I never was much of an athlete. Think of the boy that is laughed at in school and never picked for the soccer team – you get the picture.
I started running and even doing 5k, setting my goal at 10k has a markable effect. You don’t need to run a marathon in order to enjoy the benefits of running. And I am not only talking about the cardiovascular benefits.
I mean the idea of accumulation. Making the experience that you are actually building something, in this case stamina, is one of the greatest motivators. It tells us on a deep, pre-conscious level, that we are capable of improvement. We understand with our bodies what our mind may have denied us if we have worked too long on numbing jobs: that if we keep trying, we will get better.
When I began running, it took just a few days before my body started craving healthier food. Once you know that, it is a very easy request to fulfill: We take to the Internet and find good people like Michael Pollan or Mark Hyman to understand roughly what is good for us, such as fiber, no processed food, fresh fruits and vegetables of all colors.
Running works as a trigger of a positive feedback loop: The more we run, the more our body craves healthy food, the better we sleep, the better we can focus at our work and/or our passion (blessed be those for whom those two are identical). Eventually, the idea that we can improve, that we can push our perceived boundaries takes hold between our deepest convictions, where we will nourish it with every time we run.
I am no longer that weak kid during PE class. I know, not just intellectually but viscerally, with every fiber of my body, that I can improve and be among the achievers. I think that what I am doing with running is re-wiring my neurons for a different social role than I have assigned myself as a child.
It is a wonderful feeling and applies to my ‘real’ life right away. As a writer, I used to think of my fiction as an oddity, perhaps of interest in a niche market. I couldn’t picture myself taking center stage (literally) to promote my stories of contemporary satire. Who would like that stuff? It is not hard to see that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So I shed it. I write stories that are valuable. And this belief has grown stronger than a mere rational conviction: It is permanently replenished by my body as my physical shape improves.
To say it with David Goggins, stay hard!