5 Life Lessons from Running

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Life Lessons from Running  |  The Fresh Exchange

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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.


Hello! I’m Megan Gilger,

A strong believer that nature and the seasons are our greatest teachers. We live on a hill in Leelanau County, Michigan just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. This land we are responsible for is where we are focused on building a life around the seasons and intention. We spend our days here building a regenerative model of living and focusing our garden on native plants and intensive polyculture planting styles. My focus is less on self-sufficiency and more on community-sufficiency through how we grow and connect through the seasons.
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