Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning to Love Running: Books along the way!

I know runners. Only a few of them, as they are a fairly rare breed. All but two of these runners look as fit as most of the early morning runners I see out when I drive to work. I've often envied them for their sense of priority, level of fitness, and commitment. But I've only once before attempted to join their ranks.

The first time was a somewhat haphazard attempt that involved a new pair of shoes and some horse trails. I don't think I did more that three runs, and the dream faded.

I recently posted this on a running web-site in response to someone who was just getting back into running. He was looking for encouragement as he was starting over:

"I'm just starting out... or actually five weeks in. I'm moving out of "sedentary confinement."

I was very active in my teens and twenties, and played racquetball well into my 40's. Now "playmates" are harder to find, so I'm turning to running. I'm 58.

My first race (5K) is in two weeks. My son runs, and so does one daughter. They've been encouraging me some, but mostly it's  been books that have helped me: The Quotable Runner, Running for Mortals, The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Running, Wooden: A lifetime of Observations on and off the Court, and now I'm starting The Accidental Athlete.

I'm talking it slow and trying to avoid injury on the way to improved fitness. I'm just barely at 12 minute miles over a 5k distance: run 3, walk 2.

In the past I've only exercised as a by-product of having fun: playing sports. Now, I'm attempting to fall in love with running and a life of training. My goal: Run 1/2 hour three times a week, with off days of strength, flexibility, and balance work. Plus a few "spa" days thrown in as needed.

Long post. Hope it's helpful."

I'm re-posting my comments here because it contains clues as to where I've found some of the information and motivation that has helped me persist on my journey of improved fitness.

My nephew John stopped by with his wife and new baby yesterday (Easter) to say, "Hi." He mentioned that my FaceBook posts on running have got him thinking of taking it up again. I think a history of shin splints which hobbled him some time back. I was pleased the my postings have served to motivate. That's one of the main reasons I write.

"Motivation for change is always difficult. Staying motivated, almost impossible."

That has been my thinking for a number of years, maybe even decades, but for the last few years, I'm trying to reprogram myself into thinking more along these lines:

"I choose to be in charge of my habits. I let it be easy."

"I choose to move forward towards my goals at an easy, sustainable pace."

"I choose to achieve my goals, with the surprising help of God and others."

And, "I choose to let my future unfold at its own pace. Opportunities find me."

Positive change is exhilarating, affirming, and empowering. It's also fun. I believe that much of what limits us is our own unchallenged thinking about the difficulty level of positive change. If we can escape the flip-the-switch-into-a-new-life mentality and instead adopt a little-by-little-sustainable-pace mentality, then I think we'll enjoy life more as a Process-Of-On-Going-Improvement. A POOGI, as Eli Goldratt calls it.

I used to be more fit because I had more fun and played more. I'm rediscovering the joy of movement and athleticism. I'm moving toward adopting a new and improved life-style of fitness. I'm letting it be easy. I'm enjoying the journey. And I'm listening to the helpers who are cheering me on, including those who write books.

One of my runner friends used to say, "By the yard it's hard, but by the inch it's a cinch." Pace. Outlook. Improvement. Let it be easy.


  1. Don, I am sure these methodical, intentional changes in your life will be an improvement. Does that sound good? I hope so. The word "change" (although so important and so needed in so many ways)has not usually been a happy one for me. When I was a kid and aware of other kids changing, I usually felt the change was for the worse. When people have used the word change to apply to me they seem to have meant it as something positive, but I have seldom agreed with them that I had changed in any essential way (though I try to keep that to myself). There is a lot of change that makes us less sensitive, less humble, less aware. Mastery sometimes is sometimes a defence against these virtues.

    1. "I usually felt the change was for the worse." Someone has said, Change is the only certainty. Things are always changing. The status quo is often an illusion. The question often isn't about changing or not changing, it's about managing the change, it's about being proactive and not reactive. When I changed churches some years back, they put me in charge of moderating a committee that was examining changes in the church that the old timers didn't like. The breakthrough solution that we arrived at that was considered a win-win was, "To make changes at a reasonable and sustainable pace in keeping with the core values of the church community." As long as the core values were considered and honored, old timers were okay with change, aka growth. That's what I'm talking about. Perhaps change is a multiple meaning word that isn't always negative.

  2. One thing I try to do is seek what God has made me to be; what God intended when he thought of me. If I take time to listen to God, then God will speak to me about this. Whatever this is (if we do this faithfully) is probably "core values". I think that is what a church should want to be. It is what the "old timers" often have wanted, and what they want to be respected.
    A deception in the concept of change is the fact that in a community that is "on the margin" like Washtucna, there are "old-timers" who don't want changes introduced, and their resistance is a kind of denial of what their grandparents wanted when they settled here as pioneers. A rejection of change is (in this case) a rejection of core values. What I meant by change often being negative was that people have sought change instead of reformation or transformation. In really small places none of the plans or models or methodologies for success or for change that one finds in books (or anywhere else for that matter)applies. Such models always miss something essential. Such approaches are always generalities and are, therefore, unreal.

  3. @Dennis: "What I meant by change often being negative was that people have sought change instead of reformation or transformation."

    I agree. Another good word, one I think you use, is chrysalis. And I agree with your approach: "One thing I try to do is seek what God has made me to be; what God intended when he thought of me. If I take time to listen to God, then God will speak to me about this."

    In some ways, what you describe in your personal approach is a methodology.

    What I might question is this, "n really small places NONE of the plans or models or methodologies for success or for change that one finds in books (OR ANYWHERE ELSE for that matter)applies. Such models ALWAYS miss something essential. Such approaches are ALWAYS generalities and are, therefore, unreal."

    Some approaches, the good ones, have built in flexibility that account for the unaccountable: one such approach is prayer and listening to God.

    The Universal Traveler (a classic on analysis and design) states in its title that it is a "A Soft-Systems Guide to: Creativity, Problem-Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals." True, it is man's wisdom, a methodology for teaching draftsmen to become architects, but it doesn't preclude prayer nor planing.

    Good change often comes once one understands the problem. Jesus was often a change agent, who saw issues that others didn't. He asked questions that others often didn't.

    Sometimes solutions are epiphanies reached by different methods. I agree, that there are no silver bullet methods. That probably even includes prayer. Sometimes, when Jesus healed, he didn't use prayer, he used spit. ;-) (One size doesn't fit all, especially in dealing situations that are, as you say, "on the margin."

    I finished The Accidental Athlete today, and one of the themes or take-aways from the book, was that the author learned to face problems because that's what athletes do. As Christians, we have a similar mindset: "Nothing is too hard for God." Or as the hymn writer put it: "Faith mighty faith the promise takes and looks to God alone. Laughs at impossibilities and shouts, It shall be done."

    Hope you enjoyed your Post Easter trek.