Tag Archives: mental-health

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiHow it was possible for me to get this far in life without realizing there was a book out there that combined my two loves: running and writing, is beyond me. This book, of course, is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

This book is only 180 pages. Short and poignant, it is a collection of short essays written by Murakami while training for yet another marathon. He describes his many experiences as a runner, including training, running races, and how all of it can be related to his writing.

To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t run enjoying this book. A writer may pick up this memoir to glean some wisdom about writing–which there is some–but I don’t think there is enough to satisfy someone with no interest in physical fitness.

But for me, it was the perfect mix. I have always said I would never run a full marathon, but having just run a half marathon and  now, having just read this book, I am starting to think a full marathon might be a reality for me sometime in the future. This book was inspiring in so many ways. As soon as I finished, I laced up and ran the fastest, most enjoyable four miles I’ve run probably ever.

One might consider this book a bit self-indulgent, which is exactly what Murakami said he feared in his introduction. It felt like he was working through his own thoughts, never really drawing helpful conclusions so much as, raising questions about life. At times I found this a bit frustrating, like reading someone’s diary, but at other times, I found it really human, and I appreciated knowing that this amazingly accomplished writer and runner has the same fears and concerns that I have, and works through them with the same uncertainty as I do.

As a runner, I really appreciated the discussion of his training and race experiences. He describes a grueling experience running the original marathon race in Athens, and his seemingly unbearable trial of human strength running an ultra-marathon. The details he gives of the pain he felt, physical and mental, remind me of many of the thoughts and feelings I have experienced as well. (And also solidified my resolve to never run an ultra-marathon because it does not in any way, shape, or form, sound fun.)

Below, I have excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book:

“When I’m training for a race, I have to show my muscles who’s boss. I have to make it clear to them what’s expected.” Page 72.

“Even if there were two of me, I still couldn’t do all that has to be done. No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is kind of a lifeline to me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.” Page 73.

“What’s needed for a writer of fiction — at least one who hopes to write a novel — is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years. You can compare it to breathing. If concentration if the process of just holding your breath, endurance is the art of slowly, quietly breathing at the same time you’re storing air in your lungs…Continue to breathe while you hold your breath.” Page 78.

“Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.” Page 83.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I appreciated it both for the wisdom is imparted, and  for inspiration of a shared human experience. It made me feel like I could pour my love into both writing and running, and that I didn’t have to choose one or the other to place my focus. Most of all, it made me feel like things I have been unable to even comprehend attempting are possible and achievable.

I’ll no doubt come back to this book for a pick-me-up every so often. It only took me a few hours to read, and it provided just the push I needed to get myself off the couch, out the door, and back putting one foot in front of the other.

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I really needed that nap.

Pillow ProfessorSometimes I get up in the morning and all I can think about is how happy I’ll be to go to sleep that night.

I try to maintain a fairly regular sleep schedule to avoid days like these, almost never staying up past midnight anymore. Instead, I try to get in bed by 10 pm, read for an hour, and be asleep a little after 11 pm.

Then, I set my alarm for 7 am and usually hit the snooze button a few times. I lay in bed catching up on social media on my phone for a bit and eventually, around 8 am, actually remove myself from under the covers and start getting ready for the day.

That’s a solid 8-9 hours of sleep a day.

So why did I feel the need to come home and immediately nap today? Maybe this was exactly what my body needed and I just had to listen to it.

This is a lesson I feel like I keep having to re-learn. While I was training for the Cap City Half Marathon, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was always exhausted because I was running so much. My body desperately needed the time to heal and recover.

And last week, when I took more rest days than usual, I wasn’t sleeping very well at all. It was as though my body didn’t know how to react to my not feeling completely exhausted from constant workouts, so it caused me to wake up at weird hours and never feel fully rested.

Last week finally caught up with me today and I just had to nap it off.

It’s important to listen to your body, especially when it comes to sleep.

Do you remember those online quizes you could take that would tell you if you were sleep deprived? I took one back in high school and answered “yes” to almost every single question. I don’t know how I even functioned back then! I wish I’d had the time to take naps during those years (a luxury I later took advantage of in college) because I think I would have done much better at everything I was doing (which was a lot.) Yet, somehow I made it through, and  looking back, I can’t believe I accomplished anything with how little sleep I was getting.

Now that I am an adult, I try much harder to get the sleep I need, and I think I am 100x healthier for it.

Don’t take sleep for granted! There may be more you have to get done in a day than there are hours for, but you only have one body, and it needs sleep to recover from everything you’re doing–not just physically, but mentally as well.

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My UnDiet Week

CookiesI admit, I have completely phoned in my eating habits this week. I haven’t been on a run since my race, and I have been eating like….so many cookies. I have made an effort to eat fish twice this week, and some attempts at some hearty vegetables, but such efforts have been completely overshadowed by the  2-3 helpings I’ve also been having. Not to mention the various snacks and boozy beverages. All in all, it has not been a very healthy week for me.

I keep telling myself that tomorrow I will try harder–workout, and demonstrate some self-control–but then I get bored or tired, and that all goes out the window. Did I mention how much I love cookies? Because that hasn’t been helping either.

This probably stems from the fact that I no longer have any particular reason to be out running. I’m not training for a race and I haven’t set my sights on any specific goals yet. I have looked for races, but I haven’t found any in my area that I’m interested in. And when I’m not running, I tend to let my eating get away from me. On days when I work out, I am much more likely to stick to my goals. Go figure.

I think everyone has days/weeks/months like these. It’s normal. I read a bit about post-race depression and how common it is after a big race: it’s like there is a hole where the race was occupying for so long. Clearly, I am trying to fill that hole with food.

But I’ll let myself have this week–just this one. I did run a half marathon after all. But once this week is over, I really need to settle back into a set routine. The weather is beautiful and I am wasting these perfect running days by being lazy and sitting around on the couch. (I am, however, getting lots of reading done!)

Sadly, before I can build up a running routine again, I am really going to need a goal to work toward. And probably to learn more about running in general. Next thing to add to my reading list: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.

 

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What gets you up in the morning?

Serious question.

What gets you up in the morning?

When the alarm goes off and you open your eyes to see the sun peeking through the blinds, what is it that ultimately gets you to throw back the covers and swing your legs over the edge of the bed?

The logical answer here is that you have to be at work at 9am so you can earn the money to pay your bills.

For most people, this is the answer five days a week, and on weekends, you lay in bed for a few extra hours because it’s not like you have anything you have to do, right?

One day after work, I was sitting at home and watching TV, and I just started crying. Suddenly, I realized that this could easily be the rest of my life: Getting up and going to work, coming home to sit around, eating dinner before heading to bed, only to repeat the process all over again the next day. I was suddenly very, very afraid.

If that’s all I have to look forward to for the next 40 years, what is the point of living? Honestly, if all I did every day was go to work, eat, and sleep, what would be the point of it all?

At 24 years old, I never thought I would honestly be asking myself to identify my reasons for living. I mean, this is is my prime! I should be more excited about living now than any other time in my life, right? Then why was I suddenly feeling so depressed about my routine?

The fact is that for so many years, school had given my life meaning. Working toward graduation was this ultimate goal that propelled me forward. Once that was gone, I felt like I was floating. What was I working toward now? And I realized, from here on out, I was in charge of creating my own motivation. The universe wasn’t going to provide me with any more freebies.

It’s scary to suddenly feel that kind of freedom. It is 100% my choice whether or not I spend every day after work doing nothing, or if I use that time to work toward something I want.

But what exactly do I want?

This becomes the bigger life question. Before, all I wanted was to be done with school. Mission accomplished. But what now?

Well…I want to be a published writer; I want to have an exciting career; I want to be an accomplished runner; I want to live an exceptional life.

Then dammit, I had better be using my free time to work toward these goals! Screw sitting in front of the TV after work.

It’s moments like this when I grab my running shoes and lace up, or pull out my notebook to scribble down some notes.

Growing up is scary and I was not prepared for this part of the process. I thought it all came naturally, falling into your lap as you moved forward, but that’s not the case.

With freedom comes responsibility–you’re in charge of your own life now. What do you want, and how bad do you want it?

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A Body In Motion Tends to Gets Shit Done

If I have learned anything from post-grad life, it’s that unless I absolutely force myself to do something, it will probably only happen every 5-6 months.

Since graduation, I have written exactly one complete story and have revised absolutely nothing. This is devastating because I am not doing the very thing I went to school for 5 years and earned two degrees to do.

And it’s much too easy to convince myself that I am just too tired after my six hour work day to go for a 30-minutes run.

The hard truth of it is that in school, you need very little self discipline because you have hard and fast deadlines to adhere to. Post-graduation, that’s just not the case, so one must develop some serious self-control in order to actually get things done, even things you legitimately want to do (because there will always be an excuse not to).

How do you go about cultivating some self-discipline?

According to the first link I found on google, one must:

1. Develop and Follow your Priorities

2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal

3. Challenge your Excuses

4. Remove Rewards Until the Jobs is Done

5. Stay Focused on Results

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For me, personally? I’ve made a few strides in getting myself to actually get things done, and the number one reason is this: I adhere to a schedule. And I don’t let myself slow down or blow it off.

I am finally in the office every day, so when I come home, the work day is actually over and there is a separation between work and play. This is particularly crucial because after working from home for 5 months, the lines began to blur and I started to seriously resent my living room couch.

So now, when I come home, the first thing I do is: sit for a moment, have a small snack, drink some water, and then I immediately go for a run. I’m usually tired, kind of want to make dinner, and really just want to watch tv–but no. It’s 30 minutes, I have no reason not to go.

When I get home from my run, I shower and feel like I have accomplished something.

And it is that that feeling of productivity that keeps me going. Without feeling productive during the day, I get depressed, feel down on myself, and then proceed to accomplish NOTHING.

It’s all about inertia. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so start your day by being productive and keep being productive.

Come home and go on your run. Come home and write your story. Sure, take a small break, but don’t turn on the TV, don’t lay on your bed–keep yourself in the mindset that you aren’t done for the day  just yet.

Because the minute you sit down and stop, you stop for the night. At least in my experience, it is really hard to get moving again, and that’s what has been killing my productivity. Don’t let it kill yours too.

 

 

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