Discovering my body’s switches: why I love running
My body is never so machine-like nor so precious as when I run. On leaving the house on a cold morning, in shorts and T-shirt, I’m like a freshly pupated moth emerging from my bed chrysalis. The outside world feels hostile; I’m uncomfortable and vulnerable. As I begin to run, my stiff limbs reluctantly do what they’re told, whilst the wind gets to work stripping any residual heat from the surface of my skin.
The first minute or so is a series of questions: do I really want to do this; which route should I take; have I gone off too quickly; when will I start to warm up? This is because my body is still in its rest setting. I believe my body has different modes that it switches between: run, rest, eat, focus, sex etc. The switches are slow and analogue, but being in a given state makes that activity easier and more natural. It took me years to appreciate this. After a couple more minutes of running, my body decides that I’m not going to return to my cave and that it must change state to support the new activity. I begin to warm up, my joints soften, my breathing regulates and aligns with my step, I become a passenger. The world is no longer peering at my soft unshelled hopeless body, I am observing it from my running machine.
If you’re anything like me, school taught you to fear running, it is all competition, embarrassment and exhaustion. When you return to it later in life, there is space to discover the different settings and rhythms of your body; the meditation. I’m not a fast runner, I don’t cover large distances and I’m not especially efficient. I don’t compete or run with other people. I go when I like, as hard as I like, and I stop when I like. Sometimes I chase times, sometimes I don’t. I never regret a run.
For most people, running is the cheapest and most accessible form of exercise available throughout life. It’s also one of the most enjoyable, a discovery that comes with age.