Letters to myself: How running and endorphins allow me to see a clearer picture

Sadly, I’ve developed a lot of bad habits in my life. I drink too much coffee, I procrastinate, and I’m often late for everything. Not to be too hard on myself though, I’ve developed a truly healthy habit over twenty years of rarely letting a day go by without heading out for a run. If it hasn’t exactly saved my life, it’s come pretty close.

When I was single and not sharing the burdens of life with anyone, I felt them heavy on my shoulders. Some nights, the weight of my problems and responsibilities kept me from falling asleep. After glancing through the paper in the morning and having my cup of joe, I’d always put on the jog bra, lace up the running shoes, and head out the door. (I was usually also wearing shorts, a t-shirt and socks.) I recall one particularly egregious period when I thought I couldn’t make the rent AND the car payment AND the minimum on my credit cards. Before dozing off the previous evening, I envisioned skipping the rent and making the back seat of my Toyota Tercel my new bedroom. There was always a way to keep the creditors at bay on my MasterCard, even if in doing so, I got an ulcer.

I ran my four-mile loop that morning, slowly at first and then picked up speed. I’d been angry during mile one, less so during mile two, discovered a spring in my step for mile three, and by the time I arrived back at my apartment, my head was clear. I knew that my financial issues were real, but could be addressed in ways that didn’t leave me homeless. I had a steady job. Money was coming in. I simply had to reorganize and believe in my ability to take care of myself. So what had happened in between a restless night’s sleep and the end of my jog?

Endorphins.

You’ve heard the word before. They’re morphine-like chemicals that our bodies create naturally. While debate exists about the “runner’s high” often associated with endorphins, there is scientific proof that they reduce pain and induce euphoria. A hardy laugh and an orgasm can produce the same effect, but rather than rely on friends to be funny or my partner to be “in the mood”, I’ll pound the pavement, thank you.

Running and endorphins have helped me recover from a broken heart, job loss, rejection, illness and motherhood frustrations, to name a few. I clear my head and am allowed to see a difficult situation not as a mountain, but rather a pile of dirt to be addressed one shovelful at a time. (And it only costs me the price of running shoes – and that jog bra.)

Gotta run.

– Althea