Tension on the String

I have been running every day for over a week now, and it’s changing my life.

Instead of running outside in the world, where the pollen is very high and I would break down in scratchy throat, ear, and nose syndrome within fifteen minutes, I have been running on an elliptical inside.

Each time I run it’s for thirty minutes, and I alternate between levels and inclines to work out different muscle groups.

I started doing this after finishing Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. For a while I did YouTube exercises, which I wrote briefly about in previous posts. And those provided me with a set of abs I did not even know existed. But there was something missing because I could not keep my heart rate up for an extended period. It was also difficult to listen to audiobooks.

There are obvious ways I am sure that running for thirty minutes every day is helping me: my diet has gone straight to the gutter, and eating half a frozen pizza and drinking beer is probably not going to simply go through my digestive tract without putting on fat somewhere. Yet when I run every day, it makes it acceptable to eat things otherwise not advisable for a man at thirty.

What I am most shocked about is that with these habits I’m building up during coronavirus, I thought that it would get easier. But just as Murakami says in his book, that is just not the case. It is always difficult to run in the morning. I hate having to get up in the morning to run, and I despise that it is the first thing I do each day.

And yet.

It proves that the reason I do this has more psychological underpinnings than I thought, and it makes normal the idea that pain is an important part of life. As Haruki Murakami wrote:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”

Put yourself in places where the string is always taut. That is the issue concerning us right now. Muscle atrophy can come from reading War and Peace and having every season of The Sopranos streamed to your bed, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Anti-Fragile.

We don’t push ourselves so we can show off. We do it so we can show ourselves. It is a fundamental difference, but one that is recursive, inductive, and as a result possibly more rewarding.

Start now.

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