I Gotta Run

It’s been over 3 months since I published a new blog post. That hiatus was not planned, but as it turns out, it may have been very needed. Since my last blog post, I have experienced a couple of very significant and unexpected changes in my life. One good, one awful, but both important.

The only outwardly noticeable difference in my life is probably my appearance. I’ve lost about 40 lbs in the last two months, so I do look a little different. I didn’t buy any extreme DVD series or expensive home gym contraption. I simply moved more and ate less (not enough in fact, but I’ve just about got that figured out now). The weight fell off. I did not take any “before” pictures. And I’m not going to take an “after” photograph either, because my appearance is of very little importance to what my goals were to begin with or what they are now. I started exercising to fend off a potential mental breakdown. And now I just want to be a better, healthier me than I’ve ever been before. And by “healthy,” I mean both physically and mentally. They are intertwined.

At the end of August, I weighed approximately 265 lbs (Heaviest weight measured: 267 lbs). Even on my 6’4″ frame, that was uncomfortable. It was cumbersome. And it fed into already existing and repressive physical insecurities that I’ve carried my whole life. I knew that I should do something about it, but like a lot of out-of-shape people, I lacked motivation and was afflicted with an abundance of complacency as well. I’m also very experienced in excuse making. That is a skill of very little value to a person wishing to better himself.

Significant and Unexpected Life-Change Number One: The Heartbreak

On September first, the woman that I believed I would spend my life with informed me that I was incorrect in that assessment and that my partnership was no longer required or desired. To say that I was completely devastated would be to understate it. I probably dropped ten pounds in the next two days. From my research, lying on the couch and crying clearly burns more calories than one can force into his/her system over the hunger-suppressing affects of heartbreak. While that may not be scientifically accurate, those were the results observed during my experiment. I don’t suggest attempting to recreate that experiment however, because science is really hard and I’m really smart…and well…just don’t. You won’t like it.

I did what I think people do. I wallowed. I cried. I may have even pleaded. I avoided contact with all friends and family. I wallowed. I over-analyzed everything I’ve ever done or felt. Did I already mention that I cried? What I didn’t do is try to escape the heartache or distract myself from it.

The part of my response to that emotional trauma that I’m most proud of was my immediate decision not to self-medicate myself in an effort to “numb” the pain. I have been a social drinker for a long time and I still enjoy a good beer or cocktail. I still enjoy a cheap beer or cocktail. Sometimes I still enjoy eight or ten of them. But I’m a happy drinker, not a depression drinker. I’ve used alcohol in the past as a medication for, or a distraction from life’s unpleasant events and it’s really not very good at either. It allowed me to make horrible and dangerous decisions and was very detrimental to my physical and mental health as well. I had absolutely no interest in trying that again.

Significant and Unexpected Life-Change Number Two: The Epiphany Part I

On September fifth, I went for a run. I had wallowed in self-pity just about all that I could and still lie to myself about having any kind of self-respect. I had avoided people for as long as I probably could without quitting my job and moving into a burned out van somewhere (and I had standing weekly plans to meet friends later that night). But I still felt like total dog shit and I was seriously running out of patience with myself.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I love being outside, so I decided to dig that ancient (yet barely used) pair of running shoes out of the back of my closet and go for a run. I had not gone running in at least a year. And if that run actually happened, it was most certainly a singular and short duration event.

I put on some shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed my iPod, stepped out the front door of my apartment, and took off. I ran (with lots of walking) for approximately 1.5 miles or about 20ish minutes. I am not fast. But my mind cleared for the first time in days during that 20 minutes. And when I got back, I felt incredible. I had energy for the very first time in days. I was thinking clearer than I had in who knows how long. I was pacing my apartment unable to sit down. I washed all of my dishes. I experienced clear realizations about personal shortcomings that almost certainly contributed to my failed relationship. I loaded the washing machine with laundry. I swept the kitchen floor. I decided to never let those same shortcomings affect my life again. I opened the blinds, cleaned the stove-top, and straitened up my living room. I was alive. And it felt good.

After days of uncertainty about almost every single thing in (and recently out of) my life, I was certain of at least one thing. I was going to run again…tomorrow.

I did run the next day. And after a panicked and surprisingly successful search for a new pair of running shoes when my antiques literally fell apart on day two, I continued running almost every day for the next two weeks (not a good idea for a beginner by the way). It became the only reliably effective thing I could do to clear my head when my thoughts went somewhere I didn’t want them to go.

Within a week I joined a gym again, in theory to give myself a place to run in the event of bad weather, but I soon began going every day after my run. I still go to the gym at least five times a week, though I run no more than four. Exercising still works to bring me back every time I feel like shit or my mind insists on going someplace dark. But those moments are fewer and further apart. I go now because it just makes me feel good. I go because it still helps me think clearer. I go because it’s what I do.

This is not the first time I’ve exercised regularly. But it is the first time that I’ve done it with an understanding of and a focus on the health of my whole body and mind. Lethargy has proven itself entirely too costly and it has been cut from my budget forever. I will be a better stronger man. I will because I deserve to be.

Significant and Unexpected Life-Change Number Two: The Epiphany Part II

This past Monday afternoon while I sat at home in a city essentially shut down in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy’s glancing blow on her way north, I decided to put on full rain gear, soaking wet shoes from the previous day’s adventures and head out for my regular run. Rain be damned. I’m sure it looked odd to some of the people dangerously driving around in the storm, but no part of me cared at all. And after the first few squishy steps I fell right into my rhythm and enjoyed that run as much as any other I’ve done recently, even with incredibly heavy shoes.

It’s hard to explain how calming the act of running has become to me even while I’m still not very good at it. I don’t know if it’s the rhythm of it, or the fresh air, or the required focus on breathing and posture and stride and pace, but it’s a wonderful mental and physical experience. It’s meditation. It’s exhilaration. It’s revelation.

It’s therapy. Free therapy.

Getting ready to head out on the “Hurricane Sandy Fun Run.”

Later that day when talking with a friend about what I had by then named the “Hurricane Sandy Fun Run,” she commented “Well I guess you’re officially a runner now. You’re running in a hurricane.” I never really thought about it until she said it like that. But yeah. I’m a runner. I’m not a good one yet. And I may never run a marathon. But I am a runner.

So, if you’re actually still reading this, you have to be wondering “Who gives a shit ThatGuy? What’s your point?”

My point is this blog is likely to be a little different in the future. I know I started this primarily as a political blog (like the internet needed another one), but the political atmosphere in this country has gotten so toxic that I believe my close following of it was harming me more than sharing my opinions could’ve been benefitting anyone else. I mean seriously. Other than trying to guess which one of the dozens of Romneys is going to win the presidential election what else is there really to talk about? We’re getting dumber and more impatient as a people and we deserve what we get in return. That economic bubble isn’t going to dangerously re-inflate itself. And I’m sure it will be way better this time. Start the circus music. Bring out the clowns.

The “About” page of this blog stated that I would check in from time to time to “share what I think about anything going on in the world that I feel like talking about.” I’m still going to do that, but that “world” may sometimes be the small world directly around me. I’m sure I will still rub up against the occasional political issue. But I’ve recently been reading just as much about nutrition and exercise as I ever did about government and politics, so it could very likely be something as simple as sharing a recipe that I find/create, or a recap of a running event that I participate in (On Dec 15, I’m running my first 5K in over 4 years), or a music experience that I like, or maybe a combination of any number of things in some unsolicited online magazine format. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this blog in the future, but I’m pretty sure that I’m still going to write it. I hope that people who read it will enjoy it and see some value in it. But ultimately, I think I’m just going to write it because I want to. Thanks for your time. I gotta run.

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14 responses to “I Gotta Run

  1. Even though we are not close, I am very glad to have met and worked with you. You are a GREAT guy and I was never afraid to admit my secret crush on you. So glad you are “feeling better.” Love your blog by the way, I will be sharing it with other friends.

    • Haha. Thanks for the kind words Tiffany, and for sharing the blog too. It’s a work in progress right now, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. I’m also sure we’ll cross paths again one of these days, and I’ll buy you a beer. Thanks again.

    • If running is scary, then walk. No one is scared of walking and it’s an easy and effective first step toward running, if you ever really want to do that. Get an Ipod (or don’t, silence is always good), some warm clothes, comfortable shoes, and take off. Walk at the speed of comfort and build from there.

      I’m not pretending to be any kind of expert on anything, but getting outside and getting blood moving in my body makes me feel better. Running is proven to release endorphins, but I suspect that a strenuous walk would too. It’s a coping thing to me, but it works. I started running because to be successful, it required me to think about running which meant I couldn’t think about other things. That focus allowed me to let go while those endorphins did their work. And now, while it still serves those needs, I do genuinely enjoy getting out there.

      Good luck and have fun. If it’s not fun, you won’t do it.

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  4. Hey there, saw your posting on Shut UP and Run.

    I got goose bumps reading your description of that first run from the depths of sadness.

    Is it possible to stay depressed during a run , esp one on a beautiful day? I don’t think so. 8)

    Cheers,

    -paul

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. I can honestly say that I have never gone for a run, either happy or lost, and not felt better afterwards. It is without a doubt the very best thing I have ever done for myself. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate both.

      Cheers to you.

      Greg

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