A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Nov 30, 2008

Lessons in Running II: The ego filter

One of the amazing things about running for a long ways, or probably doing anything kind of extraordinary, is the reaction you get when you tell other people what you are doing or planning to do.  It's truly amazing how human minds are put together to filter every piece of new information that we receive through our own filter.  Our brains are put together to respond to new information by parsing what that information means to us personally. 

When you're running a marathon you get to experience this all the time.  Here's how the conversation goes:

me: I'm getting ready to run a marathon later in the month.
them: Really? Where at?
me: In Olympia, it's just a little marathon on the Sunday before Christmas.
them: I can't run, I have bad knees.
me: ok.

A good percentage of people, upon learning about something another human is doing, have the involuntary reflex to either join them in that activity or to reject the possibility of joining them based on past accomplishment or personal obstacles.  The funny thing is that I never asked anybody else to run.  I just said that that's what I'm doing. 

I know a number of people reading this are probably recognizing that they've participated in this conversation with me.  I really don't intend any harm or shame in pointing this out, it's just an interesting aspect of how our human brains are put together.  It's almost an involuntary reflex.

So to address the issue directly, I must admit that I do feel in the dark recesses of my mind like many people *think* that they have bad knees or some other personal situation that keep them from running, but just have never really had a good first-hand experience of running. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought *I* couldn't run because of my knees before this year.

I know that in the past I've started running and made some bad assumptions that ended up causing me to give up on the whole thing before I really got out of the starting blocks, so to speak.  I would become inspired to run and put forth great energy to do so, but without prior knowledge on how to best get started I was doomed before I ever started. 

I would figure I would try to run a mile at 10 miles per hour, which seemed to be a pretty low baseline to start running.  I would start these self-directed programs without a good pair of running shoes, figuring my gym shoes would probably work until I met some kind of criteria for commitment that would make the trip to the fancy running store worth it.  I wouldn't have much more direction or much more of a plan than to run as far as I could until I felt tired and then walk until I felt like I could begin running again.

The problem with my approach was that I was trying to do far too much too soon.  Since I was out of shape I would get out of breath easily, and then I felt like I would need to stop. I felt terrible for not being able to run for farther and the whole enterprise would be kicked off in a state of failure and shame.  Not an inspiring place to begin a new routine.

So what did I do differently this time around?  Really I kind of lucked into figuring out a better way. 

I've tried off and on over the last few years to start running, usually linked to an attempt to quit smoking.  This time around was no different.  I quit smoking in July of 2007 and with that event came the same jittery nervous energy that always accompanied quitting smoking.  I was looking for an outlet for all that bottled-up crazy when I ran across a blog post on lifehacker about the Couch to 5K program.

I bought a nice pair of expensive shoes from the fancy running store and I've been jogging since. After the 5K program I moved on to a 10K program which had me running 3 days a week and now I'm nearly done training for a marathon. 

It's funny because this is not something that would probably have been possible for me if not for the internet.  It is this particular delivery method for the message that would get me active. More to the point, I can't think of any other way I would ever be able to successfully start running.  I'm that kind of self-directed, personal research biased, own-counsel-holding person who needed to read all of the information and educate myself before I was willing to give it a true go.

I do think that at least 80% of the people out there have the capability to run at some level.  It just takes knowing how to get started and how to manage the program so that we're not overdoing it right out of the box.  If you don't choose to run, that's fine too.  Just because I like broccoli doesn't mean the whole world has to eat broccoli, but let's recognize it as a choice.  The biggest lesson for me is to remember to congratulate others on their successes before I put my ego-filter on and go through the list of why I can't do the same thing.