For most of my life, I’ve viewed exercise as a means to an end. Whether training for or playing a sport, walking to a specified destination, or starting a workout program to lose weight or get in better shape, the exercise was always secondary to some other goal; and so my motivation to exercise has waxed or waned depending upon the importance of the goal balanced against other pressures in my life.
The exercise program I had been following when we were living in Missouri fell completely by the wayside in the upheaval of the move, and for the first few months that we were living here. Between walking Miss B to and from school, and doing various errands on foot, I was walking 3-4 mi (6-8 km) most days anyway, often carrying bags of stuff, and I figured that was plenty of exercise. But then, during the October school holidays, sometime in the middle of a week of no-break single parenting and work frustration, I thought: something’s missing. I need something that I’m not getting. And I resolved that, when school started up again and I got some untethered adult time, I was going to try to get back to some kind of dedicated exercise routine.
I decided to focus on running, mainly because the last time I lived in Canberra, I started a walk-to-run program that I remembered enjoying and sticking with for a long time, well into my return to the US. Running also doesn’t require much investment in equipment or infrastructure; all you really need is a decent pair of running shoes (although something that plays music to run by is nice too), and the willingness to spend some time using them.
So I started – or, really, re-started – the walk-to-run routine about six weeks ago. But this time is different, because this time it isn’t a means to an end. That's because I quickly realized that what I had been missing was the way strenuous, dedicated exercise, but especially running, makes me feel. Not physically so much, although that’s good too; no, it’s what it does emotionally: that endorphin rush that makes me feel, for a little while at least, like I can do anything. It doesn’t matter that I may sound like an asthmatic sheep to passing pedestrians, or that an energetic preschooler could probably lap me; when I’m running, I’m invincible, at least for a few minutes, and that’s a feeling I hadn't even realized I was hooked on, and need on an ongoing basis.
Earlier today, in a rambling phone conversation covering many topics, I shared all these thoughts with my sister M, a runner of 27 years’ standing.
“Congratulations,” she replied. “You’ve crossed over.”
Time will tell. But for someone who used to joke that she only ran at gunpoint, it’s not a bad start.