Thursday, February 10, 2011

That First Mile

Me in 2009 right before the start of the The Other Half Marathon in Moab, UT. Also, the last time I seriously exerted myself in the name of running.

I run I jog. Not everyday, not even every week these days. But still, I make an effort...sometimes. I don't especially care about running. I don't time myself, push myself to get better, or subscribe to Runner's World (and if I did I would probably only read the feel good personal essays anyway.) What I care about is keeping my stress levels below some manageable thresh hold, my sanity above some indicator of reasonable mental health and, quite frankly, a consistent jean size.

But I don't LOVE jogging.  Any other exercise that was cheap to maintain, easy to access, and could get me just as much exertion for time put in (outdoors) would do just as well for me.  And, given my luke-warm affair with the sport, it's no big stretch to realize I never get better at jogging. Always, I run the same speed, roughly the same distance, and infrequently enough to always feel like that first mile is going to give me a heart attack.

But here's the thing--I don't care to get any better. I don't care to get faster. I don't care if I run longer distances. I don't even care if I walk across the finish line at the Bolder Boulder this year.

And so, I never take any steps to improve. I keep doing the same things over and over. I run the same routes. I run the same (somewhat) comfortable speed. I haven't even purchased new running shoes in like two years!

There are many things I do want to do really, really well--take writing for instance. It takes time, effort, energy...study, to get better at anything.

The thing is, there are only so many hours in a day. Thus, running I don't care to invest any more time in than it takes me to throw on a pair of faded sweats and head out my front door. For me, what has helped me focus my efforts is being honest with myself and differentiating between the things I do want to spend my time becoming skilled at (writing) and the things that don't make me insane with jealously to see others outpace me (not writing--running.)

So what do you think--what are you okay with just being okay at? 


  1. Exercise is the biggest for me. My definition of "in shape" has altered since I entered my thirties. I played a college sport, and for awhile, thought I should maintain the same level of fitness after I left school. That worked fine when I was single, but now I have three kids and my body has changed a bit...and I'm okay with that. I jog once in a blue moon, but do some sit-ups, push-ups and squats weekly. My focus, like yours, is using that exertion more for stress relief than to get rock solid abs (really--what on Earth is the point of having rock solid abs...I just don't get it anymore). I'm more concerned now with maintaining some sort of flexibility through stretching. Nothing is daily, nothing is guilted over. I'm okay with just being okay :) Like anything, if you force it, it becomes an obligation and the enjoyment just trickles away.

  2. Jess, so funny how priorities change (drastically) with the major life events.

  3. Becky, isn't Moab gorgeous? I wish they had larger conference facilities there because our state organization would go there for our spring conferences more often.

    I've never liked running for the sake of running. I jokingly say I'm built for comfort not for speed. I never minded running for a reason, say for basketball.

    I love your comparison of running to writing and placing of priorities. I taught a lesson years ago to the young women at church that essentially said we can do anything we want in life, but we can't do everything. So we have to choose what is most important to us--and as Jess mentioned above, those change at the different stages of our lives.

  4. Donna
    ...comfort not speed--I love this.
    Yes, I was once one of those women who believed I could do everything. I now realize that same message you taught. Pick the few things you want to do really well and pursue them like hell. In that equation, there is no room for things you feel wishy-washy about.

  5. That's a tough question. LIke you, I don't train for marathons but I run almost every weekday. It's fast. It's exercise. I guess I'm okay with just being okay at cooking. I like finding fast, healthy new meals but nothing I have to spend hours on.

  6. Laura--
    Thanks for reminding me. COOKING! Also something I don't care to excel in. But I don't mind partaking in others' expertise in the kitchen.

    Thus, the need for jogging.