Finding My Center

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t brimming with anxiety.

As a child the focus of that anxiety centered on crossing paths with the neighborhood bully. In high school it involved issues of acceptance. In college — fear of the future.

My anxiety as an adult mostly manifests itself around work. Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right thing with my life? Does what I do even matter?

I’ve tried different ways of dealing with anxiety throughout each phase of my life. When I was a child and young teenager that mostly involved getting lost in video games, online chat groups and books.

In high school I flirted with track. I also became super-obsessed with my weight. (Luckily, I also found a solid set of friends at the local swim club where I worked each summer.)

From college up until my early thirties (I’m now 43) I drank too much, ate too much and smoked cigarettes.

When I fully realized that the combination of those things wasn’t really helping me in any healthy or substantial way, I decided to try something different.

My motivation for the changes I’m about to share was not completely altruistic nor that radical. I was 31 when I bought my first house, overweight and very single.

I quit smoking because I was worried about new home expenses. I then started regularly running to lose the extra-extra weight that I gained after I kicked my smoking habit.

I started out by run-walking this little three-mile loop around my new neighborhood. Once I started seeing results (i.e. weight loss) I knew I needed a bigger goal if I wanted to keep this running thing going.

In the summer of 2010 I signed up for my first half marathon. For non-runners that’s 13.1 miles. I downloaded a training program I found online and never missed one of the proscribed workouts.

Me standing with the race director after running my first official 5K. I placed first out a field of four in my age group. šŸ™‚

I shed pounds and felt great. I’m not sure when I learned about the “runner’s high” but at some point, I realized how centered I felt. Work interactions and esoteric questions of purpose became more manageable.

Please don’t misunderstand, anxiety was still there, just not as much as it once was.

That decision to run a half marathon led to running a full marathon the next spring. I have since run 15 full marathons and multiple shorter races.

I’ve made some great friends while training in various running groups too. I met my fiancee at a running event in 2018.

I also learned to love the occasional long bike ride. Friends also introduced me to yoga for stretching and meditation for mental dexterity.

So, why am I writing all of this? Because 2019 was the first year I didn’t train for or run a full marathon since 2011.

I popped the question to my fiancee at the beginning of 2019. I then got super-sick in the spring before she and I bought a house together.

My life got busy. That’s what I told myself anyway.

Truth is, I was getting burned out on running. I lost some of my passion for marathons in 2016 after putting my heart into four months of training hard, only to flame out around mile 18.

My growing apathy toward running became this gradual thing. I started skipping workouts, discovered phantom pains and kept promising myself that next race season I would mount my big return to marathons.

I slowly started stacking back on the weight as well. I began taking a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. I found it increasingly difficult to keep my stress at bay. My excuses for not running only fueled those feelings.

I finally hit a bottom of sorts in the fall. The grand total of miles I ran for the last month of 2019 equaled what I used to average in a normal week running solo.

I knew what I needed to do. It was just getting my ass out there and doing it that seemed so hard.

Then I listened to a podcast centered on cliched ideas and behaviors surrounding New Year resolution. The message was simple: Humans aren’t built to vaguely chase big, far off goals. What works is plans that create long term habits and some short term rewards.

I did not set grandiose goals for myself when the spring marathon training season began this January. Instead, I signed up to train for a half marathon with my regular running club and promised myself to at least try to run all of the prescribed miles.

So far so good, even if I did skip a Saturday morning group run because I didn’t want to run five miles outside in a steady rain at 39 degrees. I got in the miles later in the day by running on a treadmill.

I’m not actually 100 percent certain why I’m sharing this in a blog post. I think it is mostly for me. I write sometimes to articulate my motivations to myself sometimes. Weird right?

I also think that it is worth sharing with whoever might be reading this. We are not alone.

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