Overcoming My Dislike of Running By Thinking Of It As Work

I have always disliked running. Futile, tiring, and boring. No euphoric rush for me. It is too mechanical and repetitive. (I think the same about swimming. I have swum regularly for years, but after 15-20 minutes I am done, bored.)

However, I have developed a workaround. I made it a work project.

As a pandemic goal, I decided to run a 30-minute 5k run on the treadmill that was gathering dust in the garage. Figuring that to go from zero runs in a decade to a swift run was technically possible but probably body destroying, I decided to be methodical and map out the journey:

  • start at 75% speed (7.5 kh/h) and 75% distance (3.75km).
  • Complete initial run – to prove I could do it without killing myself!
  • run 5-6 times a week and slowly increase both duration (by one minute) and speed (by 0.1 km). 
  • Give myself the feeling of growth (mindset) and record breaking on a continuous basis – but without a lot of mental stress.
  • every day I get better, statistically (even if some runs are easier than others and some days I don’t enjoy it at all)

It took me 5 weeks; and I did it this week.

That, in itself, was a simple system / strategic approach to the goal, but within it, I refined the process mentally, and decided to make it a work project.

I found each run had certain stages:

  • First 3 minutes – out of breath, uncertainty, pacing/stride issues. This is why, if I was just jogging down the street for no reason, I would probably stop soon enough, feeling “unfit”.
  • next 10-15 minutes, some ease, rhythm. Almost enjoyable. “I am exercising and it is good for me!”
  • next 10 minutes, boredom. Is it over yet? Why isn’t it over yet? “Surely I have exercised enough?!”
  • last 5 minutes, I am almost done! I can do this! “I accomplished something!”

Just like work.

I start on most of my projects with a good intent (“Exercise!”). I soon find myself flailing around, winded and unsure. It is an easy point at which to stop. Nothing much invested, no grandiose promises made. A reflection that maybe I can’t do this (aka unfit). Running is not for me.

However, if I persevere, usually something interesting emerges and I get into a certain flow state. I am learning, growing, making. I see the value add in front of me (the kilometres are eaten up). Running is ok over the short term / distance. I can run if I want to.

Then, slowly at first but reaching a crescendo, I am distracted, bored. The work has lost its lustre. A new shiny project emerges. I need a reward – now! I fancy a cup of tea. Stopping is the easiest reward available. Parking the project, moving on. Running is boring, although I can do it.

Over the last 5 weeks I have reached the finish line, every day. I have given myself these small accomplishments, these victories. The work is complete, it is out in the world. Suddenly, running is more comfortable. I get up the next day ready to work again. It doesn’t feel like Monday morning after a big party weekend.

Now I have set myself some new targets, more minutes, more speed, more increments. More work.

This Much We Know.

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