Running Gets My Brain in Shape

I just passed my two year anniversary of being a pretend runner. Since then I have run 3 half marathons, 3 10Ks, a few 5 mile races and quite a few 5Ks. I still stink at running and I still don’t really like it. I have never experienced a “runner’s high”. I have never, ever even come close to winning a race. I haven’t lost a significant amount of weight.

I continue to run and here is why:

Disney Half MarathonRunning has taught me how to set goals and work towards them – I have become huge into setting goals. I’m an only child so if I wanted something, I would want it and either I would get it or I wouldn’t. Now if I want something, I think about why I want it and then I come up with a plan on how I am going to get it. This goes for running a race, becoming a faster runner, work goals, personal goals and just about anything.

When this whole running thing started, Kelly brought it up to run a half marathon in 16 weeks. I went from not running since high school (and lets not kid ourselves, I barely ran in high school), to following a schedule to run 13.1 miles in 16 weeks. It meant running 3 days a week, adding extra miles every week and you just had to do it or you would die trying to run 13.1 miles. We did it. It wasn’t pretty but we did it. That taught me that even the most impossible seeming goal can be broken down bit by bit and you can make it happen, if you want to enough (that whole ‘wanting’ thing is pretty important).

Sometimes turning your brain off is the best resolution to a problem – I have been known to over-think a thing or two. I can get so stuck on a problem, on something someone said, how someone acted, how I am going to do something or just about anything. I run circles around the problem in my head. I think about it from different angles. I get frustrated and stifle any bit of creativity I had for a resolution.

When I run, it stinks. I can hear my breath, that walker looks like they are going to pass me, I have only gone half a mile, why isn’t that person wearing shoes, this song on my iPod blows, I can’t remember if I locked my car, I have only gone three quarters of a mile and it finally has to stop. My brain has to stop. Me and my brain settle in to this activity we need to finish and it shuts off. The strangest part about my brain shutting off is that at the end of the run when I am stretching or climbing into the car, that problem I had at the beginning? I have a resolution. I think of an idea that will help me. It is almost like the problem worked itself out while my brain was on autopilot.

Running has taught me how to push through a problem – I wouldn’t say I was ever much of a quitter but there were lots of situations that instead of trying to get through them, I would step to the side, let them happen and then deal with the aftermath. Some of those problems were big and some of them were small.

As I have said and will continue to say, running is not easy for me, I am not good at it, it is a struggle. Some moments are harder than others. When faced with 90 degree heat on race day, or 50 and pouring, or a giant hill – you can always push past it and it will be better after you have done it. Since this silly running thing has happened, I have gotten much better about pushing through problems. I know if I stick to it and work on it, they will be better.

People pick up running for lots of reasons. The reasons I thought I was picking up running turned out to be less important than the things I have learned about myself along the way. Sure I have gotten in better shape and got to do new things but the biggest thing is how running has helped my brain get in shape, made me a calmer person and taught me how to deal with obstacles along the way. Funny how that happened.

5 Replies to “Running Gets My Brain in Shape”

  1. Great post Amanda. I can relate to just about everything here. I run too, it helps to clear my head and work through the complications of life. I’ve also never felt like I was a “real” runner. Until recently. Yeah I’ve been running more often and entering more races, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how fast, how far, how often or how many medals you’ve won. If you choose to run 1 mile or 26.2, you are a runner. I think we have this warped idea of what a runner should be or what a runner should look like. All the runners you see on TV or in the magazines are stick think and probably run 40+ miles per week. The reality is that the majority of runners do it for recreation and are just like you and me. Regular peeps. That makes you and I real runners :-]

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