Now that I'm forty-nine and holding, I find that I like a good ponder now and then. It is strangely liberating that pointless ideas are now free to pop into the mind space formerly occupied by things like romance or social life. Hmmm...maybe those are issues to ponder some other day.
Right now I'm thinking about running and I'm hoping that writing about it will have the same health benefits as actually doing it, like putting on your gym clothes with every intention of going to the gym but never actually getting there for whatever reason. It's my theory that the act of putting on and wearing the gear kicks up the metabolism a notch.
Something should be clarified: I use the term "running" rather loosely since it implies moving fast, which I do not, but the use of the more apt word "jogging" seems to have gone out of fashion since the first time those high-waist, satin-edged jogging shorts were all the rage. So when I say running, you understand.
In my foolish girlhood, I used to run to be thin and I made no bones about it. My life was for a time dominated by an ongoing calorie count where calories-in were carefully weighed against calories-out and I was ruthless as only the young can be about trying to adjust what I saw as the gross imbalance. In that way, my healthy activity, running, became complicit in my decidedly unhealthy obsession with thinness. Looking back, I can see that I was skirting the perimeter of eating disorder territory, sometimes slipping through the fence into its heartland. For example, I would worry whether an apple was "medium" or "large" because of the difference in caloric values if I ate the whole thing. Food was tied to guilt, as was failing to go for a run every day.
I was lucky and this obsessive phase passed. I escaped full-blown anorexia or bulimia after a few months when bingeing and vomiting lost their limited appeal. I was able to move on in life with good friends and by growing up a little. Many young people are not so fortunate, which is heartbreaking, whereas many people, like me, can safely look back at a brush with eating disorders and apply the wisdom imparted by the years to see where things went wrong.
Today I run for different reasons. Being fit is still a big motivator for going running. I know that I won't gain weight (much) with moderate indulgence if I am taking some regular exercise and that is important; I still want to look good. The difference is that now I am more likely to talk myself out the door by thinking of how it will make me feel mentally and physically than to tell myself I must run to make up for eating six chocolate chip cookies. These days I do it for the endorphins. I do it to put a spring in my step and because running around getting all sweaty makes me feel free. When we were kids, it was part of playing out. Running is something young people do and I see no reason to stop.
I no longer count my calories and I no longer feel compelled to run every day. In fact, my knees thank me for not running every day and for considering a brisk dog walk a good substitute sometimes. If only I could pass these realizations on to my niece but I don't think she will listen. She's got youth clamoring away on her I-Pod.
© Julia Barr 2010
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