Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Do I Torture Myself?

This morning I decided to go running. Again. After the mishaps of yesterday afternoon, this was perhaps not the wisest decision, but I did it anyway. My ankles screamed "Not this again!" My bad knee sobbed "Have mercy, please!" and my good knee just groaned and muttered four-letter words under its breath.

Ten laps on the track and a sore ankle later, I ask myself the obvious question: why do I do this?

In a word: Endorphins.

What can I say, I'm addicted to stuff and a day without some sort of exercise turns me stupid and lethargic. It makes my brain feel dull and I'm more likely to putter around and waste time. I've learned the hard way that the time I "gain" by forfeiting a workout is not nearly as useful as the productivity I get from those delicious little molecules. But there's another reason why I run. A secret reason. One that is remarkably simple but powerful nonetheless.

When I run, I can't think about the book.

On the elliptical machine, I pedal away and think about the book. On the rowing machine, with each tug at the "oar" I think about the book. On the subway, when I'm crammed between two people taller than me, I think about the book so I won't think about the body odor. In yoga class, when I'm trying to do "downward-facing dog" without falling on my face, that sneaky book creeps into my mind and before I know it, I'm twisting up plot threads instead of my arms and legs. Even when I'm sleeping, I seem to think about this book because when I wake up most mornings, my brain tingles from activity and I don't feel that restfulness you get from a night of thought-free sleep.

But when I run, it all melts away and the book disappears from my mind, like it never existed in the first place. All I can focus on is one more lap, one more step, one more breath. My brain stops racing and my legs take over the job, only instead of talking to me about theme and story arc, all they say is the occasional "ouch" or "oof" or "can we stop soon?"

And I reply: just one more lap. I'm not ready to give up my freedom just yet.

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