink and got not-quite-enough sleep, and dragging ourselves from the warm, deep nest of our beds is just too damn hard. These are the days we don't make it to the gym, don't go for that run, skip that spin class.

Well, I say 'we', but it's not quite accurate. I have these days, but I go anyway.

This is not always a good thing. I am not an exercise saint. What I am is anxious. I lost a large amount of weight six years ago and while I've kept it off, I'm haunted by the fear that if I stop exercising for even one day it will all come rushing back, every last pound. The recognition that this fear is absurd, that skipping one day of exercise will not cause me to gain half a person's worth of weight, does nothing to lessen the brutal strength of it. So when I wake up on a Wednesday, which is my day off from my day job and therefore a day to both write and run, and I feel sluggish or lazy or just plain tired, I ignore my body's signals, shove my protesting feet into my sneakers, and head out. Every single time.

Yes. I have a tendency towards extremes. Moderation is something I'm working on.

But last week, I didn't go. I don't know why; some quiet, still instinct held me back. The fact that I could even hear this instinct, whispering like wind-blown leaves in my ear, is an achievement. Two years ago, the fear would have drowned it out. But not anymore. I listened, and I stayed in my pajamas and drank my coffee and worked, and when the sun became so bright around noon that I felt its presence like a physical hook around my spine, I went outside. But not for a run. For a walk.

It was one of those perfect, priceless September days, the sort the universe drops in our laps every now and then as if in apology for the coming New England winter. A warm, crisp day, a day washed clean, burning bright blue, with the kind of light, gentle breeze that lifts even the lowest spirits.

It was so beautiful and so precious that even though I intended to walk, I found myself running. Sprinting down narrow paths in the woods inside the park, kicking up fallen leaves; racing up small hills with the browning grass crackling beneath my feet. I ran like I haven't run since childhood, for the pure, simple joy of it. I ran because I could, because my body was strong and my legs could bend and spring and my lungs could take in great big gulps of that perfect, crisp air.

When I reached the top of a higher hill, I found I was laughing out loud. The sun kissed my cheeks and the wind caressed my hair and I laughed harder, not from the joy of running this time, but for recognition of what I'd been missing, all of those days and weeks and months and years when I forced myself to run out of fear. This. This is what I'd forgotten.

I stayed outside for a long, long time, returning home only when the sentences forming in my mind became too urgent, too pressing to ignore, and I had to go inside and put them onto paper. They came out of joy, out of space; they came because I didn't force them, and that is such a rare and precious thing that I knew I'd received two gifts that day.

All because I didn't run.

33 comments:

  1. Doing things that aren't forced are just dreamy and I love those moments! Being outside and then feeling what you felt, making you want to run and skip, THAT's the feeling I want to have every day!

    Thanks for sharing this, it was indeed a fun read. Reminds me to enjoy life. :)

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  2. Yay! I love that story! I'm so glad you're trusting your instinct and benefiting from it. :)

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  3. Good for you!
    I enjoyed this post. :)

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  4. A beautiful post! I wish I could have enjoyed that day there, sounds gorgeous. (New England is on my bucket list) Though from what I can see outside the window, it doesn't look like today is going to be a slouch here. Which is good b/c I have new boots to buy!

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  5. =) Very sweet. I need a day like that. Have you figured out how to box and sell them? ;)

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  6. Wow, Liz. What a stunning post. I loved reading it all, but my favorite was when you stated, "It was one of those perfect, priceless September days, the sort the universe drops in our laps every now and then as if in apology for the coming New England winter. A warm, crisp day, a day washed clean, burning bright blue, with the kind of light, gentle breeze that lifts even the lowest spirits." This was breathtaking.
    I could see you running, kicking up the leaves behind your feet. And I could understand your bliss of utter enjoyment... not because you forced yourself to run, but because you were moved by the moment.
    Like you, I too, am hard on myself when it comes to the gym and running. I was an avid runner up until 5 weeks ago when the tendons behind my knee pulled. Sadly, they are still hurting now so I have had no choice but to stay in my pjs all morning before the day job and work on my author work. And so far, it hasn't been that bad. I'm getting more done and learning I don't have to spend hours at the gym to be happy. Life is about balance and sometimes it takes certain moments, both good and bad, to make us realize our own true contentment and what works.

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    1. I'm so sorry you're hurt. That is no fun at all; I hate it when I can't get up and move my body like I need to. I hope you heal soon! That being said, it IS amazing how our bodies teach us the lessons we need. It's beautiful that you're able to take this as an opportunity to be gentler with yourself about exercise.

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    2. Absolutely! This experience has been a real eye opener. Since I've been limited to what I can do, it has made me think about mixing up my exercise routine. I was literally running 10-12 miles a day several times a week. The older we get, the more connected our minds and bodies become. I would be happy with a couple of outdoor six mile runs a week (weather permitting) once my knee finally heals!

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  7. Oh this is such a sweet and inspiring post! I loved your description of the September day, so perfect. While we have lovely fall days here there is nothing like a crisp New England day. :)

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  8. I loved this post! Autumn inspires me. Not only to get outdoors but to write. I'm not much a runner, but now I feel like running to see if I can experience what you did. :)

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  9. Makes me miss autumn, just a little. But I wouldn't go back to snowy winters for any amount of money.

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    1. Yeah...that IS the crappy trade-off...

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  10. Beautiful! Ahh, unfettered joy. Where art thou? Oh, you're here!

    Gorgeous images, as usual, my friend. Well done!

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  11. And you ran anyway! But you did it when the time was right for both body and brain.

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  12. You listened to you inner voice, you had an evening of calm and look! You enjoyed the run and felt energized just like that pink bunny. Congrats to you. Now I must get back to swimming (I say this with ginger cookies in my hand)

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    1. LOL, the Energizer Bunny, huh? I wish! Enjoy those yummy cookies!

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  13. What a beautiful experience! You make me want to get out and run (even though I hate running, lol) just so I can feel what you felt. Beautifully written.

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  14. So lovely, I'm glad you didn't go for a run.

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  15. This is a great post, and it actually is about writing. I wonder if that niggle that kept you from running that morning might have saved you from something like an injury or worse that would have happened had you kept your schedule? And so nice that you didn't and found joy. I love this "It was one of those perfect, priceless September days, the sort the universe drops in our laps every now and then as if in apology for the coming New England winter. A warm, crisp day, a day washed clean, burning bright blue, with the kind of light, gentle breeze that lifts even the lowest spirits." Totally sounds like the first few lines of a novel (even though "they" say you shouldn't start novels like that...

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    1. Thanks so much, Shell. That sentence actually came to me as I was running that day, and it's what this whole post was built around. Everyone has pointed it out, so it must have the kind of special resonance that hole walk/run had.

      That's such a good point, that my instinct might have been keeping me from an injury. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it's so true.

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  16. That was so lovely. I run almost every day though I should call it jogging not running. I enjoy it once I force myself out the door. And I think about my writing almost every step. Glad you found the joy of the run again.

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  17. Yay! Glad you found your joy again.

    Er, I did blow off my exercise today. I've been under the weather all week. Just no energy for anything. But yesterday I walked, and it was beautiful outside. Best. Time. Of. Year. :)

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  18. That's awesome. ^_^ I can relate on the weight loss and exercise thing; I've lost quite a bit of weight myself and work out regularly to keep it off. But sometimes, saying "screw it" becomes the best thing you can do for yourself.

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  19. It's days like this that make fall my favorite time of the year. I used to run, but my knees have told me I can't do that anymore. To be honest, I enjoy long walks these days much, much more now.

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  20. I adore this. I can't even tell you how much I relate. I never had a weight issue but I really toned up and got active about seven-ish years ago. I am addicted to the strength and tone I have and working out tends to become a bit obsessive for me. I give myself a day or two off per week since I know my body needs it, but I hate those "off" days, and wish I could work out every day. But I've gotten better about just enjoying something lately. Like, I started just playing the Just Dance game for XBox Kinect. I'll blare out the songs and dance like no one's watching (which they better not be b/c I'm a spaz) It's so fun to get back to something just for the sheer joy of it!

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    1. I know, I really hear you! When I can't exercise I feel sluggish and slow. It's such a good reminder to take a break - and Just Dance is PERFECT for that! It is joyful. I love it :)

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  21. Loved this post. Glad you missed the run, though!

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  22. I'm applauding over here! That's just awesome, awesome, awesome. We get so caught up in the have to's that we forget to abandon ourselves to the want-to's --- and how funny that the things you want to do happen to be the things you've felt you have to do. I hope this new perspective continues to give you energy for both.

    Beautifully written as always. This was my favorite: "It was one of those perfect, priceless September days, the sort the universe drops in our laps every now and then as if in apology for the coming New England winter."

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  23. I get the most inspiration when I walk in the forest with my dogs. It's so peaceful, like heaven on earth.

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  24. Inspiring stuff, Liz. I'm getting off my butt right now...

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  25. I loved this inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

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  26. So you just went with the flow and that is what some people call reaching the peak, where everything is just where it needs to be. Glad you had that experience. I'm sure the feeling was priceless. Getting to write after was just the icing on the cake.

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  27. So beautifully written. Walk, don't run!!! Enjoy life around you. I actually find walking very therapeutic, especially out in nature...ESPECIALLY this time of year.

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