February 28, 2012

Reason (Enough) To Run

Reason (Enough) To Run







Our culture has spawned all sorts of sayings that use the word run.

Run the gauntlet

Run out of steam

(Don’t) Run before you can walk

Run off in all directions

Run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off

I love language and the way we use words. When we hear phrases like this, we learn a lot about the way our culture (or the culture at the time the phrase was coined) thinks about a thing or a concept. Despite all the great things runners (even beginners like me) might say about running, our society has come up with all sort of uses that imply going to fast, being reckless or cavalier, or exhausting yourself.

We use the word run to describe extremes mostly, not norms.

Maybe we have it wrong.

My life is crazy. I work a high-power job, I consult and sit on a couple of boards “on the side.” I am a full-time mom, I travel frequently. In between all that, I do what everyone else does – shop, pay bills, run a household, do laundry, and try to sleep once in a while.

And I run. These days, I run almost daily.

Years ago, people would ask me about my life and I used to tell them that it was crazy but that I was sure it would slow down soon enough. I was sure the work would ease up, that I would travel less, that things with the kids would take on more of a routine. People – from family members to moms at school – would look at me with a bit of pity – when I would tell them how busy I was.  They offered up a lot of sympathy and sad looks.  Always as I was assuring them (and myself) that things were bound to change very soon, I would hear a little voice in my head say Yeah…Right.

I literally woke up one day and realized that I was playing a rather unhealthy game with myself. Constantly waiting for my life to become less crazy and less busy when the obvious trend was otherwise, was not helping me get better at managing it. I was – in a sense – setting myself up for a failure of grand proportions. From that day forward, I made a shift – I decided to embrace it. I decided to take the craziness and the business and own it – and love it even –  because it was/is my life.

I was much happier almost instantly.

But I was still tired. My life is hard to keep up with even when you are me.

It takes a lot of effort to maintain balance. I eat well – even on the road. I make a commitment to sleep – sometimes even when I don’t want to – because it helps me cope with long hours of not sleeping when I have to do that. I place my kids first – because even when work seems really really really important, it’s not as important as you think it is.

I did all of it pretty well for a long time except for exercise.

Exercise just sounded exhausting – the word of it – sounded like it would make me more tired and take up too much time and add more stress.

How can you run if you are already running on empty most of the time?

It’s a funny thing about our bodies and stress: a little is good, a little more is sometimes better, a lot will knock you flat. Everyone has a tolerance for it – some more than others. We can actually increase our stress tolerance or “stress hardiness” by various means, and sort of make ourselves into athletes at dealing with the chaos of life. Exercise is one of the most powerful means for doing this. Studies going back decades show that moderate, regular exercise gives the body greater reserves of the hormones we need to respond to stress and improve our response time.

But you have to do it to get the benefit. I was stuck in the cycle of I am too tired and too busy and too stressed to go out and do something that would help me manage being too tired too busy and too stressed. And I don’t think I am alone. I think we bill exercise as an energy consuming, time consuming, even stressful endeavor – and for many people the thought of adding that to a life that is already over full just sounds like too much.

The reality is the opposite.

One reason I have been able to stick with running for the past 8 months is that I have found a clear benefit for my stress. Running has not exhausted me more – quite the opposite really. It has give me more energy, better sleep, and an outlet for stress. In a way, learning to run has helped me to keep better pace with my life. I needed to go a little faster to keep up.

So here’s to running – not walking through life. Going a little faster doesn’t have to mean you miss the details or don’t get to smell the roses – it just means you have to be a little quicker at it.




Leave a comment
  1. Kristy Kuna
    February 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Dr. Jacques… I LOVED this post. It hit really close to home for me especially today. I often feel like I run on empty with working a full time job, keeping up with my 2 year old and a schedule that has us all over the place, “running” around like crazy, and on top of that just training for and accomplishing a half marathon. I know everyone has different degress of busy, but finding that balance is the toughest thing. But, the good news is that once you find it, you can’t remember life without it. I am happy to take a break from my rigorous training, but am also anxious to get back going. For me, having a goal like a race to train for was the key. I give you lots of props for keeping up with running for 8 months… it’s tough, because I KNOW how committed you are with family, work, volunteer, etc. Thanks for this blog post!

    • Jacqueline Jacques
      February 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Thanks, Kristy. I didn’t even know when I saw you in January that you were training for a half marathon – then I saw the Facebook pictures of you finishing! I am so impressed with you and what you do. I actually do not know if I could have done that when I had a 2 year old – if anything, you inspire me!