By Dr. Tim Maggs
Those who don’t run can’t understand the big fuss. “Why would anyone run?”. Those who do run protect it like a fortune. “It’s the most important thing in my life.” And those poor souls who are former runners due to injury live on a pilgrimage back to youth. Their undying hope is “maybe, just maybe...”.
What is it that turns normal people into cult-like members once they learn what it’s like to finish their first 5k or do a long group run on a Saturday morning? What makes them convert into a “runner”?
I’ve pondered this question for years, and interestingly enough, my answer has evolved over time. I initially thought it was the joy of competition, the thrill of training to beat that nameless person you see at every race who always seems to outrun you at the end. As time passed, I saw running as a therapy, something to help me get through the tough times. And, as I’ve grown older, I now see it as a much bigger piece of the puzzle. My impression goes something like this;
Life is all about motion. In fact, I’m currently reading Robert Ringer’s new book Nothing Happens Until Something Moves. Great book. Ringer deals with the very basic universal laws of life, the laws that, if adhered to, would turn this crazy world into a balanced, respectful territory. But, the key to his entire message is motion. Motion is the very essence of life--the key to happiness & the ultimate therapy for the masses.
Running takes this message to a whole new level. Running is an organized, planned approach to insure that your life includes motion. It allows you to spend time with others who are important in your life. Without running, you’d hardly ever see such people.
This is where everything starts getting sour on you. We have so many patients who are unable to move, with sprains, strains, arthritis and bloated schedules. I’ve come to the conclusion that lack of motion in your life is the beginning of the downhill. Think about it; weight gain, something in epidemic proportion in this country and getting worse, increased blood pressure, which should be treated with increased “motion” long before any prescription is recommended, blood sugar problems, as a result of weight gain, and most importantly, a frazzled psyche.
The psychological component is without a doubt the biggest reason people get hooked on running. Running is such an appropriate therapy for all of us, as most people have very little margin in their psychological world for any types of stresses. Yet, as we’ve written about so many times in the past, expect problems, as they are a constant part of life. Running seems to reduce the size of problems, but more importantly, gives us a quiet time to think them through and come up with better answers. I’m amazed how often I leave the house with “issues”, and come home with simple solutions. I can’t imagine how much it would have cost had I asked a professional to listen to me and then tell me what to do. Not to mention the fact, their answer could never be as valuable as mine.
Wisdom with Aging
As we get older, all of us truly recognize that mobility is so much better than immobility. I tell my geriatric patients “Keep going, as they can’t throw dirt on you as long as you’re moving”. They laugh, but they know I’m serious.
When younger, we feel like we’re bullet proof, and that youth will always be there. As we begin reaching middle age, we realize, aging happens to all of us. The aging process slows down the more active you are, not to mention the fact that life just seems to be a little less chaotic if we can include motion in our daily life.
I encourage all patients to increase their daily motion. If you can run, run. If you can’t run, walk. Combine the two. Jeff Galloway has done a phenomenal job of converting people into marathoners with the inclusion of walking. Die hard runners have a hard time walking during any training or racing event, but for those who wish to make it a lifetime activity, it only makes sense to do what you have to do to stay out on the road.
I was going through some old magazines the other day, when I came upon an article by the George Sheehan. It was in his later years, and he was telling the story of him out running, when some young runner approached him and asked him what his pace was. Sheehan always had a way of keeping everything in perspective. His response to the young man was “comfortable”, as he claimed he no longer checked for distance and time.
His joy of running was now at a different level, but one he felt was the best he’d ever experienced. Mimic Sheehan. Keep the fire burning by staying out there. Never give up, as any motion outdoors is mandatory for all of us. And, if you’re dream is anything like mine, you’ll also want to run to your funeral at the age of 105. I’ll drink to that.
Have a great month.