By Danny Williams
Running. Pulling on the trainers. Finding the motivation.
Knowing there will be pain to push through. Knowing it will be hard. Why do I do it? Because I do it, and at least three to four times a week, if not more. Some days when I’m pounding the pavement, sucking breath into my lungs, counting down the lactic acid surge, I ask myself ‘why?’.
The truth is I really, truly, don’t know. Here’s the sucker punch. I have always hated running and on more than one occasion, I have told patients it’s no good for them, as it places too much strain on the body. Yet, here I am, surprise surprise, I now run four times a week and have no plans to stop. What the heck is going on?
I never liked running and used to hate cross country at school. I would even cheat just to get to the end quicker. I hated everything about it. Now, I prefer trail runs and pushing myself until my lungs burn.
I’m getting madder in my old age!
A Life Changing Moment
I grew up playing county rugby, capoeira and practising yoga. Four years ago, I went skiing and, on the first day, my wife and I hit the slopes hard. The next day I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t walk and getting out of a ski lift was nearly impossible; they had to slow it down for me.
I swore that I would never let this happen again.
At the same time, I was still dealing with my Crohn’s diagnosis. I was doing extensive research into how to help myself and I came across
Ari Meisel who had severe Crohn’s and, through diet and then physical/endurance exercise, was able to go into remission. Running was one of those endurance exercises. My belief is that I created Crohn’s by not listening to my body. It was my own behaviours that created this autoimmune disease. Now, I had to manage the stress response to allow my body to adapt. This is what we all need to understand, to deal with all these autoimmune diseases and late-onset illnesses if we can.
It is all about the immune system in overdrive as we live our type A personality lives, or we just can’t be bothered and fall into the pit of depression. Pulling myself out of bed every day or slowing down to help the body and mind rest are the hardest things to do.
Nobody likes changing habits. The nervous system needs to adapt and develop to allow us to function optimally. Pushing yourself to exhaustion or eating a poor diet will eventually cause an autoimmune disorder. The body had nowhere to go.
Giddy – up
Running as well as improving muscle tone and strength, also pumps the blood away from the gut to the muscles and allows the gut to rest, thus allowing healing. But running every day is also not respecting your health if you’re not used to it. Some patients I see walk into my clinic in a lot of pain due to suddenly commencing exercise after a long break.
I’ve had patients suddenly start doing 5 HIT classes a week! Forgive me but … what idiots! We need to adapt the exercise we do to help us rest, recover and flourish.
My great aunt, the ultimate Yogi, talked about the three S’s: strength stamina and suppleness. This is what you need to maintain a good healthy body. Plus, it also allows all levels of exercise. Low, medium and high intensity, all work the cardiovascular system well and the other systems are encouraged to move and be optimal.
Like any exercise, doing the same thing repeatedly is utterly dull. Doing the same 10 or 15 kilometres daily will become mundane.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. However, by doing regular runs, you will also develop discipline and truly feel as though you are looking after yourself. This is why I stick with my great aunt’s three ‘S’ system, strictly structuring my week. Plus I eat a balanced diet to ensure my mind and body are on an equal plane.
Life Goals – Getting Zen
Getting fit and wanting to continue exercising is not just physical.
It becomes meditation and a tonic to what ails you. The ‘in the zone’ feeling you get whilst exercising eventually turns you into a meditative state that allows your body to come together.
Running is not the only form of endurance exercise that helped me.
It’s taken years to learn and if, like me, you started in your 40s’, then I understand that it can be hard to keep going if you don’t see immediate results. I never believed in the ‘runners high’ until recently. I thought it was just a myth until I found my own zen zone pounding the pavement.
In essence, exercise must become a habit and a ‘good addiction’ to enable yourself to enjoy it. Just be careful not to push your body too hard too soon. Give yourself rest days and know when you need to see someone for help with the adaptation of the body and getting used to the new physical requests. Keep going and you will get there. Health and exercise are a journey that you will love and hate but will eventually enjoy. Well, at least afterwards! And that, my friends, is the reason why the @#$! I run.
Small steps and eventually, you’ll be there … in the zen zone with me.
Expat Brit, Curious By Nature founder, Super Soups author, and media spokesperson for health and well-being related to osteopathy.