0548 – go running every week for mental clarity

I just got home from a run. I found myself thinking, as I often do after my infrequent, irregular runs, that my mind was feeling sharper and clearer than usual. The title that came to my mind for this was “the mind after a run”.

Concurrently, I’ve been trying to retitle my word vomits with directives (“do X”), because I find that they’re easier to parse. Or to be more specific, it’s easier to quickly generate from memory what the rest of the post would be.

The post “the mind after a run” would be a descriptive post, describing how the mind is like before and after a run. The implicit conclusion would be “so remember to run more often”. The post “go running every week” begins with the directive. The natural question that follows is “why?” – and the answer to that is “for mental clarity”. I’m updating the title to include that. The title now has more information than “the mind after a run”. I’m still free to describe “the mind after a run”, which I’ll do now.

Succinctly, my mind is clearer after a run. I believe there’s a lot of scientific literature about this already – runner’s high, endorphins, peak physical condition, the mind is what the brain does, the brain is an organ that requires energy to function, exercise leads to better circulation as well as introduces some other variables I’m not fully aware of, the mind is clearer and I can think better.

Interestingly, running and lifting weights seem to have different effects on the mind. But I don’t know the specifics. I think the body I want will be best sculpted by weight training, but I think there’s also space for some running– out in the open, out in nature, hiking, I don’t know the details yet. I went Googling to look for some reads about it, but everybody seems to have different interpretations depending on what their position is. I’ve picked out a couple of books to read, but in the meantime I think it’s best if I evaluate my own history and experiences.

I’m pretty insecure and ashamed about my lack of cardio fitness. I’ve gotten stronger physically and can squat and bench and deadlift more than I ever have. But I can’t do pullups anymore the way I used to when I weighed 20kg less. I can run the way I did when I weighed 20kg less– and I was never particularly good at running then either. I believe my best ever 2.4km timing was still over 12 minutes– maybe 12:30 or 12:45. I can’t trust my memory on this one, so I’m just going to assume it was 13:00. Now I think I can’t even go below 14:00. I find this to be embarrassing. And so I’d like to make progress on it, and so I’d like to commit to a regimen of getting my ass out and running more frequently. I tend to have an all or nothing approach that doesn’t help. I’d like to work backwards from a 5km run, which I’d like to run at a comfortable pace and just finish smoothly. I think I’ll do this by the end of the year. And I’d have conquered another limiting belief– that I’m somehow deficient in the cardiovascular department.

I know I’ve written a couple of posts before about the virtues of running– I get this flash of insight every time I go for a run, but then forget about it a while later and then have to rediscover it sometimes months later. Is there a way to stop this systemic nonsense? I suppose I should schedule these in advance. Right now I’m doing remedial training for my military commitments, so I can use those as scaffolding. Once I’m done with those, I’ll schedule weekly runs in my calendar, and review my schedule every day / week. Once again it becomes clear that a daily/weekly review is critical to me making progress towards my goals.

Let’s go over it again to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I feel embarrassed that I can’t run 2.4km in under 13 minutes. I would like to overcompensate and run it under 11 minutes or so. Right now I can barely even run continously for 15 minutes, so I’m going to have to work up to that. So I got to break it down. Take 30 minute walks more regularly. My wife has a 10,000 steps/day challenge for herself which she’s been making steady progress on, it would be a good idea for me to follow along with her half the time and get the basic walking muscle up. And I have to schedule sprints and slow jogs.

200 more words to go. How can I maximize my performance within the context of the next few RTs I need to do? I need to sleep well so I recover from any muscle soreness. I need to eat heartily. Okay. Tonight let’s go to bed at 1030pm, and wake nice and early– and if my legs are alright, I’ll go for a walk or a jog in the morning. I’ll probably do another 2.4km to see what my timing is like, and use that as a baseline.

It’s a little frustrating to know that I’ve definitely said all of this before and tried something and failed, but I also know that progress typically oscillates, so I’m not going to allow my past failures to let me give up. Giving up in this context is obviously unpleasant. It’s obviously better to sweat a little more, run a little more– even just purely for the mental benefits, because a clearer mind means I write more, I work better, and I’m just a nicer person to be around (and that applies internally to myself, too.)

20 more words to go. To sum up: Run every week for mental clarity and to shed the limiting belief that I’m this weak skinny frail boy. I’m not obscenely skinny any more, but I’d like to pack a punch.

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