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Rediscovering Joy—and Myself—in Running

Rediscovering joy
Goal: Rediscover this joy on the run

Joy in the Everyday

If you ever happen to attend an AMR retreat with me, you’ll quickly discover two facts about me:

  1. I LOVE singing karaoke and dancing.
  2. It would be generous to label me a mediocre singer or dancer.

I have never once in my adult life allowed my complete lack of skill and talent stop me from singing into a microphone at the top of my lungs or breaking it down on stage.

Why? Because shame and embarrassment are also lacking from my skill set.

Rediscovering joy
In which Pam perform "Paul Revere" enthusiastically

This unabashed joy applies to pretty much every area of my life, including running. I consider myself an enthusiastic runner, even though I’m mediocre at best. I love the grind and the process and the miles, and I love to challenge myself.

And yet, from time to time, the green monster of envy sneaks into the periphery and whispers that it is good and right to be jealous of the achievements of others. It also prompts me to feel ashamed and embarrassed about my own running mediocrity.

When that happens, quite frankly, I get really pissed off.

If I can happily walk down a crowded street singing “Undone: The Sweater Song” at the top of my lungs in a questionable key, how in the world can I beat myself up over a running pace?

With this kind of "Blue Steel" attitude, how can Pam NOT enjoy running?

Goal: Rediscovering Joy on the Run

What I’ve come to realize is that when I’m singing, dancing, posting wacky hairdos on social media, or otherwise making a public fool out of myself, I am living my best and most authentic life: representing myself for who I am, not for who I want to be.

When I’m running, I sometimes find myself slipping into my head and expending energy on who I think I should be, or who I think others expect me to be.

Because I believe this to be important work—after all, I am my own longest-running relationship—I’ve built into my running practice intentional efforts to return to my authentic self.

Rediscovering Joy in Digging Deep

I declared 2021 the year of no goals because I discovered that I actually enjoy working out for its own sake. I love it when my trainer gives me a set of moves that I’m certain will end up with my body and the kettlebell on the floor, or maybe on my face. (I'm talking a series like 5 x 10 single-hand swings right, 5 right get-ups, 10 single-hand swings left, 5 left getups.) I think I'm not going to make it, but I swing and get up every time, face bright red, kettlebell high in the air. I feel victorious.

The same thing happens when I'm on the rowing machine. Sinking into the rhythm of a rowing workout, watching my splits drop because my technique is improving and my body is getting stronger is pure satisfaction.

Also satisfying: that “she wants me to do WHAT for HOW LONG?” moment when I view the day’s bike or running workout, composing my “I hate you so much, Coach” text as I drive my body through its paces and do the workout as written. Those times feed my soul. (And, yes, I do send that text message as soon as my limbs and lungs are once more my own.)

Actual post-ride text to Coach

Rediscovering Joy in Being Silly

It’s not just those challenging moments that bring me back to my authentic self as a runner; it’s also those times I’m reminded not to take myself too seriously.

A local race organizing team has been hosting eight-week virtual running challenges: the Cabin Fever Achiever series. The guys release a new challenge each week, often seasonally themed. During the NCAA basketball tournament, we put ourselves up against three different events, completing brackets as we crushed our competition. I took it all, besting the long run, the 5k, and cross-training. Other weeks focus on something more peripheral to running, like highlighting a local business we regularly run past, or hunting for Easter eggs (e.g. a pet being pushed in a stroller, a running shoe twin, historical landmarks) on the run.

Joy Rediscovered

On Sunday’s long run, I felt hot and tired and not very much like running. With the idea of enjoyment and authenticity in mind, I decided to pretend like I was in those middle miles of an endurance event, running only from one water stop to the next and no more--over and over again until I finished.

I slowed for a walk and water break every half mile or so. Before I knew it, I was back home: sweaty, tired, hydrated, and triumphant.

Rediscovering joy
Victory is mine!

Recognizing and appreciating these moments and motivations isn’t a panacea for self-doubt or soul-sucking comparisons, of course. That said, I’ve found that, like running or anything else worth pursuing, consistency leads to results: fewer appearances of the Green Monster.

The gains may not be linear, but they are real. And you know what? I’m worth the work.

How do you bring yourself out of your head and back into your heart—and into joy—with running or athletic pursuits?

6 responses to “Rediscovering Joy—and Myself—in Running

  1. Pam, I LOVE how you ended this article. “I am worth the work.” Yes, a thousand times Yes! Such a good message to all of us who question our efforts or our worth. And while i have never been at a retreat with you, I feel like I know the authentic “you” from your AMR podcast interviews and posts. You always bring me JOY and a great laugh!

  2. The timing of this article is perfect. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve really been struggling with my training. I must keep reminding myself that it’s been less than 1 yr since my lung cancer surgery and how blessed I am to still be able to run. My head is my worst enemy sometimes. I want to be find that joy again and not make it seem like its a chore to do the things I love.

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