Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Running for Happiness

A friend recently asked me why I want to run every day. And to my surprise, I didn’t really know what to say. I just, I mean, I like to run, it’s what I do. And I like doing it every day….I stuttered. Nonsensical as my response was, I think runners know how I feel (or anyone who has a hobby/obsession). I need to run every day because running every day makes me happy. 

To make this make sense, let’s start with the opposite – what happens when I don’t run?

Well, let me tell you, it’s not pretty. When I don’t run the pressure and the crankiness and the unhappy builds. Bad days are exponentially worse - a stressful day at work becomes an gah-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life??? anxiety-fest. And little things that shouldn't bother me make me upset - I trip walking home and it becomes I can't even walk! Worst. Day. Ever. It’s very sneaky, but it slowly creeps up on me until I’m cranky 95% of the time, I don’t want to interact with other people (or myself for that matter) and I cry over everything.

As I boarded the Metro to go to practice last night, this days-without-running cranky-pants-wearing person was me to the max. I was a little concerned - I almost turned back. Oh no, I thought, how am I going to go out to dinner with my teammates after the run? I don’t know if I can be around people right now…

But then, magic happened. As my teammates began their track workout, I went off for a 30 minute run on my own (I’m trying to come back slowly - more on my new plan later). The run was unremarkable, but the change in my mood was intense. I started running and gradually all the stress and misery melted away until by the end I had a distant memory of my recent crankiness but it was totally gone. Just 30 minutes and I’m a real person again. 

It's like a pressure gauge - I need to run to let off some steam. And if I run every day, that pressure doesn't build up nearly as much.

So it’s really not about the immediate post-run “runner’s high.” It’s about a lifestyle of runner’s happy.

Why do you like to run every day?

More posts on running happy:

5 comments:

  1. Exactly. Ok, I'm more of a sporadic "runner," but exercise does wonders (hiking Mt. Tam gives me this high, as does swimming). You'e articulated the buildup of the anxiety fireball very well!

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  2. I love this post and couldn't agree more! It's ugly when I don't run (or do some similar workout). It keeps me sane, motivates me in areas beyond running, and generally brings a lot of fun to my life. Maybe one of these days we'll run together again?

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  3. I don't run every day (I typically run 3-5 times a week), but I completely agree with you about the stress relief and the natural mood elevation that regular running provides.

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  4. Glad I'm not alone - I was a little worried this post made me sound TOO crazy...

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  5. I have to admit that I'm quite envious of anyone who can run everyday! That said, after knee surgery and coming back to running, I try to appreciate the activity that I can do!

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