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Give up your "have to"

I remember meeting up with friends on Thanksgiving Day for a rather large social run. As we were deciding which course to run, one of the guys said, “Well, I have to run 6 today.”

On Thanksgiving?

I realized so much of my life had been dedicated to training for “the next” race. It was a lot of thinking ahead rather than recognizing what circumstances you’re currently encountering, and how your training might fit in with that.

Mind you, forward thinking and setting goals are important. If I knew I was training for a race, especially a long endurance race, I was much more diligent in my training. It helped motivate me to get out and exercise when my lazy self just wanted to sit at home and eat cereal.

But eventually you ask, “Why am I doing this race? Am I trying to prove something to someone?”

There are a lot of people who enjoy racing because they enjoy the community. I see pictures from my friend Vicki, and it is abundantly clear she is having a blast. I saw her at a Starbucks one day after her race. She was with a group of six or so friends, and they were laughing and carrying on. They didn’t take racing seriously.

On the other hand, I remember not performing my best at a 10K. I had trained really hard for it, but my results didn’t show it. Although I was with a group of friends, we all stood around and ruminated about our performance. It was quite different from Vicki’s experience.

The last race I did was November. It was an 8K, so only five miles. I used to be able to bang out six miles any given day, but since I hadn’t been running much, I knew it was something I had to somewhat train for.

Hear that? “Had to.”

I took a different approach. Rather than focus on a PR, which I knew I wouldn’t get, I was just focusing on trying to get my body to accept feeling good about the running process. Rather than trying to run “fast” by doing intervals and such, I just focused on movement. I noticed that my hips weren’t getting around like they should have. I noticed that I wasn’t placing my left foot on the ground quite like I placed my right. I worked on making my strides more even, which meant I walked a lot.

I noticed that although I was doing a lot of walking, I wasn’t waking up the next morning absolutely sore. Even that day I felt good. I pushed aside desires to get somewhere at a certain pace. I just focused on feeling good each day.

I actually wound up “running” much faster than anticipated. I didn’t care that it wasn’t a pace I had accrued several years ago. I just enjoyed the movement in itself. I didn’t “have to” run—I just wanted to.

So now I aim to put in about 25 miles each week—not because I “have to,” because it’s something I enjoy. If I don’t give myself a goal, then it won’t get me out the door when it’s 25 degrees. But I also give myself limits—I don’t want to do more than that because the devil of “have to” might want to kick in again.

Our own life should be like that. Ask yourself what you do because you truly enjoy it. And then ask yourself what you do because you “have to.” Then consider if your “have to” is worth it in the long run—pun intended.

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