As this week drew to a close, a colleague inevitably asked if I would be doing anything nice over the weekend. My response? Just running. This was followed by that look, that only ever passes from a non-runner to a runner, which clearly says, “you’re crazy.” The look that prompts a well-meaning individual to tell me I need to relax. The look that tells me that they just don’t understand. You see, as far as I’m concerned, running IS my relaxation. It’s how I clear my head, mull over issues and enjoy some time to myself without the rest of the world needing something from me NOW! It’s the time when I can simply enjoy my own company, listen to my favourite music and appreciate the scenery around me. To me, it’s those who don’t take some time out to relax and unwind that are crazy.
The importance of this has been brought home to me quite powerfully this week. Although I felt a little more refreshed after my long weekend off work, I still returned to a seemingly never ending to-do list and a pile of important tasks that just didn’t quite seem to fit in to the time available to complete them. Nevertheless, I knew that when each evening finally rolled around there would be a run or a swim or a Metafit class waiting for me and this, even when it’s a tough workout, represents something to look forward to and actually helps me to meet my deadlines.
It’s at such busy times as this that I’m often met with, “I don’t know how you find the time to exercise.” Well I make time. I write it in my diary just as I would any other appointment, the difference being that this appointment is with my health. Experience over the last few years has taught me that I cope much better with the busy, difficult period from January to April when I have a training routine in place. Like for many others, my working days can be quite mentally demanding. It’s common to leave at the end of the day not only weighed down with papers to mark or work to plan, but also feeling completely exhausted. Yet that exhaustion is not physical, it’s mental. Yes, I could go for option A: drive home and keep working, or option B: go for a lie down then work until really late, but I prefer option C: 30-45 minutes of exercise. I know that after I’ve exercised I will feel refreshed and much more able to work. Not only that, but I’ll be far more productive in the work that I do and complete it more quickly than if I ploughed on regardless. After I’ve exercised, any problems from the day will seem much less significant and I might even have a solution or new idea to try the next day – I often believe that I do my best thinking on the run. It’s not a question of “finding” the time to exercise, it’s a question of NEEDING the time to exercise!
But still, other people find this hard to understand. They think there must be something wrong with me, that I am completely insane (ok, in some respects they may have a point!) but after years of trying to convince my colleagues that they should try to be more active, I have finally been vindicated!
Last week I mentioned a friend of mine who had just started running and how over the moon she was feeling after completing her first lap of the park. Catching up with her this weekend, the joy she is getting from running continues to show and she is, in her words, “loving it.” In the past, she has been prone to overdoing it at work and neglecting her own well being; now she is considering how best to fit her new-found love around work and noticing the positive impact it has on both her physical and mental well being. She feels better than ever – fitter, stronger and more positive – and absolutely made my day by telling me that after all these years I was right about the difference exercise can make. It seems I have a convert! It may seem daunting at first, but getting out there and getting some exercise will always make you feel better.
So I guess when I tell people that over the weekend I will be “just running”, what I really mean is that I will be making my body stronger, creating mental strength and switching off from the demanding working week – and often all before breakfast! Can you say the same?