Running Towards Happiness

I’m not even going to attempt to explain away the truth here: It’s been a minute since I’ve laced up and hit the pavement. Like, a year minute. But on my birthday a couple months ago, I figured it was the perfect day to pick up an old habit.  With a new year, comes a new chance to run consistently, right?  This all sounded nice in my head the night before. The night before I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to get ready and lace up in time to meet my running group for 3 miles around the lake.  Begrudgingly, I woke up, rose up, and laced up. But the important thing is that I showed up. It was wonderful to see old faces, meet new people, breath in the crisp cold air, and warm up as I stared out onto the lake.  It was entertaining to catch up with a friend as we started to synch our cadence. I can’t quite place the point of shift, but soon my whole “it’s too early for this shit” attitude dissipated.  My negative morning attitude was somehow replaced with a jolt of energy, glee, and positivity.  And I hadn’t even had my morning coffee yet! Running past the geese, and gingerly saying “hello” to passersby, I took stock of my love/hate relationship with running. Throughout this past year, family and friends would ask me, “Are you still running?” or (my personal favorite), “Do you still keep in shape with running…oh, you don’t?...why not?” These questions always had me looking suspiciously at my inquirer.  The questions offended me because it seemed to imply that since I was no longer running, I was no longer fit and attractive. Responding to such inquiries with defiance, I’d stand on my soapbox and pontificate: “running has never been fun for me. I have always hated running. It doesn’t make me happy. And, I for one refuse to spend my valuable time doing something that isn’t fun, doesn’t make me happy, and that I hate doing.”  However, after my birthday run, I needed to reassess my attitude and responses towards running.  I considered all of the feelings I experienced during, and after running.  Could I have been wrong in my negative responses to running? Is it possible that I find running (gulp) fun? Fun can be defined as an action that brings happiness.  During this morning’s run, I realized that running is indeed fun for me, it actually gives me happiness.  In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin contends that, “…fun is not draining, there is no guilt, and it is energizing.”  For me, running is fun because: Running is not draining (check…wait, what?) Ok.  This statement warrants major clarification.  Yes, running drains me.  The 30-35 minutes of non-stop, consistent cardio challenges me both physically and mentally.  Oftentimes, I want to give up, and just opt for a nice walk or stroll.  However, like stress, I think that there is a good kind of drain, and a bad kind of drain.  For instance, drain that is bad is what we might feel within an unproductive relationship.  A situation where you give your time, energy, and money to a relationship, leaving you utterly depleted.  And after all that you have invested into the relationship, you realize the relationship is unable to reinvest in you, leaving you void of the energy, support, and happiness you need.  The result?  You’re drained. Drained in a bad way. On the other hand, the good kind of drain still requires you to invest.  However, the difference is that whatever you are investing in (be it a relationship or an action), it is able to make good on your investment.  Simply put, you get out of it, what you put into it.  Oftentimes, the return is much more than what you put in.  Though investing might’ve drained your resources initially, you come out a much better, happier, and healthier person.  The result here: You’re drained, in a good way.  This is the kind of drain that I get from running. Running has no guilt: (check) Running improves my health and clarity of mind.  It makes my legs, core, and glutes look amazing.  When I run, I address the areas of health, relationships, and growth.  Focusing on these particular areas, are among what “The Minimalists” refer to as the five essential areas of life. These three particular areas, along with passion and contribution, lead to more meaningful and happy life.  If running produces all these wonderful side effects for me, how can I feel any guilt at all? Running is energizing (check) There is a phase during running I like to refer to as the “wind beneath my wings” phase.  It’s the burst of energy I get out of nowhere that allows me to finish the course.  Soon after completing my run, I experience the “runners high” phase, during which I am just a flurry of creative productivity. Running gives to me the energy I need to focus, and to positively engage in the rest of my day. A year ago, I remember looking over my FaceBook feed, and being presented with the fill-in-the blank prompt of “I run because                         .”   To which I responded, “I run because I like to eat and look good.”  My initial response still holds some truth to it.  However, realizing the deeper value of running, “I now run because it allows me to run towards, and grab tightly ahold of my happiness.” I'm Curious: Have you recently realized the happiness inducing side effects of an activity you love to hate? What's your story? Photo: John@aus, Flickr  Shaless Peoples is the creator of The Da Capo Careers Project. She listens to, writes about, and shares the stories of 20, 30, and 40somethings who have started their careers paths from the beginning in order to experience a more passion-filled, meaningful, balanced, and happy worklife. Follow her here by clicking the yellow FOLLOW button, on Twitter, @ShalessPeoples.



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