Running, the Brain, and Joy


My story is similar to the others posted here - I NEVER thought I would enjoy exercise, least of all RUNNING! Growing up, my favorite activity was curling up with a good book and moving my eyes left to right for hours on end. My brothers played soccer and my sisters did ballet, but I was too uncoordinated and unmotivated to enjoy any sport on a regular basis. (I still cannot do step aerobics to save my life.) I also learned to fear ball sports after being injured while made to play with bigger-stronger-faster kids. When I biked or ran with kids my age, they all just left me in the dust. Years later I would find out more about why...keep reading...


When I took swim lessons, I saw that other kids could somehow float, but I sank to the bottom like a stone. I did learn to ski, but was slower than my friends in passing each level, which meant I watched them take off for the big hill while I stayed behind. In middle school, I was effectively trained to HATE the mile by our PE teachers, who required us to run it in a certain time - conveniently ignoring that we all had different bodies with different abilities. (I would love to go back with a heart rate monitor and be graded on EFFORT rather than an arbitrary time cutoff.)  In high school, I even developed exercise-induced urticaria, which meant I broke out in big red blotchy itchy hives after each run. 


So I did what any self-respecting clumsy short person would do - I developed my brain rather than my body. I played violin and piano and did well in school. The culture and my parents rewarded me for this, even if I was still pretty much a nerd among my peers. I made friends with other musicians and smart kids and we focused on getting into college and pursuing our careers. For years I ignored my body. My body basically existed to house my brain, which was where I lived. I did exercise halfheartedly to keep from gaining weight, but I sure didn't enjoy it or look forward to it. It was like eating my veggies - I knew it was good for me, but I wouldn't do it of my own accord.


Well, my brain took me to medical school, where I continued to stuff it with learning and facts. Despite my lack of interest in (and time for) fitness, two experiences there were significant. First, I was part of the "code" team at LDS Hospital. If someone started to die, the code pager went off and the code team dropped whatever we were doing and raced for the patient. One day we were in the basement looking at pathology slides and the code pager summoned us to the 8th floor ICU. Taking the elevator was out of the question - this was a true life-or-death emergency! The code team charged up the stairs. The rest of the team surged ahead as I painfully tried to run up the 7 flights of stairs. By the time I made it to the 8th floor they were out of sight. Sweaty and panting, I eventually rejoined them. No one said anything, but of course I felt remorseful at my slowness. This was life or death - what if people were counting on me one day and I couldn't come through? And another thing - my colleagues were as busy and stressed and out of shape as I was (or more). Why could they zip up those stairs so much faster than I could? I was soon to find out!


Second experience: A few weeks later we were in the Pulmonology lab for a demonstration of inhalers and pulmonary function tests. We were invited to take the tests that patients take, and here comes my "aha!" moment - my tests showed that I had a significantly smaller lung capacity than expected for my age, gender, height and weight. I was off the chart. AHA!!! It wasn't major, and it didn't limit me in normal daily life, but it did explain why I seemed to be a Hufflepuff in a world full of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors (couldn't resist the Harry Potter reference, sorry). 


So...here I am now, running marathons and loving it! No one is more surprised at this than me. I can't explain what made me want to run, but not long after the big 4-0 I came across an article about the Galloway method and suddenly I thought, "I wonder how far I could run." I looked up the SLC Galloway group and the rest is history. The run-walk-run method just jives with me. It makes me feel GOOD! (unlike running continuously, which still makes me feel BAD even though I'm in better shape now). It may not be for everyone, but it unlocked my joy for bodily play, and I am much  more integrated - a body, a brain, and most importantly a SOUL that enjoys both the physical and mental aspects of life.