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Keep It Simple

The other day I was helping a woman try out some shoes when she suddenly exclaimed, “Running is so stressful! It’s just too complicated.” I was taken aback, since I find running pretty straightforward. However, as she explained why she was stressing out, I could see her point.

Runners are bombarded with conflicting and ever-changing information. It can feel like finding the right shoes, using the right nutrition, wearing the right clothing, and performing the correct preparation and recovery routine has turned their workouts into a joyless slog. This is especially the case if they’re trying to systematically improve performance (in distance, fitness, or speed).

It’s easy to get obsessed with running’s metrics and suck all the fun out of the sport. If you are not a professional runner and running is beginning to feel like a job, it’s probably time to take a step back and simplify.

Ideally, running gives us time to be self-reflective, to get in touch with our total selves, and to contemplate our place within the larger world of possibility –– a place that exists outside and apart from the information blender of Facebook, CNN, NPR, FoxNews, and Twitter. It allows us one effective way to unplug and connect with our essential humanity.

Running also reminds us of our capacities. As we push ourselves, we take ourselves to yesterday’s limits and then move beyond what we thought we were capable of achieving. The physical and mental effort to accomplish a long run can make our everyday problems seem solvable. This dose of perspective is very valuable in a world in which every issue seems more urgent and difficult than the last. Running reminds us of the strength of our will –– and our ability –– to surmount difficulty and to change.

Finally, running allows the brain to do some background processing to effectively address everyday issues. How many times have you launched into a run with something on your mind that seemed unsolvable, only to have the solution present itself at the end of your run?

If you want to find out more about how your brain works while running, check out Dr. Jeff Brown –– author of The Runner’s Brain –– at Fleet Feet Albany on Monday, October 2, at 7:00 PM.

We don’t have to get so wrapped up in finding perfect –– the perfect shoe, the perfect workout schedule, the perfect recovery routine –– that we rob ourselves of our love for the sport. Remember the joy when you were a child and ran across the grass as fast as you could? Remember how you felt when you covered that first mile without feeling like your lungs were going to burst? Remember your last good run, feeling anchored in immediate experience –– in the “now”? That is what running can do for us –– but we have to let it.

You can get the most out of running by “letting things go.” This means never letting the structure provided by goal setting and training routines get more important than the running itself. When you feel like things are getting too complicated­, simplify. Leave the GPS watch at home. Run somewhere new. Do as much or as little as you like. Stop for some ice cream. Take a break along the Hudson or Mohawk to observe the geese or the beautiful fall foliage reflected in the river. Don’t worry about numbers. Just run.

Stop and look

Remember, too, that there are people that can help you keep things simple. If you are worried about training, find a coach or a training group and leave the details to them. If you need shoe advice, come see us at Fleet Feet. We love to sort out the complexities of fit and function for you so that you can concentrate on the running. The same goes for gear and nutrition. Let us shoulder some of the complexities, so that you can enjoy the fun stuff.

Finally, if running feels too complicated, there is an entire community –– the Greater Capital Region is one of the best running communities in the world ­­–– to help you out. Join a club like the FFRC, ARE, HMRRC, and you can draw on others’ experience to help keep you running joyfully.

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  • Paul Shatsoff

    Thanks for this article about keeping it simple. I started running at age 45 and my goal was always to get comfortable and go a little farther, not faster. Twenty something years later I’ve managed to keep running, mostly injury free. Key for me has been a bit of stretching, not pounding the pavement too hard, and not skimping on fresh sneakers. As for all the other stuff (layers of expensive clothing, GPS, fancy training regimen, etc.), I’ll leave that to others. I’m just glad I can get out in the fresh air and run at my age and, most days, feel really good.

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