The Running Cure.

Come to the woods, for here is rest. ~John Muir

Because I am an avid runner (and hiker and cyclist), when I tell people about my coaching practice, there tends to be a quick assumption that I am a fitness coach. My approach is holistic, and I place a lot of emphasis on the interconnectedness between the various aspects of self-care, but the physical realm is a central part of my own self-care. In retrospect, it was the catalyst for even understanding what self-care is.

Last time, I wrote a bit about goal setting and making progress through smaller goals that build upon each other. That was how I began running. As I’ve written before, I’m not good at things I’m not good at. I wasn’t immediately a good runner. I used a plan called Couch to 5K - it was an app I was able to put on my phone - that alternated walking and running while incrementally increasing the run time and decreasing the walk time over an eight week period. That was perfect for me. Without succumbing to self-doubt or the frustration of not being “good” at something, I slowly built the confidence needed to take each new run duration. Sixty seconds. Ninety seconds. Two minutes. And so on, until I could run for a full half hour without walking. Triumphant.

After I started running, things happened. Physically, yes. I had been carrying quite a bit of extra weight following two close pregnancies and I lost that. More importantly, I developed new muscle. I saw my resting heart rate enter into the “good” and then the “athlete” zone. I knew my cardiovascular system was stronger. My immune system was also enhanced. I stopped getting bronchitis every single winter!

I was in my late 30s and had two children and I was, without a doubt, in the best overall physical condition of my life.

After I started running, other things happened, though, too. More important things. Emotional, psychological, spiritual things. Beautifully unexpected, life sustaining things.

I’ve always leaned more toward introversion despite being a highly social, outgoing person engaged in helping professions my entire career. When I teach the Myers-Briggs to my graduate students, I always start off by explaining that introversion and extraversion are not synonymous with shy and outgoing. They are better explained by the ways one recharges their batteries. Some individuals feel drained and low energy by themselves and seek the company of others to refuel. I’m the opposite. I love helping, talking with, and teaching others, but I need solitude - specifically in the occupancy of my own thoughts - to recover from those interactions. Running provided that. I suddenly had a regularly occurring appointment with just myself. It was glorious. And curative. I was able to deeply process a lot of issues that had plagued me my entire life. I was able to start to work through and make necessary changes as a result.

As I was connecting with my inner self, I was also connecting with nature. I will do anything to avoid running on the treadmill and so I will pretty much run in any weather conditions, so long as it is safe to do so (not counting that one time, during a blizzard…). Many people go through life disconnected from nature from inside their house, or the interior of an automobile, and fail to notice the simple majesty or the vast simplicity of our natural world. Moving through carriage paths and rail trails on my own two feet brought me to the meaning of what the naturalist, John Muir was saying: “Come to the woods, for here is rest.”

My soul found rest in the woods; along with it came mindfulness, connection, gratitude, and resilience.

These have fundamentally changed me, and given me a new arsenal of coping mechanisms to better care for myself.

When Sigmund Freud first established psychoanalysis as a treatment for emotional disorders, he dubbed it the “talking cure”. I borrow of that when I think about how running has impacted my life. The running cure.

And, so. I am not a fitness coach. Or a running coach. But I am a holistic coach that works to help people recognize the interconnectedness between their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual self.

“Between every two pine trees is a door leading to a new way of life.” ~John Muir

Running on the trails, amid the pines, I found my door. Where is yours?