running changes the inside...

Exercise changes the outside. Running changes the inside.

It may begin with a craving to shed pounds. It often starts with a desire to be more desirable.  Exercise usually looks at the outside….how to lose weight, gain muscle, tone up, BMI down. You start. You stop. You switch it up.  Spinning, crossfit, p90x, step….  You get bored. Take a break.  Try something new. “Hmmmm….maybe running would be good?” “It is the most effective exercise activity to burn calories, according to the” There is no gym. No membership card. Just you and the open road. Simple.

An individual sport with a team spirit.  Friends. Groups. Meet-ups. It starts with you, alone, in a subculture of runners. Solitude in a community of possibility. Walk. Jog. Run. Walk. Run. Then one day you notice that you go farther, or faster. One day, you anxiously register for a race. Maybe a friendly nudge from the neighbor. Or the twinkle in your daughter’s eye at the excitement of you having a medal. The inner metamorphosis begins.  Suddenly you have a goal. Something that is totally out of your comfort zone. And in staring and crossing off miles on your training plan, you notice that the unwanted pounds are not as noticeable. And regardless of your BMI, you feel kinda sexy in sweat.  You’ve got a plan.  And your life  has something other than bills, mortgages, kids, spouses, bosses or wrinkles.   You have the run. And then the run becomes who you are. It requires no-one but you. Its up to you.  But there is also this group. …these runners who kinda look just like you. Not kenyan, or skinny or young. And what you THINK  begins to change.  Running changes the inside. You are amazed at the sizes, shapes and ages of the bodies around you…outer shells housing red hearts that all seem in sync and bursting with the same passionate beat to live extraordinary lives. Hearts etched with commitment, dedication and love to push beyond boundaries and finish lines.  Adults playing with routes, and numbers and focus. Your mind shifts. Your view changes. What seemed impossible becomes possible.  You can only get that from running a race.  Not once, did I consider the effort or struggle or dreams of the girl next to me in my step class at the YMCA. Nor can I remember high-fiving the cyclist in spin class. Or whispering “you got this” in shallow breath to the girl next to me lifting weights in circuit training. On the roads…in the race…encouragement, compassion, struggle and spirit…humanity and love soar.

But what is success without failure. What is pain without growth. Running changes the inside. The run teaches you humility and dirt and falling down. But instead of switching to another exercise regime one studio down… the love for the run lures you back to get up and keep going. It was always too easy or the excuses too many to scan the class schedule and switch up my calendar at the gym.  Not pushing beyond my comfort zone.  Never hunched over and almost puking after step class.  Comfortable effort with no measurement. That is the gym. No failure or triumph. Just blah…more of the average of my life. When you fail on the run…you have to get up and keep running to get home. Always moving forward. Teaching. Listening. Questioning. “Not slowing down enough to see the big picture?””  Maybe food is fuel not comfort?”  “Maybe the pain in my knee is my body telling me something.”  Being IN the moment. In the NOW. Hours of listening on the roads  bring you back to what is going on here.  Now. This. Life lessons. It is on the run that you put the pieces together. You hear your voice in your head. It is loud and scared and wants you to stop. But you keep going. Strength. Courage. Fearlessness. “I can” becomes bigger than “I can’t”. No more ignoring. No more distracting. Life magnified in shallow breathing, pulsing hearts, uncomfortable struggles, delicious triumphs, your weaknesses and strengths raw and exposed and open to change. You always have to get back home.

Your running takes on your life. Lessons show up for you that mirror life dramas.  Only in the run with its measurements and ticking and finish lines can you learn that average is no longer good enough. You cannot fake the run. Its real and raw and measured.  My Garmin tells me my miles and my pace.  My body speaks the effort. Its black and white out there.  And red…for love and pain. No more grey. No more average. No more comfortable.  I’m tired of being numb, and faking and shielding my heart from the roller-coaster ride of life. Running changes the inside.

And when you cross a finish line..absolute bliss. Living. Loving. All through movement.  Victorious steps that began the moment you stepped out your door and onto the road. Sweaty champion miles in training that concluded with a medal around your neck. Running changes the inside. I know, because it changed me and how I show up in the world. A better mom. A beautiful dreamer. An avid goal-setter.  A  runner.

body, heartNikki Blantonrunning, run