There is something about the act of exercising that seems to encourage a sense of camaraderie and openness with fellow athletes. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the physical detachment from ordinary protocols, the shared sense of commitment to a goal, or the mutual understanding of borderline masochism that comes from spending all of your free time, come rain or shine, in your trainers/swimming costume/climbing shoes/other item of sporting attire.
I find this is especially the case when running outside in the rain, dark, or freezing cold, when I know I’m being driven by a certain kind of insanity, which extracts a degree of pleasure from such discomfort. At these times, the knowing nods and shared sympathetic smiles from fellow runners seem all the more ubiquitous and all the more sincere.
Likewise at races and events, it commonplace for even the most taciturn English folk to help and encourage each other. At TM this extended to (quite literally) standing on each other’s shoulders and to receiving an enormous, very welcome, bear hug from a stranger, while I was stood shivering – an act which in normal life would have seemed totally inappropriate.
As a result of this over-sharing propensity brought out by exercise, my running partners know more about me than perhaps they would like. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I also know an awful lot about them too, as the impact of running on one’s candidness is, thank goodness, a two-way street.
Similarly, one of the best things about writing this blog is the messages I have received from readers telling me about their health and fitness achievements, their aims, struggles and aspirations. Whether it’s running 5k without stopping, trying a vegan diet for a week (or more), entering a race, learning to swim, or just taking some guilt-free breathing time to unwind and relax, I love that through reading my trails and tribulations readers feel able to let me know about their own progress and pitfalls. It makes the whole project seem all more like a team endeavour – so thank you team!
In this spirit of this open honesty, I think it’s important to declare that while I love exercising, there are of course days when I would much rather snuggle up at home than go out into the dark and run, and on some days this desire manages to override my desire to train. I have days when even short runs feel difficult, when I’m slow, when my limbs feel heavy in the pool, when my coordination abandons me or my memory for a dance routine absconds and I find myself flailing in the studio. Like everyone, I have days when I drink too much coffee, or eat the wrong things, or have funny food fads (at the moment its carrot batons – I just can’t get enough of those crunchy little orange guys!).
But I think it is also possible to embrace these ‘off’ days and weaknesses and turn them around as points for improvement and focus. At the moment I find running first thing in the morning, pre-shower or breakfast, really hard, and it really takes me time to get going. So I’m starting my early morning running programme, because sometimes I think it takes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to really progress.
I will leave you with a video which really crystallises this tendency to open up when running and I look forward to oversharing with you again soon!