The Jist of Joyful Running

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I say “the jist” because this is my personal take on what is called “joyful running”. I have learned that I am not the only person to coin this phrase, and since I’m not the first, I won’t take credit for it. However, it is a concept near and dear to my heart and I am a BIG FAN of running joyfully. Please read anything on my blog pertaining to “joyful running” and understand that I mean this phrase as it pertains to my ideas and experiences, and not in reference to actual joyful running programs. I’m thrilled that they exist, however! A zeitgeist of joy is on the rise, my friends. And so, these are what I would call the rules according to me if I didn’t want you to be joyful. But I do! I want you to practice joyful running with me! And to be joyful, I don’t think we can follow rules, per se. Let’s just have some guidelines, shall we? The jist, if you will.

Here are the basic principals of Joyful Running with me, which I follow, my-own-self.

1) Always run outside. Always. Treadmills are the opposite of joyful, to my mind. They are the Killers of Joy™, damn them. Save treadmills for test situations, such as pace timing, targeting heart rate, etc. And learn how to gauge those things outside of a gym situation, on the road, either with gadgets or intrinsically, so that you can leave treadmills completely behind. Leave the treadmill to the gym rats and gleefully skip out your front door for a few miles instead. Running outside has important benefits, such as varied terrain and sunshine.  These lead to truly happy moments which are unavailable on a treadmill. That said, running outside carries with it inherent risks too, I admit – but with a minimum of preparedness, these are easily dealt with. RUN OUTSIDE. ALWAYS.

2) As an extension of #1, honestly – Run in the rain.

Okay, now, some of you may have read my story of the Monsoon Marathon, and you know that was utterly miserable. I had mild PTSD after that sucker. Took me a year to run in the rain again. (Ish.) That’s not really what I mean when I say run in the rain. If it is monsooning, please stay inside and joyfully do jumping jacks, or read a book, or… whistle along with your pet canary. <— possibly a euphemism.

That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I’m talking about is normal rain. A light to moderate rain certainly won’t kill you. In fact, it’s downright fun to run in the rain. So, drop the excuses. Take the appropriate measures to avoid blisters and dress in layers – and then GO! Be a little extra careful around traffic and spots that look slippery. Puddles? Splash in them! O yes, you shall.

3) Get your howl on. Purchase some reflective clothing (and a headlamp if you’re so inclined) and grab a pal, then go run in the evening. Maybe along the beach, maybe in a well-lit park, or a safe neighborhood. There’s something really fun about running under the moon and stars. Organize with a group of running friends and run each month during the full moon.

4) Free your mind. Not in the Matrix way – that involves pills and machines and a whole lot of evasion training. I mean this: free your mind of nagging worries ahead of time, especially  your safety. Purchase a Road ID or two. I have one on a chain and one for my wrist, for different occasions. My husband and kids have them. Put $20 in your running belt and keep it there always. Don’t touch it unless you absolutely have to. ALWAYS CARRY A PHONE. This way you know, without  having to think about it, that you have (a little) money for an emergency and in the event of a situation which involves your incapacitation, you can be identified and a family member can be contacted immediately. Really. It’s important to have your ass covered and your mind free, unhindered by worry, free to be joyful.

4) Incorporate play into your runs. Skip occasionally. If you run through a playground, take a turn on the swings or a slide, maybe even swing across the monkey bars. When you stop at a corner for a light, lightly hop toe to toe, or jump up and down 5X, or do jumping jacks. Hey, do a little disco or reinvent the cabbage patch, I’m not judging. Not only does this introduce plyometrics and other forms of functional exercise into your run, but it breaks up the monotony and makes you smile. A sure path to joy is play.

5) Naturalize intervals. Along the lines of Fartlek training, really. Use markers along the route you’re on to integrate periods of slowing down, speeding up, etc. As in, “Okay, from this bench to that palm tree two blocks up I will BUST IT OUT.” Or, “Ooh, sweet! A VW bus up ahead. I’m gonna skip like a hippie from that bus to the stoplight three blocks away.” You see? Let your inner child tell you what it wants to do. Intervals are exceptional training, but it doesn’t always need to be so damn serious. Also, people will look at you funny when you skip like a hippie, and that will make you laugh, and lo! You will be joyful.

6) Smile, and if you have the breath, briefly greet each and every elderly person you come across during your run. It is a gift that you can run. For them, it is a gift to be walking out in the sunshine, and your smile and breathless “Beautiful day, isn’t it?!” may make their week. This will fill you with joy. Don’t believe me? Just try it. Also, the next time you’re in a race and an 86 year old gramma passes you, I bet you a nickel she smiles at you when she does it. A smile is free, give it away freely. Spreading joy brings joyfulness. Simple as that.

7) Same goes for kids and dogs. Smile and greet them. Assuming that neither are yapping at your heels. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you are joyfully greeting most everyone you come across on your runs. Even a nod at a fellow runner or a cyclist starts feeling like “the thing to do”. The point is – your body is able and willing, and that’s a gift. Show this in simple acts of joy and your own cup of joyfulness will overflow. Yes, I’m a hippie. In case you didn’t know.

8) Okay, this one is really important. Are you listening? Or did you tune out in that daisy field that was numbers 6 & 7? Snap to, corporal. Pay attention to this one! ALWAYS TRAIN ACCORDING TO YOUR ABILITIES. Yes, you have to stretch out of your comfort zone a bit to improve, each and every week. But! Be smart. Increase mileage gradually. Test out new shoes judiciously. Changing your running form? Great! Do so slowly and patiently. Learn the basics of good form and go at your own pace. Learn how to improve without pushing yourself into injury. Injury is the Thief of Joy™. It is exceedingly frustrating, so be smart and use your brain to maximize your time on the road.

9) Chew your proverbial cud. Maybe you set out on your run with a specific idea in your head that you want to really sort out. Maybe you just have a lot on your mind and you want to cogitate through the miles. Allow your body to do the work and give your mind the freedom to just wander. Whether it’s to distract yourself from your problems, or to sort through them, set your intention ahead of time, so that your run can remain focused. Of course, make sure you remain aware of your surroundings, but otherwise, think your way through the knotty stuff while your feet fall. When you get to the end of your run, you’ll feel remarkably lighter. Perhaps – dare I say it? – perhaps this will lead to more joy overall.

10) Run without headphones once in a while. I’m a lover of tuneage, I admit. Love my music while I run. But! Once in a while, ditch the technology. Let the sounds of your environment accompany your run instead. I can’t tell you how many times this has paid off for me. Just by dint of free association, I’ve had many a joyful chain of thoughts come from an overheard snippet of conversation or a bird being wonderful. That said, I find great joy in my music as well. With the caution that you should never have your music so loud that you can’t hear cars or surroundings, run with music all you want.

And there you have it. The jist of my own personal joyful running practices.

See you out there! ☼

~m

CAVEAT: I am not a professional trainer, coach or athlete. I’m just a regular gal who trains for triathlon and other events. Please use common sense and don’t get hurt. I’m not a doctor, I can’t tell you if you’re fit enough to do specific movements. But I definitely don’t want anyone to get hurt, so be your own best coach and only do the above workout if you feel like changing up your run a bit and you are physically fit enough to do so. This is simply me sharing my feeling that exercise, even hard exercise, should be joyful. ❤ ☼

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