20th May 2020
Alex is a mother to two children under six, living in Barcelona. Here she talks about a new found love for running
I have taken up running. And I hate it. I am not a natural runner. I am not a graceful gazelle bounding lightly across the pavement. I am a small elephant, lumbering painfully across the tarmac. Running is something that I have resisted as a legitimate form of enjoyable exercise for all of my 34 years.
Being of the petite variety and generally described as “athletic”, it has long baffled friends, former teachers, and not least of all myself that I am so awful at running. You would think that running would be one of the most instinctive, natural movements a person can do, given our ancestors’ history of running to safety and running after prey. Surely all the time I spend running around after my children would count towards becoming a good runner? But no, it does not. And I am not good at running. Yoga, yes. Dance, yes. Even cross fit I can struggle through without completely embarrassing myself. But running continues to elude me.
we now frequently run at night when our respective children are asleep and our husbands are home, guarding the fort.
Living during a pandemic, in a city being demoted again and again to Phase 0 quarantine, the need for exercise is great and the ability to exercise at home with children is of minimal proportions. That is where running comes in. It’s free, it brings you out of the house and you can pretty much run anywhere (within your quarantine zone).
I was initially conned into going for a casual run by a long, loping Amazonian friend of mine who took me up a vertical hill to start. She said I seemed a bit tense and needed to “loosen up”. Fast forward 2 weeks and we now frequently run at night when our respective children are asleep and our husbands are home, guarding the fort. We run anywhere and everywhere within our 1km radius and we run whilst laughing and crying and comparing the highs and lows of the day.
One pleasing element to running is that the learning curve is short and agreeably steep. I am already able to run to the green park at the top of a mountainous hill, close to my apartment. This type of stamina is particularly important when one needs to leave the house at speed to reach a “safe space” to scream.
The more I run, the more I learn how much I need to run. I have learned that when you are running there exists a moment, just beyond the end of comfort and edging alarmingly close to the point of collapse, when your body releases, your resistance crumbles and you begin to move more easily and fluidly. You seem to flow. Some days I get to this point of “flow” much faster than others. Some days it eludes me completely and I grudgingly stomp my way up the hill, glaring at those smoothly gliding past me.
From what I have gleaned from forums, runner friends, and my marathon running brother, is that running is all about mindset. A mindset that allows you to take things step by step, whilst equally maintaining the long-goal in mind. A perfect balance of control and release. It requires discipline; a discipline that allows you to manage a light concentration on vital things, like breathing, whilst also trusting that your lungs know how to do their job without you micromanaging them. Because the minute you start trying to tell your lungs HOW to breathe, you end up semi suffocating whilst simultaneously tripping over your own feet.
The current crisis is, unfortunately, a marathon, not a sprint.
This particular type of mental discipline allows a person to be both adaptive and controlled at the same time. To have a goal and the steps to reach it, but to also accept that there are things (people, capabilities, situations, emotions) that cannot be forced. This kind of mindset can only be beneficial to say, a parent with a small child, teenager or toddler, or any person living during a time of stress and crisis.
So often our first instinct is to either react aggressively or to accept passively a new and stressful situation. This is evolution at its’ fight or flight finest. The current crisis is, unfortunately, a marathon, not a sprint. We need to do our best to pace ourselves, to choose our actions over our jagged reactions, and to try our best not to trip over our own feet along the way.
Read more: After 48 days, my 4 and 6-year-old were allowed outside. It was heartbreaking
Read more: Motherhood is relentless. If I could jump ship right now, I would. Without a second thought
Read more: As a parent, this is what I want the ‘New Norm’ to look like
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