015. running and writing

In the past month, I’ve come to the conclusion that running and writing are cut from the same cloth and very similar to each other. Confused? I can see why – after all, these are two hobbies that appear pretty far apart in terms of just about everything. But I swear, there is way more alike about them than first meets the eye.

In the past month, I geared up and hit the pavement to pull myself into consistent 10k running. I also geared up and hit the figurative pavement to write NaNoWriMo. I’m going to lose NaNo fairly spectacularly, as I usually do, but still, between the two I began to notice a lot of similarities.

(1) Motivation for both can be hard to find.

Some days, you really don’t want to run. And other days, you really just don’t want to write! Getting out the door or onto the Gdoc can be the hardest part of either hobby. Sometimes you have to bribe yourself to get going. And then-

(2) Once you get started, reflexes take over.

Sometimes it takes a kilometer and sometimes five; sometimes it takes 100 words and sometimes 500. But eventually, with both running and writing, you hit your stride and it becomes easier. Muscle memory takes over and you remember why you like doing it. Whatever was blocking you fades away and the km and words start to flow.

(3) It’s all small goals leading to the finish line.

Maybe your finish line is a literal one, and maybe a figurative one, but both of the hobbies have an end goal. Whether it’s running a marathon or finishing your novel, there’s something you work for, day by day and bit by bit, to achieve. As you work, you set small goals: 30km this week or 1500 words a day. Sometimes you’ll hit the goal and sometimes you won’t, but there’s always a new day waiting for you to try again.

(4) Doing them with others makes the work easier.

There’s a reason that NaNo is a big community website and event. There’s a reason they organize meet-ups and encourage people to get involved in the forums. And there’s a huge reason that marathon runners find pace-equivalent race prep teams on weekends. Doing work with others ups your own motivation and connects you with people who understand your goals on a fundamental level.

(5) After you finish for the day, you feel great.

No matter if it was a daily run or a daily word count, meeting your goal for the day makes you feel like you can take on the world. It’s a great feeling that can carry over into the rest of your day! And of course –

(6) People outside your hobby usually don’t understand what you are talking about.

Want to dish about the breakthrough you made in your antagonist’s motivations? Or about how you just PRed your best time by 20 seconds? Yeah, often times the people around you don’t have any clue what you are talking about or why you would ever want to talk about it. That’s why it’s helpful to get some friends who share your hobbies.

012. run for your life

Today I thought I’d talk about a hobby near and dear to my heart: running! I’ll admit right away that I am far from the best runner. In fact, in ten years of running, it’s embarrassing how little I’ve actually accomplished by way of progress and speed. But running seems to be the only exercise that I consistently stick with, and no matter what happens, I always find myself going back to it.

It’s finally turning into fall here in Tokyo, so it’s running weather again! Now that it’s not sticky hot with 90% humidity, as summers here are well through September, I can go outside and run without feeling like my clothes are sticking to my skin. I’ve struck up something of an unofficial training plan to try and finally get some real progress under my belt, and so far, it’s been working. Last week I ran 4 times for 25 total kilometers, and today I ran for the second time this week and one of my better 5k times (32:30).

I always used to think that running was a solitary activity, and even a few runs with one of my best friends when I was in grad school didn’t really change that. But after I got to Japan, there were a few months in my second year here where I was running every Friday with my bestie, and afterwards we would order pizza and watch a movie (so we could eat without guilt!). Now, I run with my husband, and it’s some of the best runs that I have – it feels fun and easy, and we talk while we are running and don’t have much by way of a destination or goal. We both agree that we enjoy our pair runs so much we’re going to schedule them in on the few days that our evening schedules match up.

Running is one of the few activities that you can do without any equipment other than some good shoes and your motivation. My favorite shoes are my ASICS – once I switched, I never looked back. I’m using the Gel-Cumulus series right now, and I really love them! (I’m a heel-stepping over-pronator, and they help with all that.) You can run anywhere and almost anytime, and in a land where gym memberships run anywhere from $80-120 a month, it’s nice to be able to choose the free option around my neighborhood instead.

And running has so many benefits – building muscle, training your heart, and helping reduce stress! As someone who suffers from some fairly bad anxiety, I can definitely see the difference in my stress levels when I’m running regularly. I sleep better, too, with more energy during the day. The only real drawback is that I’m so hungry all the time!

Running might not be for everyone, and I’ve already suffered some injuries since it’s a high-impact exercise on knees and other joints, but I’m glad there are others who love running as much as I do. Is anyone else a runner? Why do you do it?