I Am a Runner!
My secret is out. I am now a runner. That thing that I swore I’d never do, I am now doing regularly.
I used to watch runners going past and wonder why on earth anyone would choose to move faster than a stroll. I’d feel smug knowing I was grabbing extra zzzzs when the foolish runners were hauling their arses out of bed at stupid ‘o clock.
So What Changed?
I decided that I needed to get fitter. Scratch that, any fitness at all would have helped. I could barely get up the stairs without waving a white flag. Having depression and developing lazy habits doesn’t allow for any arsedness when it comes to exercise.
I also know that exercise is good for mental health. Running has been proven to help fight mental illness. The husband was running too. It was time to suck it up and get up off the sofa.
I started doing a Couch to 5K programme. They are great for the newbie runner. I’m getting close to finishing it, barring any major disasters or injuries *puts on her bubble wrap outfit*.
I’ve found it to be amazing at keeping depression at bay. I had a piece published about this recently with The Mighty which I wrote when I began running: The Challenge of Running When You’re Depressed
Surprisingly, I’ve also learnt a lot about myself as a writer from my running experiences.
I am more up for a challenge than I give myself credit for. I have often thought that I’m the kind of woman who would settle for an easy life.
My alternate self would love nothing more than to make a dent in the sofa, bundle up for a box set marathon or book binge, and nibble away at Dairy Milk. Then I remember all the times I’ve taken on many challenges, some seemingly impossible, like writing.
I started writing not sure if I’d be any good at it. I started running not sure if I’d be able to do it. With both I’ve had my ups and downs. I’m learning how to improve in both.
Every time that I go for a run, I’m challenging myself to complete it. I prepare myself in advance with all the right kit and survival methods. I do the run and set myself challenges throughout to keep going.
My runs are teaching me that I am approaching writing with the same gusto. I prepare, I work on different methods for completing it as well as I can, and I challenge myself to complete each piece that I undertake.
If you follow this blog you’ll know how much I hate that, ‘You must write every day’ useless and pressurising mantra that’s forced upon writers. Life gets in the way and everyone needs a rest.
I don’t run every day. I have tried to and found that I quickly ran out of juice. I now run every other day. It gives me time to rest and also to cross-train.
I don’t need to run every day to prove myself as a runner. I have formed a habit that works for me. The same goes for my writing.
I am careful about taking breaks so that I don’t get burnt out on my writing. I need to keep some reserves in my writing tank.
When I started writing I went all out. I was like a newbie runner trying to sprint a marathon. I wrote for hours every day with barely a break. I went to bed and my mind was whirring because I was consumed with my writing. I soon found that I’d hit ‘empty’.
None of us can maintain a sprint indefinitely. We have to fuel up. Writers need to do other things to make our lives more varied. How on earth are we going to get new ideas if we never go out in the world to find them?
Breaks are essential. A day off is not going to result in a runner losing their fitness. A day off will not rob a writer of their writing ability. It will make you feel fresh and ready for the next writing plod.
Pushing Through the Pain
Pain is a bitch by its very nature. Running can create a myriad of pains in places you never even knew existed.
I am not advocating the dodgy ‘80s line of ‘pain is gain’. I am saying that when you begin running, you’re exercising muscles that have probably remained dormant for years.
Your previously lazy shins will soon remind you that they exist. You will discover that your bum actually has muscles under those wobbles.
When I began running I had to ice my legs, soak in baths, and convince myself that it was worth the pain. I still have days when I wonder if I’m a masochist for putting myself through it.
Every time I went out at the beginning of the programme I wanted to cut my legs off. Not helpful for running. Somehow I kept going out, knowing that it wouldn’t always feel physically pleasant but it was worth it.
Writers also have to deal with pain. Give me shin splints over revising drafts any day. I’d even take a snapped tendon over doing the twentieth draft.
However, I will do it. I will persevere and push through the pain because I know that it will get me to the place I’m aiming for; the finish line of a completed novel, short story or an article.
Fighting Negative Self-Talk
I think I scared the Husband the other day when we were out running. We were traversing a less familiar route and I got vocal. Note to fellow runners: if you have headphones in, do not forget that you don’t need to shout.
Poor Husband had to endure shouts of ‘Aargh’, ‘Come on’, ‘I hate this’, and much more fruity language. He’s no fragile flower and could deal with the ranting. The embarrassment of the general public witnessing his wife raging at the running was probably less acceptable.
My negative self-talk is usually kept in my head, more is the pity. I should release it more, albeit more quietly, as if you keep it in, it will fester.
With every run at least one negative thought will creep in. The little gits are determined to make me quit.
When I started running it was hard. With every footfall a thought of what a failure I am and how ridiculous I looked would invade my mind. I was more exhausted at the end of a run by fighting the negative self-talk than I was by the physical exercise.
I am fighting against the negative mill now. I know it’s a weak point for me but awareness gives me strength. I keep going and I fight the thoughts. Writing has taught me that I can do that.
Writers are often self-doubters. We can sabotage our work before it’s even finished by telling ourselves that it’s crap. There’s no room for perfectionism in a first, second or twentieth draft. We have time to learn, train, make mistakes, and improve.
With every run I am getting better too. Each run is a draft I can work on and I keep on revising every time I run.
Negative thoughts are not needed as extra baggage. I’ve got enough to heft around on a run or at my desk already.
A Sense of Achievement
At the end of every run I want to give myself a freaking medal. Running isn’t easy.
I look at other runners gliding on by at the speed of sound and temporarily wonder if I will ever be able to run like that. Then I remember that I don’t have to compare myself to them. I can achieve on my own terms.
In writing I gave up comparing myself to other writers a while ago. It’s fruitless. I will never be them, and frankly, I don’t want to. I want to learn from them how to be a better writer just as I discuss with other runners how to improve my running.
I may be pootling along the pavement whilst the gazelles are flashing past me, but I am still doing it. I love when other runners pass and wave or give me nod. They are telling me that I am one of them. I feel they’re saying that I’m running and that’s great.
The writing community can be like this too. I’ve had many writers bolster and encourage me. I hope that my fellow writers feel I do likewise. I love that we’re all doing our own thing but uniting in a common cause.
Bloody hell, this is starting like some kind of Bob Geldof type charity mission. You get the idea though, hopefully.
The Couch to 5K programme has clearly defined goals. Each run you are shown how long you will run that session. As you start you immediately set yourself the goal of completing that run. Each time that you do, you feel amazing and consider your next running day and goal.
Writing is similar. Every time that I write I have a main goal in mind; get it done. That sounds simplistic but it’s what I need to do; start with the main goal and then sort out the little goals around it.
I get it done and then I start thinking about other markers to aim for: working on my writing voice, tweaking, editing, revising, or learning a new skill.
There will always be times when we won’t reach our goals quickly, if at all. I have gone out for a couple of runs and had to ditch them due to severe weather conditions. I have felt defeated but I decided to run elsewhere instead.
The goal is still obtainable but the method has changed. That’s how writing can be. We often think that we know what we’re doing but things can go wrong. I’ve learned so many lessons about myself, my strengths, and limitations, since I began writing, and now through running.
Goals are potential destinations. They can be fluid. ‘Moving the goalposts’ doesn’t have to be as negative as it sounds. They’re being moved, not destroyed, after all.
A Strange Relationship
I have a weird relationship with running. When I’m not doing it, I want to do it. When I’m doing it, I love it and wail at it. I am addicted to it. I need it in order to keep functioning and to feel more like the real me. I wonder if I’m any good at it but I keep at it.
I could have just written that last paragraph about my relationship with writing too.
Now I just need to perfect the writing and running at the same time thing and my life is nigh on perfect. Painful, but practically perfect.