I started running in July 2006 as I was finishing my graduate degree. With all the studying I had been doing, I knew I would need some kind of “hobby” to fill my time. The thought of more education was appealing to me but I needed a break from school. So I started a couch to 5K program. You can read the rest of my running journey here and here but the short version is that I went from a running novice to running long distances and loving it. While the physical benefits of running are amazing, I have realized that running has brought so much more to my life than a healthy heart and muscular legs. Here are some of the non-physical things that running has given me:
1. Confidence. I had never been a very confident person. Like many women, I have lots of insecurities. But crossing the finish line of my first half marathon was life-changing. I won’t say that it gave me the confidence to successfully tackle any challenge that came my way, but I knew that if I was capable of doing anything that I set my mind to and took the time to prepare and work toward. After doing a few more half marathons with better training and seeing my times go down, my confidence grew. I should also point out that my times were pretty slow at this point. But that didn’t matter at all to me. I wasn’t competing against the other runners; I was competing against myself. And I am winning. While I’ll never win a race, that’s not what it’s about for me.
2. Anything can be solved on a run. My life is busy. I’m sure you can relate to this. Some days I just don’t have time to think about anything. But much like yoga is to some people, running is my time to center myself and clear my head. What I began to notice was that I was thinking more creatively, planning for the future, and really clarifying my thoughts about different things. This was a very profound change in my life – and a very welcome one. I became more focused and driven and got things done more efficiently and effectively than I ever had before.
3. Life is full of ups and downs but they always pass. No matter how well I train for a marathon, it is always tough. Part of the time I feel like this is the greatest thing ever and other times I want to give up because it’s too hard. These feelings come and go all throughout a race for me. A few miles in and I think I can take on the world and another mile in I question what the %#*& I was thinking to intentionally do this to myself. Just as the positive feelings turn in to negative thoughts, the negative thoughts turn back into positive feelings. Much like life, I just keep going and it eventually gets better.
4. “Me” time makes me a better person. I spend a lot of time running but that’s not necessary to get the benefits of “me” time. And “me” time doesn’t have to come in the form of running. Sometimes I run alone and it’s the time that I need as an introvert to recharge my batteries. I do my long runs with a small group of women who have become some of my best friends. Over a couple of years and many, many miles, we’ve gotten to the point that we can tell each other anything or say nothing and it’s all good. It’s hard to make true friendships as an adult but I have been able to connect with women that are like me in so many ways. And my life is better as a result. This time alone and with friends makes me a better wife, mother, employee and person.
Has an activity or hobby ever changed your life in any way? I’d love to hear about it!