From a Still Body And a Racing Mind
To a Racing Body And a Still Mind
I’m constantly trying to find new ways to improve not only my mind and body but my life as a whole really. It could be said this journey of mine started back in October of 2014, when I made the decision to stop drinking altogether. Once I made that decision, I was left far more free time than I knew what to do with. I’d occasionally get the idea to go to the bar and in an effort to combat such thoughts I began going for walks everyday.
I had read how walks in the sun and in nature in general help with anxiety, stress and depression, three things I’m certainly no stranger to.
Though my walks helped get me out of my head, they became somewhat dull and monotonous. Walking seemed uneventful and aimless.
I decided to take up running almost two years ago and though I’ve joked in previous posts about having no fucking idea why I run everyday, I truly do love it. I started out running one mile, five days a week.
As my speed and endurance increased slowly but surely over time — I began adding additional miles to my routine. At my peak, I was running as much as five miles on an average of five days a week. I live in Philadelphia, where the winters are bitterly cold. As someone who absolutely despises the cold, those distances tend to dwindle in the winter. During the coldest periods I tend to run two miles, maybe four days a week.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an overactive mind. Thoughts on top of thoughts, which I once believed I had no control over. The negative and anxiety inducing kind that never served me and instead made peace of mind practically impossible — at least my thoughts thought so.
One of the worst things I can do to myself when I’m stressed, anxious or depressed, is nothing. To try and lay still and quiet in those moments for me is like a mental version of Chinese water torture. Whatever it is that’s bothering me has a tendency to just replay over and over in my head, building up steam as it goes until I’m consumed by it.
I’ve dabbled in meditation and though I found the idea behind it somewhat helpful, I really struggled to work it into my regular routine. I downloaded the meditation app Head Space and after the ten day free trial was over, so was my attempt at taking up traditional meditation.
But I was still determined to find a way to quiet or regain control over my own thoughts and mind. Sitting still for ten minutes with my eyes closed in silence seemed to be doing me more harm than good. There had to be another way.
I’m a voracious reader and one of my favorite authors is Ryan Holiday. I buy any book he writes and check his Medium page for new articles regularly. I also follow him on Instagram, where he tends to post pictures and stats of his daily runs to his ‘My Story’ section. It helps keep me motivated.
Ryan is not the first writer to find a connection between running and writing but he has written about it extensively and regularly. In addition to running, he also swims regularly and somewhat intensely. He has described swimming as his form of meditation. A way of quieting his mind essentially.
In his recent article The Timeless Link Between Writing and Running and Why It Makes For Better Work — Ryan describes running as “How writers cope with writing” which I found to be not only brilliant but remarkably true.
I described my mind as overactive, which one could misinterpret as an asset to a writer. Well, it is but it isn’t. It’s a gift and a curse. It’s great for brainstorming on ideas for my next article, coming up with titles for posts I’ve written and finding ways to try and improve my writing but on the other hand it can be distracting to the point of debilitation. Yes, as a writer I need my mind to be active but I need it to be calm and focused as well. Running helps.
One of my biggest obstacles as a writer, is stress. When there is something I’m worried about, I find it extremely difficult to focus on anything but that thing. During those times, I not only find the thought of sitting down to write impossible but when I finally bring myself to do it — I struggle to write anything worthwhile if anything at all. Running doesn’t make the problem go away but it helps me clear out the mess and dig through the rough until I finally find a diamond.
Running has been a true saving grace for me not only as a writer but as a person. I’ve read endless articles about the connections between strenuous exercise and mental health, about how good it is for people not just physically but mentally as well. There is something about running— that like Ryan Holiday said — helps me cope with writing. Not just writing but living and it’s hardships. I’m just glad I’ve found a way to finally slow down my racing mind.