5 Life Lessons from Running

Life Lessons from Running  |  The Fresh Exchange

About 3 months ago Mike began reading a book called Born to Run. Many of our friends had told us about this book, especially those who were former athletes in high school and college. I hated running all of my life. I at one point was placed in gate training to learn heel-toe running because I always ran on the ball of my foot and was told how wrong it was. I felt I was never good at it even as a college soccer player. I struggled to find joy on the days of running punishment. Place me in a game and I loved it, but just running..no way! So, when Mike told me he started reading it I was immediately put off by the idea of getting in to running. I was always told it was bad for you over the longterm, but then as he began telling me what he was learning I began to see another perspective. The stories of hearing about tribes in Mexico running miles in the mountains and how heart disesase, depression, auto-immune disease, and everything else that plagues our society are virtually non-existant. It got me really curious, so I began reading the book. It wasn’t long before Mike and I decided to buy our own minimal running shoes and make this happen.

I have always known that I have a body that wants to be challenged. The happiest place for me growing up was always the soccer field. I felt that there I found my limits, and I learned that I could push beyond them as well. I lived for the competition and the challenges that each day presented. I am a girl who has a body that one day of a solid yoga session makes my abs stand out but 2 days off shows just as quickly. My body needs to work so after reading this book and hearing the women who did the best, I knew I could truly enjoy running in a whole new way.

When I began and took the suggested changes in to account, I found as someone who struggled through 1 mile…I did 3 without blinking.  The following moments were not as easy and this had by no means been a breeze to get better. I have learned a ton about myself and honestly I crave running now. I love the freedom, the challenge, the silent moments with being present with just me, and the opportunity to try different routes. For the first time that high I knew as a soccer player is coming through on my daily runs. So, I thought I would share the 5 major things I have been learning lately from implementing this new routine in to my life.

1. You define yourself, nothing else does: 
I have hidden this inside for a while because it is a huge insecurity in me, but lately running has shown me that we choose what we find insecure no one else does. My family has a terrible genetic issue with varicose veins and at the ripe young age of 25 I began experiencing my own. At first it was nothing other than a bulging vein on the back of my leg, but quickly I felt the pain and weight of what these little guys can do. As someone who has always felt invincible when I am active and working out, I felt literally physically and mentally crippled by the pain and energy they drained from me. This last winter I entered a vein center as one of the youngest patients they have had and had them taken care of. It was an embarrassing 3 month process of wearing stockings under leather pants and a lot of painful evenings with my legs raised while watching TV. It was a sad time, but my doctor told me, “Megan you will never not have problems, but you have a choice to be more active and pursue a life that will make our visits with each other less frequent.” That was when I realize in the most mortal and physical sense that we define our own limits, nothing else does. That being said, the best thing for my legs is intense blood flow and what is better than running. I have been honestly insecure to share about this part of my life with all of you until I found ownership over my “limits” when I began to run. There is nothing that defines us more than the choices we make and everyday is a choice to define yourself in a new way no matter what. Any day is a good day to redefine and choose your path, why not today?

2. It is all mental:
People told me all the time in soccer that running was all mental and I hated that. It made me think I wasn’t mentally tough enough or that I was weak in some way, which is something I hate feeling. What I realized is that it is all mental but not in the way everyone told me it was. Instead, running is a true high when you do it right. When I finally had my first runners high I became addicted. It took me over in every way. Just the other day I was crushing 4 amazing miles. I ran next to the bay and I felt my body want to speed up so I did. Looking at the water and hitting a higher average speed began to bring tears to my eyes in the strangest way I have ever experienced. I felt happy all day and I felt so free. My mental clarity after I run is the best thing ever. The amount of work I can pour out is worth it alone. So yes, running is all mental; it is all about clearing it all out, putting it in perspective, and placing you in the present.

3. Anything worth doing is never easy no matter how long you have been doing it:
This sounds weird, but no matter how many times I run my 3-4 mile run in a week or month I still struggle through that first mile. I still have to find my rhythm and each time there is a new pain I have to shake out until I reach mile 2 or even 2.5. Thinking about it I realized that all of life is this way. No matter how many times I sit down to create a blog post or work through the brand strategy for a new client, it is new every time and there is always this period of time of finding my footing.

4. It isn’t about how fast but about how well:
As an athlete we were given certain times we had to hit in order to receive a place on the team, so running to me had always been about how fast and never about how well. Since readjusting my theories and perspective on running, I run an average 11-12 minute mile. The whole time I could hold conversation with someone. Sure this is why I can run 3-4 miles everyday, but it is also what makes it extremely enjoyable. That 40 minutes is all about focusing on the world around me and remaining present on how my body hits each stride, where a pain has arisen, and how the next stride could make it disappear. My goal is to keep a consistent heart rate and time that proves to me that the whole time I listened well to what my body was telling me. Too often we focus on getting to the end with the fastest time when in actuality it isn’t about getting there, but about taking our time to find our rhythm and place of perfection that fits us.

5. You have to begin somewhere, why not here?
Before we left for Europe, Mike made me go to REI and buy a pair of minimal running shoes so we could begin adjusting to the footwear. I remember thinking, why are we doing this now? But he said we have to start somewhere, why not right now? I thought you know that’s true. So, there I was buying these shoes and thinking gosh will I really ever run a half in these? I still haven’t, but 3 months later I can consistently hit 4 miles without a thought and enjoy it and think about maybe going again later. If he had never forced me to go that day, when would I have started? It keeps me in check whenever I think about when I want to start something but just don’t because I keep waiting for the right moment…now is the right moment…and that’s the truth.

I would love to hear about your thoughts on running? Do you run? Do you hate it like I used to? Let me hear your perspective.

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  1. Oh, I’m so intrigued by this book! I don’t despise running but I’ve only gotten into the habit of it twice and often say I prefer just about every other physical activity. There’s something so simultaneously convenient and challenging about it though. Maybe I’ll try a third time once I settle into life in LA 🙂 keep at ’em, Megan. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. i love this! i started running as soon as i got the OK from my doctor after having my second baby. i realized that, while i was skinny, i wasn’t strong. and i wanted to be a good example of strong and healthy for my new daughter. it kind of clicked right then that i had to do something. i finished my first 5K in march and i’m running another one in a week! those three miles are so rough for me though. i have pretty bad asthma and need to take three different medications just to be able to run but it’s so worth it. the pride and satisfaction i get from running is like nothing i’ve ever experienced before. i used to say “oh i can’t run.” period. end of sentence. now, i’m proud and so happy (and super surprised!) to say that i’m a runner. i run a minimum of 10 miles a week and i’m thinking of starting to train for a marathon!

  3. I recently took up running but have hated it all my life. I started doing a mile in about 15 minutes and now I can do two in about bout that time. I can happily say I’m addicted now but struggle to find a good time to run since I am a proud mother of two boys ages 4 and 10 months. I usually try to run on my treadmill in the afternoon but, I feel as though I am taking time away from my little ones. Any suggestions? I would really appreciate some feedback.

    1. Hey Adriana! Thanks for commenting! I highly suggest picking this book up as I think it will help get you even more motivated. I do not have children, but having a demanding business I feel is as close to that as I get right now which means the moment I find that slot in the day I take it and make the most out of it. That being said, maybe it is worth getting a jogger and making it an adventure for all of you and also making it a learning experience. Them seeing you work out and enjoy being outdoors I think would also set a good example for them in years to come. Even as your 4 year gets older, maybe see if he/she wants to ride alongside on a bike or something as well so you as a group are enjoying this time together.

  4. Such a great post! During my 3 miles this morning, I realized that while I am totally falling short on investing in my retirement accounts, I’m investing in myself and living a long healthy life with every mile I trek…even those days I barely nudge 2 miles, better than none. My life is always better when I am consistent on my trail runs, and they give each day a purpose and an accomplishment as one of my first acts of the day. Running + yoga have become more than physical, but are my personal spiritual avenues!

  5. I love everything about this. And your honesty is so refreshing. I also suffer from vein issues, and as a 26-year old it’s embarrassing! I am not my grandmother! I have always been an athlete/crossfitter but running still gets me down. Thanks for the encouraging words and book recommendation. I love your blog and hope to meet you and Mike at a workshop one day now that you’re down the road (I’m in Winston Salem). Well wishes and happy running!

  6. I love your commentary, I think we all have goals for ourselves, and sometimes we have to step aside and see the path we have taken, realizing the accomplishments we have made. I personally can’t run, for issues with my back, but head to the roads for a walk or to the barre for some sweat time to clear my headspace.

  7. I have experienced those same tears welling up during my runs! It’s a combination of pure joy and a sense of pride in accomplishing something you didn’t think you could do. I’ve had a few runs during training for half marathons where I had absolutely NO desire to run. I would drag myself out the door, push through those first few miles, and just like you said, find my groove around mile 3. I would finish exhausted, but so proud, and almost surprised with myself for not giving up! Running is the best!

  8. Love this! I’ve struggled to get back into running post baby, especially since for me it used to be all about hitting times and setting a new pr every weekend race. I’ve been learning to run just to enjoy it and to make myself healthier both physically and mentally. I’ve got my sights set on a half in the fall.

  9. Megan–Super inspired by this. Oddly enough I played soccer too and I hate running, never noticed it on the field. Have you noticed any physical benefits such weight loss, inches loss, etc.?

    1. Oh my gosh yes! Also you don’t want junk at all. the diet they talk about in this book is awesome and right up my alley. I highly suggest reading this as an athlete. Mike and I both have lossed inches more weight as muscle is developing rapidly because of the form you hold. You have to have abs and they form on their own.

  10. I worked at a minimalist running store for 3 years in university and read Born to Run almost 5 years ago now. It is an incredibly inspiring book and I am glad you were one of the lucky forefoot runners, who doesn’t have to fight against years of heavy trainers forcing a reliance on extra (typically unnecessary) support. Soccer players are quite lucky in that regard, I was one for about 19 years of my life and I thank my no-frills cleats for making it really easy for me to put on minimal trainers, keep calm and focus on my form. Running is a joy and I am glad the US in particular has started picking up the most basic form of exercise. Keep running those zombie halts, ya’ll, keep it weird America!

  11. WOW I went in to the doctor even younger.. I think I was only 19 or 20 when I had my leg surgery and they said my veins were as bad as an 80 year old lady. I started running after that – I don’t want to rely on medicine to do what I can do for myself with hard work. Running does not come naturally to me – at all, but in sticking with it it taught me a lot about myself and my body. I started to not look at it just for how it ‘looked’ but what it could do, food was fuel instead of just food… running really can be therapeutic. And you’re right on with #2 also – it’s SO mental. Based on whether or not I’m in a self deprecating mood I can run 5 miles straight or I can struggle and stop after each one.

    Thanks for sharing about your vein issues – and the running.

    1. So glad we are not alone. When it happened at such a young age I felt pretty depressed about it especially when I didn’t have the sexiest legs for a 25 year old and thinking I hadn’t even had kids scared me, but now I know none of that matters. Taking care of myself is the best thing I can do. So glad you chose the same route 🙂

  12. I just started running so this article really helped me. I like the last part of just starting somewhere. I tell myself that all the time. “Don’t worry about how much you’re going run, just start.” I use this when I don’t want to go. Excited to get to point where I get my first runner’s high.

  13. Thank you for sharing this perspective! I’m a runner too and I love how you place the importance on what running does for you mentally and emotionally instead of on your time or distance. I think that is so important and a lesson many of us runners should learn!

  14. In my younger days i was a gym runner. i did quite well there. never thought to run out in the open. until i meet my husband and he showed be how liberating it can be. I find myself every time on the track. Its like a reconnecting to me. i have hard days i have good days. sometimes i end up crying when i run.. kinda like a good orgasm. the release of the pressure of everyday stuff escapes be with every step forward. If i dont run and i have those periods where life is too hectic, my back will ache and that means its been too long. and my running shoes want an outing. so i totaly get what your saying.

  15. I just decided to start running recently and loved reading your post. I’m starting slowly and going once a week, every friday, to keep myself accountable and it’s been pretty good. I used to run with my boyfriend and barley made a lap around the park. I realized now that running by myself I am much more focused and can easily run so much further, which obviously makes me feel amazing. It’s not easy in the beginning but every friday that I go out I can feel myself being able to run just a little bit further then the previous week which is so rewarding.
    Setting goals and slowly reaching them!

  16. You sum up running so well! I have been running on and off since high school, but I am currently in an off season. Grad school got the best of me, and I unfortunately let my passions take the back burner. Reading your words have reignited my love, and I can’t wait to get my shoes back on. Thank you so much for your insight!

  17. Amen to everything you said. Something I also enjoy about running is its ability to take me into the present moment. When I’m running, I don’t care what I look like, what anyone thinks of me as I zip past; it’s just a time for reflection and perseverance. And I always, always, feel good afterward. No matter how hard the run was.

  18. perfect timing. i just bought a new (not my first!) pair of running shoes. I always struggle with consistency. just had to take a break for three months after an injury and been procrastinating to get back into running for weeks already. it’s not easy for me to keep a regular workout routine up. but I shall try again, and your words inspired me just at the right moment 🙂

  19. I’m obsessed with this post, it’s brilliant. I have to read the book. I’m so happy you found joy and happiness in running and shared your experience with your readers. Loved every word!

  20. great post and tips. it truly is so personal, and you have to start small. I started out only running a mile and then slowly worked up to my first half marathon last year. if you can keep it up, the training pays off. i also definitely agree on #3, no matter how many miles i run, i usually don’t feel good until mile 3, it’s always hard to get through those first couple miles, but if you can, it’s worth it and you learn to love it! i’ve also found that if i have a race to train for, i usually find it helps me get motivated. good luck!

  21. I have been a runner since I was 14 and sometimes it is still a struggle but the rewards are far greater. I am thankful for your insights here- they inspired me during my quick training run last night. I hope that you continue to love this sport- it is one of the most natural things we can do as humans! I love reading stories of American Indians or Mexican tribes who run to meet the sunrise- I hope that one day I will live somewhere where I can do that, as well. Be well, and run free.

  22. I just discovered you today on Pinterest and I am so inspired. I ran the NY marathon 2 years ago for my 40th birthday, crazy cool experience. I loved this article so much that I am sharing it today as my inspiration to get back to running, gathering outdoors, connecting with my friends. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Christa from Outdoor Trunk

  23. thanks for this Megan! I’ve had some ugly veins since I was about 14, not bad ones so I had to had surgery, but I remember being so embarrassed about them so I never wanted to show of my legs. Now I have less problems with them and I try to to not worry. Have you found any improvements in them after you started running? Never been a running person since my knees are pretty bad too, but doing weight lifting and stretching to strengthen them 🙂

    1. Man sad to hear that. Yes I have seen a significant difference. From time to time I have pain but for the most part the running keeps them happy and the doctor said over time living an active lifestyle will make it stay milder as I age.

  24. I loved this post. It was just what I needed to read. I, like you, struggle with enjoying running. I tell myself day after day, “Today is the day…tomorrow is the day..” and it never happens. Well, tomorrow is definitely the day!

    sunny blonde studio

  25. I used to also hate running. It was always punishment for the sports I played in high school so it already had a negative connotation, but I started running earlier this year and decided to just sign up for a half marathon which forced me to go almost everyday. Running that half was amazing and I would recommend doing it once in your life, especially since I was in the exact same mind set as you were! Get it girl!

  26. Great post. Although I’ve always been told I have the body type of a runner, I have never been an athlete, and I remember struggling like crazy to run one mile in elementary school. I’ve been gaining strength with regular yoga over the past few years, and last year I signed up for my first race– a half marathon. I believe that it’s all mental, too, and I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I’m currently training for a marathon, and although I’m crazy nervous about it, I have no doubts that I can do it. The first three miles are ALWAYS the hardest, but once you get into a rhythm and let your body do the work, it’s a great feeling. I still answer “no” when asked if I’m a runner, but maybe it’s time to change that.

  27. Thanks for sharing. As a new runner I was hitting it a little too fast (9 1/2 minute mile) and found myself dreading the workout and wondering why I felt so exhausted. After reading this I slowed it down a bit and breezed through two miles this morning. Such a simple thing to do. I didn’t start running until I was 48 years old. It’s never too late to start.

    1. That is awesome!!! I think if you haven’t read the book you may find even more encouragement. It is amazing how truly our bodies were designed to be runners and the fact it isn’t about how fast you go but about enjoying it more than anything. 🙂

  28. From one vascular issued lady (+ graphic designer) to another… can we collaborate on making some cuter compression socks? Like, chambray with small polka dots? Forreal.

  29. My relationship with running ebbs and flows. Parts of the year I’m a heavy weight lifter and do distances no more than four miles, but lately I’m on an 8-12 mile 5AM kick and I cannot be stopped. I’ve been doing two-a-days, too, which is completely insane but there’s nothing that compares to the way I feel when my feet are pounding the gravel trail.

    As for the unsightly varicose veins, they run in my family, too. A few years ago I developed a bulging vein in my right leg and started doing homeopathic treatments. The bulge is gone and I have no sign of anymore snake-like veins – although my doctor says it has more to do with my level of physical activity than it does the supplements. But I beg to differ because I’ve been physically active for my entire life. Anyway, check out horse chestnut root and topical witch hazel applications. They work wonders.

    1. Ashlae this is amazing!!! you are a boss!!! I love it!!! I am hoping to reach to 8 miles in the next month or two just been taking it slow. Started adding in some short distance stuff this week to push my endurance and strength up on my distance runs and it has felt AMAZING!

      As for the homeopathic treatments I am going to take you up on this. I fixed my chronic sinus infections with all homeopathic treatments and I am a TRUE believer now. PS. Been loving your recipes lately 😉

  30. Inspiring article. I have always hated running and never felt like it was more than a punishment or a desperate attempt to lose some lbs, but I have always secretly wanted to be the “running type”. I am curious about this book and will be sure to check it out. Thanks!

  31. Awesome post, Megan! I started running every 2 days just over a year ago and post an image from each run on instagram ( http://www.joelix.com/Five-tips-to-keep-running ). It highly motivates me to keep running. It’s so very refreshing to go outside and just run, find a new route, discover new things in the neighborhood, and feel fitter too. I’ve never been particularly sporty, but I’m totally addicted now. I don’t really care about distances and personal records, although it’s nice to feel that it’s easier to keep up. Enjoy your runs! And what about Mike? Does he like running too?

  32. Megan, thanks so much for this great post and for sharing so personally. Running has always been one of my favorite releases since I was about 11 and went on my first run with my dad, twenty years later and the same still holds true. However, I am currently living overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer in a country where women running outside alone is still a new concept. I struggle with this as it is one of the adjustments I have had to make to live in my small rural village but I have always had a hope of inspiring young girls and women to start running while I’m here and your post has once again sparked this idea, thank you!

  33. I really dislike running. It makes me feel so weak and powerless. Because I have breathing problems, finding a rhythm with which to run with is very difficult and so I’m gasping for breath most of the way. I never really had the opportunity to correctly learn how to run but I’m willing to give it another try when I will have enough time to dedicate to it. But I’m so gld to hear that you’ve overcome your hatred of running-I’m inspired to do the same!

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  35. I love your perspective 🙂 I am an AVID hater of running. My husband has always been a phenomenal athlete, once playing pro basketball. SO I ALWAYS feel like I need to be faster and that my slow place does not make me a “true” runner and that I’m wasting my time. But knowing that the QUALITY of the run and not worrying about being the fastest is a freeing realization. So thank you 🙂