We all run for many different reasons, but I imagine that most of us do it because we enjoy it. What happens though on the days we’re just not that into it? Does it then become an exercise in guilt? A punishment? A reason to feel ashamed? Why is that? I guess the answer lies in why we do it.
Why do we run?
Have you ever truly asked yourself this question? Why did you start? Many different answers spring to mind. To lose weight, to get fit, carrying on a family tradition, to aid mental health etc. All very worthy explanations but also all reasons to give ourselves a hard time for missing a run. How much of that guilt is your own though and how much is perpetuated by what we believe others will think?
Personally, I liked the idea of running long before I started, I just assumed I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it? Surely it’s just putting one foot in front of the other, isn’t it? Except those of us that run know it’s far more than that. The psychology involved is immense. We chase that elusive ‘Runner’s High’ constantly and if we have a run where the RH doesn’t put in an appearance then we berate ourselves for having a bad run. Pace dropped? Bad run. Couldn’t manage the mileage we had in our head? Bad run. Walked the hills? Bad run. Didn’t get a PB? Bad run. This mindset is fuelled by those activity based social platforms like Strava where you feel the need to justify and explain your performance to all those people who follow you, sometimes hundreds of people, people you barely know.
I absolutely include myself in that category and on my Strava you’ll see all sorts of randomly titled efforts justifying why my performance wasn’t up to much. The need for this self-flagellation is all in our heads because we get the kudos anyway. Two reasons, firstly because your followers will scroll their feed and hit the thumbs up for any activity on there, they won’t be shaking their heads at your splits, checking your past runs to see if you’re getting slower or judging your heartrate, they are not even looking, it’s just habit. Secondly, they’re dishing out kudos because you’ve run, walked, cycled, swam etc today. They’re saying ‘well done for getting out there’ because they know it’s not always easy. But you know what? If you put a manual entry on there which just said ‘I wasn’t feeling it today so I’ve had a day of rest’ I guarantee your kudos will be the same if not more. This is because we would not dream of giving someone a hard time for their choices with running because we all know what a roller coaster it can be and yet we just cannot seem to extend that kindness to ourselves.
I guess what I’m trying to say with all this is, don’t run to please others, don’t run because you feel the weight of guilt, don’t run because you think missing one or two days will undo all the hard work you’ve been putting in. Remember why you started. Try running for the pure enjoyment of getting out and getting moving, particularly now Spring is upon us. I would say turn your watches off, but we all know that’s not going to happen so turn them on but don’t look at them until you’ve finished. Upload them to Strava but change the privacy setting so that only you can see it, it will still go on your weekly mileage total. I totally get the mantra ‘If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen’ but that does not mean your runs should be because others are watching.
This pandemic has been insidious. One day you think you’re smashing it and the next you’re really not. It is not linear, and neither is your running so do the best you can, replace the word ‘should’ with ‘could’ – I should have run today becomes I could have run today but I needed a break. I should have run 5 miles becomes I could have run 5 miles, but I chose to run 3 because I wanted to finish feeling strong. It removes the obligation and turns it into a choice. Guilt serves absolutely no purpose.
One of my favourite quotes includes the lines:
‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary.’
Breathe in, hold on, exhale. You’re all doing beautifully.