You are, more and more, asked to dream, to aim high, to fly. I’m increasingly taking my cues from running, keeping the feet firmly on the ground, and I think it’s a good lesson.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it helps to have some goal, to have a bit of ambition. You certainly need motivation, need something that keeps you going. And yet., the physicality of running helps understand life itself better:
- If you want to run a marathon within the next few weeks, and you are currently a couch potato, chances are dim.
- If you have great genetics but you don’t exercise, you won’t be as fit as you could be.
- And even if you have some problems, they are probably not bad enough to keep you from being active – at least once you try.
I go through phases where I run more or less. And I’m not talking about periodization, I’m talking about motivation. About getting my butt off the chair. It’s been a slow progress that has made me into a runner. At first, I couldn’t go for long. By now, I’ve finished a marathon and run-walked an ultramarathon-like event. And stilll I need to go on practicing.
Running is also relaxing, however. It helps clear out my head, do something simple and physical, not only stay in my head with the mental work that otherwise defines me.
As a teacher, and as an independent scholar struggling to really become that (after all, without publications, you aren’t), the lessons from running help:
- You can’t step into the middle of a marathon and expect to run with the best.
- You have to start running, though.
- You also have to keep it up. It doesn’t matter whether you make a new personal best, not even whether it feels all good, necessarily. It matters that you are active, and practice constantly. Fifteen minutes, every day, adds up, too. (Thank you , Chris Brogan, for the reminder.)
- It’s not “pleasure to do,” it’s “do for the pleasure of it” – the best practice is when you don’t feel like it. You’ll probably come to like it, and certainly like yourself better for having stuck with it when you didn’t quite feel like it. There’s too many of those days, anyways.
- Pain helps progress. If it’s not too much and if you learn from it. (Do I wish there were a t6 for my writing, though…)
- You may find things (were) easier when younger, but you can do something that strikes your fancy – like running, like educating, like writing – for all your life, have great and ever-better experiences with it, and continue to grow. (There is a reason I particularly like the idea of ultra-marathons: they are largely the domain of people aged over 35; younger ones tend to fail on the mental side of things.)
Why are you still reading?