fitness

Trying to Find Pleasure in Running

This has been a truly draining week. First there was massive election angst and I don’t do well with that I will admit. My strategy is to over involve myself up close with every minutia so I don’t miss anything that might give me hope. Of course, when I find a thing that qualifies as “hopeful” I am immediately terrified it will change or be wrong or otherwise disappear. I started this pattern after 2016 and it’s just continued. Even these days, where there are things that should technically give me hope or at least tamp down the horror (a Liberal minority up here with the balance of power in parties even farther left and a burgeoning impeachment case down south), I am not soothed. The speed at which this world has gone from something approximating a “right track” in some places to a general decent to tribal warfare is horrifying. I want to hide. But if I hide, that’s one less voice in protest, one less ally, one less person sandbagging against the flood of hate. So, hiding is not an option.

Around here, activity, rest, fitness, food. . .we think of them as in the service of something other than the dominant narrative. Nourishment, pleasure, strength, an outward impulse to go beyond zones of safety in order to gain a sense of aliveness. . .these are the things I think about when I try to write about how feminism and fitness intersect. These are the things that are necessary also to shore up my strung out heart and body so that I don’t hide. Extra important in that task is my choice of activity and whether I can like it. Because if I don’t like it, things will only feel worse in the end.

I have started weekly Pilates training again and I really like that. In part, I like how it is finicky and specific. I like how it is efficient in its impacts. I already feel stronger and more balanced, even though I can’t deadlift as much as Cate ( 170lbs, that is 2.5 yellow labs worth, that’s me plus a decent sized beagle. Can we just measure weight in dogs from now on? That would be fun right?).

I have also been running again. I try to go out once a week. I try not to push too hard. Running should not feel punishing and desperate and it has often felt that way to me. I think that is likely because I have run while comparing myself to people who are very much faster and more efficient than me. I have poor body mechanics for running and at some point I need to just accept that. Run how I run and leave it at that.

So, it was in that spirit that I went out yesterday. It was early evening and the sun was still shining. It was about 11 degrees which is perfect running weather for me. I did not want to go. I felt tired and weak and headachy. As I was walking out of my office, I had passed the open door of my colleague’s office. “Tell me to go run”, I said. She said, “Oh that’s a good idea, I should run too. I’ll go if you go.” I promised her I would and left to go home. I came in the door and didn’t pause. I changed and put my shoes on and grabbed the dog and went outside. The air was fresh and perfect and the leaves were spectacular. I started to move.

I was aware of how I was holding my shoulders around my ears and I dropped them down. I was aware that my hip girdle was also tensed and I tried to move more fluidly. These are the benefits of Pilates, btw. I have reacquainted myself with a more nuanced sense of what my parts are doing and their state. So, I was moving along and noticing my breath. It was not very laboured and I thought, “That’s nice”. Then another thought occurred to me, “Could I enjoy this? Is there any pleasure here?” I realized, as I put one foot in front of the other, that I have never explored mindfully if there is any pleasure to be found in a run. I have found achievement. I have pushed boundaries. I have felt accomplished but, as I have said many times, I have never really liked it. I proceeded on for the next few kilometres and looked into my body experience to see if I could enjoy myself. I am happy to say that I found some success there. It helped that I deliberately didn’t try to run faster or push in anyway. I stuck to my 10 minutes of running and one minute of walking pattern. I noticed that after my one minute walk, I actually had a sense of feeling refreshed. It was, overall, a very hopeful experience.

I started this post talking about the election and my general fears about the world. Running isn’t going to solve anything. Running, and my engagement in what it has to offer, does mean that I am out in the world as a moving being. I’m not hiding and I’m not giving up. I won’t disengage. I will do things that are strengthening and find the pleasure in them. Something about that feels hopeful.

A white woman in a blue shirt with a white ball cap and running gear smiling because she just ran 21 km.
That time I ran a half marathon, not that I would do that again, ever.

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