Running brings me joy. There’s nothing I like better than getting out of the house, onto country lanes and losing myself in music or a podcast while I plod along. Each weekend I chalk up about 8 miles; I run a bit, I walk a bit, I run a bit more. It’s all good.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When I first started running again after having our two kids I had a lot of expectations. I’d exercised for years, from step classes and high-impact aerobics to boxing, swimming and weight training. So I expected running would be easy (it’s just putting one foot in front of the other right?). I expected it to make me feel the great positive energy boost that I used to get from all those other activities in the days B.C. (before children).
I also set off with a certain level of effort. I tried hard. “I’m going to ROCK this thing!” I told myself. I had loud, fast music, I pumped myself up and I told myself that walking was NOT an option. I was going to be a runner and I gave myself the challenge of ultimate effort for ultimate gain.
But when I actually started running, it didn’t meet my expectations at all. I was fit and healthy, but running wasn’t easy. It was actually quite hard! After a while my knees hurt, I felt out of breath and I just wasn’t enjoying it. Suddenly I was disappointed and demoralised. I didn’t feel amazing and I didn’t get the energy boost I wanted. I just felt tight, tired and slow.
Frustrated? Heck yes!
So what did I do? I applied more effort. I ran faster, harder, more often.
And yes, over time I did get fitter and I lost the breathlessness.
But you know what? I hated it.
After all my expectation and all my effort, I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. In fact, I started to dread going for a run and would put it off. I’d killed the joy stone dead. SO not what I had wanted to happen!
But then I realised that it was my EXPECTATIONS and EFFORT that was creating the problem.
I had given a particular value to my efforts – more is better – and set my expectations WAY up high. Instead of enjoying my time outdoors for what it was, some precious me-time that was getting me fitter and stronger and giving my mindset a positivity boost, I’d created a challenge that I had to meet, an unrealistic and unattainable goal that made me focus less on the action and more on the outcome.
So I stopped pushing and started enjoying.
I ran for a while and then I walked for a while. I set a timer to remind me when to switch between running and walking to make sure that I didn’t get pain in my knees. I pushed just enough to feel a sense of achievement but not so much that I wasn’t having fun. And every now and then I stopped altogether to gaze at the beautiful countryside we’re privileged to live in at The Barn.
Not to sound too deep here, but I realised that running and walking are actually the same things. We put one foot in front of the other and repeat. Sometimes it’s a bit faster, sometimes it’s a bit slower. But essentially it’s the same. What makes it different is our effort. But when we start applying VALUE to that effort, expectation creeps in.
And that is when we can start to lose the sense of fun and joy that comes from just enjoying something for what it is.
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