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Running... (and Quitting)

posted Apr 27, 2014, 4:28 PM by Nathanael Wheeler   [ updated Apr 11, 2018, 4:08 PM ]
Running has fascinated me since I first started around 4 years ago. Running was like the holy grail of exercise to me. I had always been one of the fat kids - never the slowest in P.E., but the close runner up. When I got out of school and wasn't forced to do physical activity, the most active I might be would be to take a leisurely hike or something... with frequent breaks and no hills. Running never even entered my mind as a potential activity.

At one point, around the age of 26, I started to realize just how bad of shape I was in. I was around 100 pounds overweight, and I got out of breath just walking up a single flight of stairs. Over the course of the next year, I started walking, and after some research I took up a program called Couch to 10K (now called "Run 10K"). Just 13 weeks later, I completed my first ever 10K run, coming in right around an hour if I recall correctly. I was hooked.

My life was forever changed, and I couldn't get enough of running. I didn't care much about competitive running, but I ran nearly ever day. I lost 50-60 pounds - the first time I had weighed 200 pounds since I was around 14. I felt great, and life was amazing. Bad mood - run it away. Good mood - run and make it better. Rainy day - go to the track and run anyway. No matter how good or bad I felt, running always made it even better. If I had something bothering me, I could simply go for a run, get it off my mind for a while, and have some quiet time just to process things. Then everything changed.

I got a new job, and I moved. I had been paying $5.00 a year for access to an indoor track. I moved to a new location where the cheapest access to running facilities was $35.00 a month. That seemed preposterous! I would run outdoors, I wouldn't let the price stop me... and then winter set in. I quit running because it was muddy, snowy, nasty, and cold outside. I wasn't willing to pay the price.

Over the next year and a half, I got outside very few times, even when the weather was nice. I regained almost every pound I had lost. I kept telling myself that I was going to get back out there and start running again, but I never actually did it. I was finally approached by a guy I worked with about getting together to go work out, and I finally accepted. We went 3 times each week, and I started running again. I could barely run. What had been a nice 6-7 mile per hour pace before had slowed to barely a 4.5 mile per hour pace. It was discouraging, but I kept going back.

Then I started college. I kept going though, even though it was tough to keep up with the college work and work out. Finally I hit one of the toughest classes I had taken, and I folded. During this time I was also dealing with a ton of extra stress from another situation, and I couldn't seem to deal with it all at once, so I quit running again. For five weeks, I didn't set foot in the gym. I started again last week. 

Why did I quit, though? Running makes me feel on top of the world. I can solve the most horrible problems in an hour of quiet time just running - and even if I can't solve them, I at least feel good about my problems, that they are no longer insurmountable. Today, I ran 1.4 miles and walked 0.6 miles in 26 minutes. I was stressed at 4:55 pm, but at 5:30 I can honestly say I feel better. My problems didn't magically go away, and I know that. However, my problems aren't going to control me.

Here's the question, though: Why quit running when other things get tough? Now, I'm not just talking physically, but spiritually as well. I'm guilty of this, and any honest person will confess to it as well - when life gets tough and our time gets crunched, the first things to go are the very things that make us feel best: being spiritually and physically active. We stop praying, reading our Bibles, going to church, and exercising. When college got tough, I quit the gym. I didn't address the problem, and instead I quit doing one of the very things that would have pulled me through it much smoother!

I'd love to hear your feedback on these three questions:
  1. When things get tough, what's the first thing you quit?
  2. Does quitting that thing actually help you address the problem?
  3. What advice could you give to someone instead to remain motivated to keep doing the things that are good for them?