Exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle. Of the many types of exercise, distance running is one of the best and most practical. A healthy lifestyle that includes a running routine can have astounding benefits, both physical and mental.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest things about running is its simplicity. All you need is a decent pair of shoes and the world becomes your gym. Years ago, a challenge from a close friend motivated me to begin distance running. Now, it’s a part of who I am.
The lessons learned from running can be directly applied to life, and vice versa. Here are three valuable life-lessons I’ve learned from almost a decade of running.
Patience is a rare virtue these days. Thanks in large part to modern conveniences and technological advancements, the ability to wait for a reward is becoming increasingly difficult in this “give it to me now” society.
A popular study known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment exposed the power of delayed gratification. In the study, a group of children ages four to six were given the option of having one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they could wait 15 minutes. Not surprisingly, several children chose to have one marshmallow immediately.
However, there were a few children who chose to delay their gratification and wait for the greater reward of two marshmallows. The experiment followed the children into their adolescent and young adult years. The children who had chosen to delay their gratification not only had better grades, but they were also self-motivated, more dependable, had better social skills and had less instances of substance abuse. The experiment proved that delayed gratification is critical for a life of success.
Delayed gratification is a huge part of running. You’re not going to magically transform into a marathoner after one run. To get in shape and reach your desired goals, you have to train consistently and work hard. You have to be consistent, resilient, and persevere through challenges in order to achieve the desired goals in running and in life.
Embrace the suck.
When you’re young, life can seem like one big party. However, in the words of Smash Mouth, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming.
As you become an adult, obstacles and bumps in the road become the norm. There are times when everything is going great and life is awesome, and there are times when life just sucks.
The same can be said of running. I will be the first to tell you that, sometimes, running absolutely sucks. There are times when I struggle to get out the door. There are times when I want to quit mid-run, but I know quitting will hurt more in the long run (run pun!) than the temporary pain I’m feeling in the moment.
To live is to suffer, but it is in suffering where true growth occurs. In both life and running, the more you struggle, the stronger you become. Smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors.
An environment of constant comfort won’t prepare you for the inevitable obstacles and hardships that arise in life. Running teaches you to embrace the suckiness and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Discipline is arguably the biggest factor in determining long-term, sustainable success in all aspects of life.
Becoming successful in life and in running takes grit and discipline. Every person knows what to do to get in shape, but yet so many people are out of shape.
Each January, resolutioners make unwavering commitments to themselves to get fit, filling gyms across the country to capacity. By mid-February, the vast majority of these once determined resolutioners replace evenings at the gym with nights of Netflix and potato chips. Why? Lack of self-discipline.
If it were easy, everyone would be in shape and successful. Ultimately, you are responsible for the choices you make. You are responsible for your health, success and happiness.
A habit of practicing discipline will give any person the ability to pursue what they want most in life and the ability to avoid the temptations that seek to derail them along the way. There is no better way to strengthen your discipline and willpower muscles than a lifestyle of running.
Running is an ongoing process, and one that you never completely master. Ironically, the best part about running is that there is no finish line. But, the more you work at it, the easier the road becomes. Life is a journey, and the magic lies in striving to be better while enjoying and appreciating the journey. In life and in running, you get what you give. What you get out of it is the exact result of the work you put in. Today, instead of finding an excuse, find a reason. No person ever regretted going for a run. A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.