In my experience, when I first wake up in the morning, my early decisions are pivotal to how I will feel during the remainder of the day. Snooze button or rise. Scroll through my phone aimlessly, or play some music that I really enjoy. Eat something habitually, or drink water and allow my body to wake up gradually.
These kinds of small choices have a knock-on effect on my mood, energy, and even ambition throughout the day. To put it simply, in my experience, the manner in which you begin a day will govern the direction of that day thereafter.
In that sense, I believe that living as we do in a COVID-19 reality, it’s more important than ever to master your days, rather than allow them to hold the whip hand over you, and your mental well-being.
Most people right now, if not everyone, is feeling the same thing. An omnipresent sense of pressure. Pressure about the future. Pressure about the impact on career, on young children, on future economic stability, on friendship, on relationships. The sort of pressure that’s inescapable.
There’s no antidote or action to combat the situation, and seemingly, the only remedy can be inaction. And while we all wait for this time to pass, we can’t help but slowly suffocate at the prospect that moments of our lives are slipping past as we watch, powerless, like watching grains of sand pass through an hourglass.
The beauty of running
I’ve always enjoyed running. It brings with it a sense of achievement, a euphoric high that usually accompanies the end of a voluntarily embraced hardship. It also brings a host of small side benefits like a healthier heart and lungs, if you’re into that sort of thing, as well as a serenity of mind that seems to be increasingly valuable, in an increasingly chaotic and distracting world. It’s no surprise then that it’s proved to be one of my foremost coping mechanisms during the endless lockdowns.
Originally, I used to work during the day on whatever projects I had ongoing. At the height of lockdown measures, being able to run at night would serve as a motivational tool throughout the day. I’d feel reassured that this feeling of a collapsing world in which we’re enveloped wouldn’t have the last laugh. If I could handle the slow cooker of the new daily life, I’d be able to purge my body and mind, and go to bed more peacefully, and maybe switch off. And that’s still the case.
However, in recent times, I’ve changed the routine. Running is now my priority. Running first thing in the morning, deciding to run first thing in the morning has been life-changing. Making running the first task of the day is hard – make no mistake about it.
But it harks back to those early morning decisions. Picking a time, willing my way onto the road, and doing what I said I’ll do, creates a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat. This approach still incurs all of the feelings of euphoria and health benefits afterward, but the added feeling of victory permeates the rest of the day.
A tool of empowerment
Suddenly, each little element of daily pressure is diluted. Each little problem in my mind holds less power over me. By changing from evening to morning, I found that running was no longer a saving grace or thread keeping me hanging on. It was a tool of empowerment. I’d weaponized my body and mind against the intrusive negativity of the day. Suddenly, I didn’t need a release from stress. I was the master, and problems were subordinate to me.
“Plan what you’ll eat afterward. We all know from childhood that small, regular rewards can be a huge motivating factor.”
This approach is particularly potent at this time of year. If running early is hard, running early in cold weather is formidable. But that’s the beauty of it. Living a locked-down life is a challenge. It’s a challenge of spirit and resolve. It’s a war of attrition. And so is running.
The victory of running lies in perseverance and maintaining discipline, knowing that only in the event that you stay the course will you achieve the light at the end of the tunnel. When you step into the cold, quickly you’ll realize you have two options. You can be static, you can concentrate on the pain, and the discomfort. You can second guess yourself, and you can succumb to the need for cheap and easy comforts. Life’s electric blankets, literal and otherwise.
Or, you can move. You can move forward, with direction and purpose, controlling what you can. On a small scale, you can choose how far to run, at what pace to run, what music you listen to. On a broader scale, you’ve already chosen to take action, to lead, not to spectate, or become a victim of circumstance.
What you’ll find is that forging a running regime, and sticking to it, builds exactly the same kind of fortitude that will serve you through the ongoing, overhanging, suffocating COVID lockdown. If lockdown is the new normal, then it’s vital that you’re able to create some new normality of your own and not simply have it dictated to you.
Now, it’s important to understand that running was my outlet. There may be one or more reasons that you’re unable to run. In that case, try applying the principle to another activity. Yoga, knitting, weightlifting, reading a book, even waking up earlier than normal just to create the impression that you’re enjoying a long lie. The vital aspect of this is that you make time for yourself at the beginning of the day, and you dedicate that time to something that you hold to be personally worthwhile.
Challenge yourself enough to be engaged, and hold a sense of accomplishment, but don’t overwhelm yourself so as to feel discouraged. COVID lockdowns are stealing time and emotional sanctity from us all. Make sure you reclaim what is yours.
Ultimately, this regime is a test of mettle. Like any daunting task, preparation is key. Therefore, the following steps can be utilized to make establishing this new lifestyle a little bit easier. Or, to say another way, leave you with fewer reasons to back out:
- Prepare clothing the night before. Ideally, prepare clothing that looks good and fits well together. While this may seem redundant, the adage of “look good, feel good” can be pivotal in motivating you onto the road. It even helps to shower before and after. This gives the running the sense of a proper activity, instead of an annoying task that is holding up the rest of your day.
- Plan what you’ll eat afterward. We all know from childhood that small, regular rewards can be a huge motivating factor. I recommend planning something healthy but appetizing to eat after completion. Perhaps even complete some of the preparation of food before-hand.
- Have a playlist prepared. From spine-tingling guitar riffs to more subtle sounds, anything emotive can really help to keep you on the path. Below is a playlist that I recommend for a 30-minute run.
- Above all, embrace the challenge with a positive mental attitude. Worthwhile things require two elements: perseverance and effort. It will pay.
Currently, I reside in Oslo, and luckily for me, the city and surrounding nature offer a wide variety of running routes. A personal favorite is to start at Ullevål stadion, up to Sognsvann, once around the lake and back. The benefit of a run like this is that you can stop or start at various points or add in additional laps, and so the route can be altered in length without difficulty. This is also a pragmatic way to measure progress and keep things interesting.
Recommended Playlist, in order:
- April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel
- San Francisco – Scott McKenzie
- Blackbird – Martyn Bennett
- Space Lord – Monster Magnet
- The Regulator – Clutch
- Shake a Fist – Hot Chip
- Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor) – John Murphy
Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.
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