Monday, April 27, 2009

Running = Happiness?

People undertake a new fitness or weight-loss program because they think the end result will ultimately make them “happier.” Let me help you out. Please don’t do that.

I'm a happy runner, a very happy person really. But, running isn't responsible for my happiness. My fitness level, my strength and stamina, my not being a medical burden on my family, my energy level, my good spiritedness, my positive outlook on life -- yes. My happiness? Well...

Happiness is so subjective. My happiness is based on who I am right now. What makes me happy right now may not make me happy tomorrow, or next week, or 20 minutes from now. I won't be the same person then as I am now; I’ll have had an infinite number of life experiences between now and then that will have changed my perception of happiness. (Imagine, trying to plan a "happy" retirement. Lord knows what’s going to bring me happiness 20 years from now!)

I was about this happy as a non-runner 15 years ago. When I was someone who had never run a 5K, a 10K, the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot, the DRC Half Marathon, the White Rock Marathon. I was perfectly happy (whatever that is) with getting 8 hours of sleep; waking up and having a cup of good, strong, hot, black coffee; showering; eating a bowl of cereal; and heading to work around 7:30.

Now, to achieve the same level of morning happiness, I must also run.

Get 2 less hours of sleep. Slip quietly out the front door in all weather conditions (I avoid running if the temperature is below freezing, or if it's stormy -- OK, so I'm a wimp.) Spend money on 4 extra pairs of shoes each year. Shorts. Socks. Magazines. Fuel. (This is not to say that I don't get all giddy and goofy when I know I'm headed down to Luke's Locker for a new pair, or two, of running shoes. It makes me euphoric!) Endure the aches and pains associated with running (good aches and pains, mind you.)

When I first started running, a 1-mile run made me "happy." Then, it was 3. Then 5. Then 6. Now, it's 8. Until August, and then it's anywhere from 6 to 20 miles, depending on the week and day. When I first started running, 12-minute miles were great. Then, it had to be 11-minute. Then, 10-minute miles. (OK, I'm pokey, too.)

So, for me, happiness and running aren't the same game. They have virtually nothing to do with each other.

Someone tried to turn me on to Nutella yesterday, again. I am the lucky person who has not yet tasted Nutella. She assured me Nutella was out of this world, and that I must try it.

Nutella is not going to increase my "happiness." If anything, it will decrease it.

Right now, I'm someone who has never tasted Nutella. I'm perfectly happy (whatever that is) sitting on the couch after dinner, watching TV, with a handful (or half a box) of graham cracker sticks. One taste of Nutella, and to achieve the same level of happiness, I'm probably going to have to sit on the couch after dinner, watching TV, with a handful (or half a box) of graham cracker sticks -- and a fresh tub of Nutella to dip them in.

This will lead to a higher level of guilt and anxiety, and make my next morning run almost mandatory (just try to calculate how many miles you're going to have to run to burn that off, mister.) No, sir. No Nutella for Nelson.

I'm a runner. I'll never again in my life be someone who hasn't gone for one of those long, exhausting, exhilirating, rewarding, 20-mile training runs. And, I'm so glad for that.

But, don't take up running, or any fitness or weight loss program, because it's going to make you "happy" (whatever that is.) Happiness is going to have to come from somewhere else.

1 comment:


M. Scott Peck:

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.Yours is a nice blog.