tracksmith running

There are always so many reasons not to…

Take this morning. I had to drive my daughter to school earlier than usual. I was behind on two work assignments that were due yesterday. I ran a few times this week already. I’d have to fish a sports bra out of the hamper. I feel a tickle in my throat. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s Thursday.

Mostly though there’s this: I don’t really want to.

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in high school (that’s 30-plus years if anyone’s counting), which, the more I think about it, is kind of incredible, because more often than not, I dread those first few creaky strides on the trail…like pit-in-the-stomach dread. Before every run, I seem to dream up a whole new list of excuses not to do it. And yet somehow, like this morning, I manage to lace up my Sauconys, press record on Strava, and log my three or four or five miles anyway. How is this possible? How do I stay motivated to do something I dread?

The famous novelist Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book exploring the “Why I run?” question and I always come back to this quote: “Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.”

All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished. Lately, the reason I’ve been polishing and polishing and polishing is this one: There’s no other workout that has such a direct effect on my mood as a run — not yoga, not barre, not pilates, not strength-training or tennis or power-walking. I’ve tried them all. When I was younger, I might’ve told you I kept up my running so I could enjoy a second slice of pie with no guilt. But these days, the only perks I’m interested in are psychological. “You’re only one workout away from a good mood,” the white board says in dry-erase marker at my gym where I’ll run on a treadmill if it’s raining outside, and as Pinterest-y as it sounds, it’s true. (As is the converse: When I don’t exercise, beware the monster. Just ask my husband.) If the starting line is all panic and nausea, the finish line is all cheek tingles and exhilaration. The blood is pumping, the endorphins are coursing. Sometimes, I swear I can hear a pre-boxing-match ding-ding-ding in my brain signaling GO TIME. Add a post-run cup of coffee to the equation and I’m unstoppable.

So, yeah, when I say I dread running, what I really mean is: There’s nothing that makes me happier.

P.S. My marathon-running friend Rachel gave me a useful motivational trick. When you’re not in the mood to run, tell yourself Just do seven minutes. If you’re still not feeling it after that, you can quit. With me, what ends up happening is that once I hit seven minutes, I don’t want to stop listening to a podcast or I’m in a groove — and I just keep going. Works every time.

(Photo from the wonderful Tracksmith.)