When I was in 6th or 7th grade my dad made a deal with me. Over the summer months he promised to pay me a dollar for every mile that I ran. He took me out and ran with me through the neighborhood showing me a 1-mile, 2-mile, and 3-mile loop. I was to keep a running journal to track my mileage and at the end of the summer break we would tally it all up and I would collect my winnings.
Now for a 12 or 13 year old this sounds like an amazing opportunity. But at this time I was no runner. I wasn’t on the cross country team or track. I was a full-blown choir geek. I craved rehearsals and dance classes. Recital halls and character shoes. But being extremely goal oriented I was up for the challenge. I wanted to make $100 that summer. That meant 100 miles.
I just knew I could do it. I would wake up every morning and pretend it was my summer job. I had to run. I’d put my running clothes on right away. Put one of my favorite cassette tapes in my bright yellow Sony Walkman and hit the road.
And I did it! At the end of the summer I had accomplished the goal. And that’s when the funniest thing happened. My dad had helped me create a habit. Running was now part of the list of things I enjoyed doing. I never did join a team or anything. I was way too busy with show choir, choir, piano lessons, Madrigal Singers, dance lessons, musicals and plays to have the time for that. And, as towards the end of my high school career as music and theatre were obviously becoming something that no longer relieved stress but caused it, I was glad that I knew how to go out and get a run in. It was time with myself – my breath, my body, whatever music I wanted to listen to – and I loved it.
I continued to run in college, blowing off steam after hours in a practice room trying to nail that ridiculously hard Rossini piece or having sat in lectures all day about the Baroque Period of music. Now, though, it had somehow evolved into completing my mileage at a certain time. I had to be going a certain speed for me to feel good about the run. Every couple of seconds I was checking my watch and I always made sure I had music that would keep me pumping forward, stepping in time with the beat.
Once I graduated and started auditioning for musical theatre roles, running was what kept me in shape and thin enough to compete with all of the self-imposed starving actresses out there. Then when I was working on a show I had to get my run in order to be warm enough to kick as high and bend as much as everyone else I was working with. Running was a habit, a stress-reliever, but it was also something that was part of the job and my lifestyle at this point.
Then, one morning I was at the beginning of my run out in Arizona where I performed frequently. I was half awake and somewhat bleary eyed as I began the constant monitoring of my watch, urging myself to take a bigger stride and push off the pavement a little bit more to reach the time I knew I could on the running route I had done so often in the years before.
And that’s when I noticed her. The girl on the bike. Long hair flowing behind her, about 12 or 13, with a big smile on her face. As I caught sight of her my pace slowed down. “When had I lost that?” I wondered. She looked like she was having so much fun just riding her bike. She didn’t need to make sure she got it done at a certain time. She was just moving her body in the Arizona sunshine on a beautiful day and enjoying it. Seeing her made me realize how much running had lost that “fun” element for me. It was all about numbers. How many miles? How quick did I go? How many calories am I burning?
As the years went by the yoga obviously took over and I started running less and less. When I began to learn and understand how hard running is on your body I started to let it go. That was the Tori of the past and the Tori of the future wants to lock out into the standing splits in Standing Bow Pulling Pose. And because of this I haven’t run in 3 straight years.
But I daydream about it often. Especially as the mornings grow a little cooler and that great smell of the fall months ahead creeps into the air. And this year I just couldn’t shake it. With my husband encouraging me to actually buy a pair of running shoes, as I didn’t even have something to run in anymore, and hunting for my iPod Shuffle, which at this point needed a major recharge and update of music, I decided why not?
So last Tuesday, before I taught the 8:30am class, I headed out the door for a 2 mile run. I had no idea what to expect. Would I love it or absolutely hate it wondering why I ever liked to run in the first place?
As soon as I turned the music on and started to go, my body knew exactly what to do. “Oh, this again?” it seemed to say. The first mile was like a first date just trying to acquaint myself with it again, finding my footing in my new minimalist running shoes. But by the second mile I was back home. The scenery was whipping by, my body felt like it was flying and I started giggling out loud. “This is so fun,” I thought. And then I realized…I was the girl on the bike. I was happy to be outside moving my body and breathing fresh air. I could care less how quick I was going or how many calories I was burning or how long the run was. It was just pure enjoyment. Enjoying the feeling of being in this body at this moment.
That’s what the yoga has taught me. To like myself and enjoy myself in this body. We were meant to move and have fun doing it. Not to punish ourselves for eating too much or for not feeling as perfect as we think we need to be. Yoga is intended to keep your body vital. To heal and balance the body so that we can do the things we love to do not just now, but for our entire lives.
I hadn’t run in 3 years and Bikram Yoga kept me in such great shape I didn’t need to stop once, in fact I wasn’t even sore the next day. Now, will I run everyday? Absolutely not. But when I have that urge to get outside and feel my lungs fill up with fresh air and my hips open to take that next step I’ll be that crazy runner you see with the big loopy smile on my face enjoying each step, each breath.
What activities do you enjoy outside of the hot room? How have they changed since you started practicing?
(featured image: Running a 1/2 Marathon in 2009)
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