TO THE EXTENT EPIPHANIES COME TO ME IN LIFE, they often happen while I’m running. Being physical and “getting out of my head” frees my mind. Thoughts aren’t required or even expected – they can just come as they may. And that’s frequently when the most original, creative or useful ones arrive.
And something about running in particular nurtures this. A thought struck me while running a couple of days ago, and I think it’s highly relevant to your life as well as mine, brother.
A SMALL THOUGHT WITH BIG IMPLICATIONS
The other evening, around sunset, I was out for a run. Nothing special about sunset that day – maybe a six out of ten on the beauty scale. But still, there were scattered clouds that changed color a little as the sun dipped, the light on the hills and houses in my neighborhood took on that late-day golden tone, and the world seemed peaceful. At that moment, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
A thought hit me; one that seemed small but got bigger as I reflected on it. In addition to the physical benefits of the run and the mind/soul de-stressing, therapeutic benefits of exercising outside, there was something else.
The exact configuration of clouds, angle of the sun, seasonal state of the trees, wind conditions, and my vantage point on all that – this was a unique thing that never happened before, and never will again. And I was there to see it, to bear witness.
Meanwhile, within a few miles, there were hundreds or maybe thousands of people exercising in gyms or on home exercise equipment. From their treadmills, elliptical trainers or stationary bikes…the world at that moment looked exactly like it did the day before, and would the day after. Or month or year. (Let’s be clear: I’m NOT criticizing. These people had those on the couch or at the bar beat by a measureless distance, and some other days would have found me working out indoors, too).
But still, I can vividly call to mind running routes I’ve done in dozens of places – cities, suburbs, mountains, beaches, rivers. In all kinds of conditions – sun, rain, snow, wind. Day and night. And I’ve seen so many diverse things along the way – people, animals, trees, flowers, architecture, cars, boats.
What a rich trove of memories. In retrospect, it helps make the years of life so far seem to have gone by more slowly (man, a lot happened in those years!). And makes me feel truly connected to the places I’ve been.
Whereas: if you’ve done 1,000 cardio workouts in a gym over the last ten years…how much is there to really remember, man? What sports highlights were on ESPN or what political argument you saw on CNN? Are memories from that hotel gym in New York meaningfully different from the ones in LA or London?
The OlderBeast mantra is “feel great, look your best, keep getting happier and live long.” Well, nurturing rich memories like this is part of happiness, dude. The “long” part is an objective measure in one sense, of course — years. But in another sense, taking conscious steps to create beautiful and distinctive memories for yourself makes each year seem longer.
I know. A so-so sunset on a simple workday-evening run isn’t exactly like remembering your wedding day or the birth of a child. But these smaller, subtler things (and there are many more of them) are part of the tapestry you’re weaving, too.
So, my friends. As you make and refine a game plan for doubling down on body-and-soul health, to maximize the hopefully LONG rest of life…make outdoor fitness a part of your mix. Run, walk, hike, cycle, paddle, you name it. That’s where the poetry of the world can merge with the more-mechanical aspects of physical fitness. And life’s better when you have both.
“Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’.” (Simon & Garfunkel, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)—click to listen)
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