I detest running. I run an average of 4.5 miles a day, just over 7 km for my international friends, up from 0 six months ago, and that number continues to increase. The thing is, though, it isn’t getting any easier. Nor is it getting more enjoyable. I still detest running—I put myself through it most days because it’s by far the most efficient way I’ve come across to burn calories, and working from home means I spend most of the rest of my day sedentary—but it seems to be more, not less, of an effort to get that particular pair of shoes on as the distance I run per day increases.
The reason I detest running is because despite its benefits, which have conditioned all the necessary muscles to the point, now, that the distance isn’t the problem, I just cannot seem to get enough air into my lungs to keep my asthma at bay. Despite the sophisticated breathing exercises my born-to-run husband has taught me, my chest is invariably tight within ten minutes. I have to stop frequently. It’s infuriating, and honestly a bit embarrassing.
I have loads of friends who love running. Some of them even have the astonishing ability to run double-digit distances in just a couple of hours without keeling over like little gasping fish. Truth be told, I’m tremendously envious of them. I want to be like them. And yet, sometimes quite literally, running has long been a thorn in my side that I’ve just never gotten the hang of.
At risk of sounding like one of those fitness junkie friends that are currently taking over every female-dominated social media platform on the planet (I’m looking at you, Pinstagrumblr), my pickle with running is even more frustrating because I already live an active lifestyle. Most of you guys who read this know that I practice yoga; I’ve been doing it since January 2012, and it’s the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept. At first, it was very painful. After the first couple of weeks, though, it was something else. I became a zealot. Three or four classes a week wasn’t enough; soon I was practicing every day on my own and going to class. By the time I got back from Spain and found a great teacher, I was practicing up to three or four hours a day, including class time.
I don’t practice that much anymore, mainly because the only non-carpeted surface in our apartment large enough to accommodate my mat is in the master bathroom, but that isn’t the point. I wasn’t any better suited to yoga when I started doing it than I am to running. And yet, there was something to it that clicked. Yes, I often used my practice as a time of prayer—I think I even have an entry about that on this blog from around the time I started it. Yes, I was determined in every practice to improve my form. And yes, yoga helped me gain a confidence I desperately needed not only to stay grounded in Spain but to finish my senior year of college without going completely nuts. But beyond that, it was something I genuinely enjoyed.
So why is running so much harder? It can’t be just my attitude—about half the time, I didn’t want to practice yoga either, but I made myself do it anyway because it’s good for me, the same way I do with running. And it can’t just be my body. Yes, I have asthma, but so do loads of other runners who are still quite successful at what they do. My right foot is twisted out at about a 25-30˚ angle because of an old wakeboarding injury, but a friend of mine with two splayed feet would attest to that not being the problem either. Diet? I doubt it. I’m as zealous about that as I once was about yoga. So what’s the problem?
To be honest, I don’t really care what the problem is. Because I’m not going to stop. I know what an asthma attack feels like, and I always slow down or stop before it gets to that point. So unless this ever becomes truly detrimental to my health, I’m going to keep going. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I can force myself through a half marathon, if only just to say I did.
But that’s not the only reason for this madness. I know full well there are loads of other healthy things I can be doing instead of this; for example, I have a good bike sitting here in my office that will work great after a couple of minor repairs. Maybe I have gone nuts, but the fact I kind of hate running is honestly part of the draw. A lot of things that are good for you are acquired tastes: vegetables, black coffee, red wine, studying Scripture, exercise. And even if I never acquire the taste, keeping up with running is helping me to learn discipline that habitually doing something I enjoy never could.
“I don’t want to” is a common excuse for not doing things. It makes me wonder how much I miss out on when I give into it. Beyond any new-agey junk about becoming your own inspiration, though, my challenge as this year comes to a close is to cultivate a healthy, God-honouring habit no matter what. Not to be perfect. Maybe just to surprise yourself.