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You’ve probably seen the t-shirt or the car magnet. “Running is my therapy.”
Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man, agrees: “Some seek the comfort of their therapist’s office, others head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”
I used to think this about running too. I’d see “running is my therapy” somewhere and think, “Yep, it’s mine too.”
But then the other day I was feeling down. I was sad, sluggish, unmotivated. I knew that going for a run would make me feel better, both mentally and physically. And yet at that moment, running was just about the last thing I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and take a nap.
Which is exactly what I did.
It got me to thinking. If running is my therapy – if running is the thing that’s supposed to put my world back on its axis – then why didn’t I want to do it?
If Facebook and blog posts are to be believed, then I’m in the minority. It seems like most of the runners I know can’t wait to lace up their shoes and hit the pavement after a bad day. When they feel crappy, they want to run it off.
But me? When I feel sad or angry or overwhelmed, I want to sleep, eat sugary junk food, and/or binge watch Netflix. I don’t want to run. I have to make myself run.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a headache? You know that medicine will make you feel better, but the Tylenol is all the way in the bathroom, and you’re so warm and half-asleep in bed, and the floor will be cold, and the bathroom is all the way on the opposite side of the room. But your head hurts, and you can’t fall back asleep, and even if you do fall back asleep, you know that your head will hurt worse in the morning. And so eventually you will yourself out of bed.
It’s the same thing with running. Just as I will myself out of my warm, comfy bed to get a Tylenol, I will myself out the front door to run off the funk. I don’t want to do it, and sometimes it takes me a long time and a lot of mental effort to convince myself. But in the end, I usually do it anyway because I know I’ll feel better once I do. And I know that – like with the headache – my predicament will only get worse the longer I avoid and delay.
I feel like it’s almost blasphemy to admit that I’m a runner who doesn’t always want (or like) to run. Does it somehow make me less of a runner? I’m not sure. But I do know this: running is not my therapy.
No, I think it’s more like taking a vitamin or eating broccoli. I may not always love it, but I do it because it’s good for my physical and mental health. I do it because it’s an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. And I do it because I like the results.
Does this mean that I don’t enjoy running? Of course not. I love running. But for me, running comes much more easily when I’m feeling good – physically, of course, but mentally as well. Running is something I like to do when I’m happy. I don’t have to drag myself out the front door when I’m meeting a good friend for a run date or when I’m going to the gym with my family. I look forward to my long runs and race days. It’s always easier to do the things we love when we’re happy, isn’t it?
image source: morguefile.com
Running is my passion. My hobby. My personal journey. My coping skill. On good days, I love it. On bad days, I tolerate it. Is it good for my mental health? Yes. Is it my “therapy?” Nope.
So what about you? Is running your therapy? Do you lace up your running shoes and fly out your front door on your bad days, or do you have to push yourself out? I’d really love to know.