There are quite a few things I really enjoy doing. Running is not one I’d typically include on that list, for a number of reasons. It’s hard. I’m overweight. And right now, in July in Indiana, it’s hard to find a time when it’s not hot and/or humid. But, for some reason, every time I get out running, once I’m into it for 10 minutes or so, I start wondering “Why don’t I do this more often?”

There’s something about getting out there, moving past the initial stiffness, soreness, out-of-breath-ness, and everything else that goes into the first 10-15 minutes, that often holds me back from doing something I know is good for me. And today, I want to take a look at what it is about running that really does make it worth it for me, in a way that I can perhaps start to find what motivates me and integrate that into my life on a more regular basis.

I think what I like most, what I even need the most, is the focus running requires of me. As I start off, I’m normally distracted by a day’s worth of responsibilities and thoughts, and that distraction makes it easy for me to feel like “needing” to burn some calories is just another thing I have to do. But once I make it past that initial wall, once I get into what is somewhat of a zone for me (and that zone actually involves being quite tired), it takes all I can do to keep putting one foot in front of another. I can no longer think through what I left half-way done at the office; I can no longer write code in my head; I can no longer even think through the list of things I did that day.

What motivates me, what makes me “enjoy” running, is just that. My mind and entire body has to finally focus so intensely on one thing that I really can’t do much else. I’ve found myself able to listen to audio books and even my Daily Audio Bible, but I can’t “over-analyze” it like I often do. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting down with a book, or the Bible, and really “digging in,” but all too often, I don’t see the big picture because of that deep search for meeting. When I run, I find myself forced to stop talking (even in my head), and just listen. No underlining great quotes, no outlining key verses, no dog-earing pages to come back to later. I might well miss something, but I am finally able to just listen.

Another thing I find myself capable of doing is talking freely… whether it’s to myself about “you can do this” or praising God for simple things or just raising my hands because I can’t find words, it’s once again the simple things that are finally All. I. Can. Do.

That’s why I run, I guess… because it takes all that complexity that makes up the 18 hours of being awake I often have my eyes open for, and allows me to put it in a box, set it aside, and spend half an hour on simple things. Listening. Big Pictures. Prayer. Praise.

I often think I’d be able to do better if I had a partner to run with. Maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s not. I might well wind up talking about those complex things that I really need a break from.

I find this same thing applies to a few other places in life. Often, it’s a form of exercise. Biking kind of works, but doesn’t require so much attention to all of my body. Digging trenches, that works. But that’s not something I can just go out and do every day. Lifting weights actually works pretty well, also, if I can keep myself clear of focusing on the incremental improvements I “must make” and just pushing myself as far as I can go.

So I guess that’s why I run. It’s not so much that it rejuvenates me (although at the end, it certainly does feel that way). It’s not so much that it energizes me (again, it certainly does). But the real need that it meets in my life is removing the complexity, stress, and tension of the day and pushing all of my energy into things that are simple (yet still demanding and useful).

I need to remember this. Because I often forget what motivates me in areas like this, and focus on calories I might burn (not motivating) or amount of progress I must make (again – not motivating). Even “escaping” from the complexity does not sound all that motivating, so I really think I need a positive, “voice of truth” statement… so here we go.

I value simple routines that demand everything I can offer. I choose to step back from the complexities of life to refocus myself on things that are truly important to me through regular exercises such as running, listening for the “big picture,” and offering simple yet true praise to my Creator.