I used to be a runner. And I used to love it. It worked for me. My body responded well to the routine and consistency and when I think back, I’ve never been healthier than when I was was running thirty-plus miles a week. Life changes of course. Mine certainly did. I got married and had children and my days soon filled with other things: namely a desperate need for sleep.
Sixteen years later I’ve started running again. When the kids went back to school in August I started hitting the pavement in the mornings. And while I’ve been pleased to learn that I still love running, it’s discouraging to realize just how out of shape I truly am. I’m slower than I’ve ever been. My aerobic stamina is pathetic. My body is older and stiffer and less inclined to cooperate. I blister easily. But I am running. And this makes me very happy.
But because I live in Tennessee there is another obstacle in my path: hills. Many, many hills, all of them seemingly in my neighborhood. It’s hard enough to run a mile on flat ground without getting red-faced and winded. But it’s even worse when hills are involved. So, a few weeks ago I made a decision: until I build up speed and stamina I am just going to run the downhill parts.
And it’s working! I’ve stopped dreading my runs. My speed is increasing. My time is decreasing. It still isn’t all that pretty, but it is progress. Allowing myself to take the easy route has allowed me to establish this new habit. And I’m healthier as a result. My clothes fit better. My circulation and skin are better. I feel better.
It’s been a revelation to me: I don’t have to make things hard on my myself. I don’t have to run up the hills. They aren’t going anywhere. I have to climb them anyway. But I don’t have to do it in a way that will hurt or exhaust me.
So, today, here’s your homework:
Run the downhill parts.
Pick the low-hanging fruit.
Write the easy chapter.
Make the easy sales call.
Let yourself see a bit of progress.
Of course we can do all the hard things. And we will. But sometimes we need permission to do the easy things first. Save that uphill run for later.
For now, take the win.
A few things that are helping me form this new habit:
A fun playlist. Mine includes everything from Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (Yes, I’m serious. Yes I love Rocky. And yes it really does help me keep the pace up—you try not running when it’s playing) to Thunderstruck by AC/DC. It also has Pink, Beyonce, Aloe Blac, Ram Jam, Hozier, Taio Cruz, and Andy Grammer. It’s all over the map but if I’m going to run to it, I want upbeat. I want it to make me happy.
The Map My Run app. It keeps track of time, distance, and calories. I can map specific runs through my neighborhood and share them with my husband so he knows where I am. It tracks my progress weekly and emails me a gentle reminder if I’ve skipped too many days. I like the accountability.
The realization that I write better if I’ve gone for a run that morning. Even on the days when I don’t really have time. Even on the days when I don’t feel like it. I write twice as many words on the days that I run. Every. Single. Time.
Jen Miller has fallen in and out of love, but no man has been there for her the way running has.
In Running: A Love Story, Jen tells the story of her lifelong relationship with running with wit, thoughtfulness, and brutal honesty. Jen first laces up her sneakers in high school, when, like many people, she sees running as a painful part of conditioning for other sports. But when she discovers early in her career as a journalist that it helps her clear her mind, focus her efforts, and achieve new goals, she becomes hooked for good.
Jen, a middle-of-the-pack but tenacious runner, hones her skill while navigating relationships with men that, like a tricky marathon route, have their ups and downs, relying on running to keep her steady in the hard times. As Jen pushes herself toward ever-greater challenges, she finds that running helps her walk away from the wrong men and learn to love herself while revealing focus, discipline, and confidence she didn’t realize she had.
Relatable, inspiring, and brutally honest, Running: A Love Story, explores the many ways that distance running carves a path to inner peace and empowerment by charting one woman’s evolution in the sport.