BradStulberg is the author of a book often cited by the fastest man in the world, namely Eliud Kipchoge. Building on the outcome of scientific research linking the benefits produced by running and sporting activity more generally on the human mind, Stulberg delved into five aspects of our lives in which the influence of running is dominant.
We often talk about the importance of using habits to change behavior and improve our lives, which is why we found Stulberg’s reflection in his “The Practice of Groundedness” which departs from the usual observations regarding, for example, the effects of running on the body and mood to understand how runners’ lives are enhanced by physical practice.
One of the pieces of advice Brad received that he felt was most important came from an experienced runner on his first marathon. He told him, “You have to learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
In other words: running teaches you to better endure the effort and, as a result, to scale back everything else that comes your way. You will find that you are less irritable and put everything in perspective. That discussion you had at the office? No big deal, in a few days it is already forgotten. A discussion you wouldn’t have had before and now you face more calmly, or, more generally, not letting events overwhelm you.
You can now handle much better and with less anxiety situations that used to make you uncomfortable. This happens because you have raised your threshold of resistance to physical and mental fatigue, and you can put them to use to make yourself comfortable in discomfort.
In short, running does not cancel out perception of fatigue but makes it more manageable.
Running also teaches you, simply, to do one thing at a time and to do it being present and focused on what you are doing. Exactly as in running all you can do is run (and think, in the meantime).
Life is constantly disturbed by a thousand distractions, and running is one area where one is legitimized not to be distracted. Another characteristic of it is that it is a keystone habit, in the sense that positive effects cascade from it and radiate throughout the rest of life. An example? Paying attention to one’s body signals during a workout sharpens one’s ability to listen to signals from the environment, making us more sensitive to environmental stimuli and to the people with whom we live or hang out. In short, it teaches us to be present in the moment, thus welcoming every stimulus and listening to it.
All of the athletes Stulberg spoke with agreed that their success depended not on adherence to the program they had set for themselves but rather on their ability to accept that they may or may not succeed.
If you regard it as the law, it is obvious that not complying with it would result in frustration. If instead one accepts that results are built through long, hard work and adaptation to conditions that can be highly variable, one can only develop patience. Or wisdom, if we want to call it something else: the one that teaches us that instant gratification exists but is ephemeral and that solid, lasting gratification must be built over time: over weeks, months, sometimes years.
You cannot know how to do everything; you cannot succeed at everything. This seems to be the main meaning of vulnerability: having weaknesses.
Viewed from a different point of view, however, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities are also indicative of aspects of life and physical fitness in which we can improve.
Acceptance of not succeeding is not the end (I can’t do it, I give up) but instead is the starting point of improvement (I can’t do it now but I can do it one day, or at least I’ll try).
Another aspect of running that makes it even more powerful in addressing one’s weaknesses (physical or mental) is that it forces us to do so publicly: if we run a bad race, we do so in front of ourselves but also in front of hundreds of other people. Most likely they don’t care at all what time we did, but even the mere fact that we made our weaknesses public can be an incentive to overcome them, not to be ashamed of them.
Community and sharing
It is often said that runners are like a tribe. It can be physically in case you run with friends or a crew but, by extension, it is also a virtual community to which you feel you belong.
Human beings are social animals in the sense that they seek companionship to find internal balance and to feel accepted. The origin of the community, however, has a much more practical reason: people hunted more efficiently in groups. In short, community is a way to enhance individual capabilities that are amplified by a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves.
Which does not take away from the fact that running is still a very individual sport, although it can also be enjoyed in a community.
In fact, the beauty of racing is not only to test yourself but also to do so with thousands of other people, knowing full well that the chances of being better (faster) than everyone else are slim. In short, it does not matter to win but to do something with others, feeling a strong connection that makes us feel that we belong to something bigger than ourselves that makes us stronger at the same time.
(via Trail Runner)