The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Posts Tagged ‘exercise

Running Back

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After looking over my last entry, I realized that I might have come across as pretentious. I mean, who wants to hear about another nerd turning his life around through exercise? I can almost hear condescending Wonka saying something along the lines of “so, you’re running a half marathon… Please tell me about how special and challenging it is so that I can aggregate it to the other 3000 posts from everyone running in it.” Okay, I am pretty sure that condescending Wonka could come up with something a little bit more clever, but that is exactly the point: the fact that I will be running for 13.1 miles shouldn’t be all that special. It seems to me like exercise and movement should be a natural part of everyone’s life. There is nothing extraordinary about my undertaking. What attracted me to it is that it feels natural, like something that should have been doing along time ago.

I have to admit that when I decided to do this I thought I was doing something pretty major. After all, I only know a few people who run regularly, but after watching a few documentaries about the process, and after looking at pictures of the marathon itself I can see that there are plenty other people out there who can do at least twice of what I am attempting to do, and they do it much, much faster. I am not writing this to trivialize the actor running, and please, if you’ve been working hard to achieve what may now seem like an impossible goal, do not take this the wrong way. What I’m actually trying to say is that when we run, move, and exercise, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Although it hasn’t happened many times yet, sometimes, when I’m on the treadmill or the road I disappear, and I feel an amazing sense of unity with the rest of the universe. It is almost as if I was carrying on with the task that was begun by the first bacterium capable of locomotion. It is difficult to articulate this vision, but it would seem that they runner’s high might have evolved for an essential reason.

In this article, scientists wonder about the causes behind the powerful endogenic reaction to running humans experience, and about why it is so remarkably pleasurable when the extraneous activity is both dangerous, and costly. Why do humans, as well as apparently dogs, enjoy it so much?

Although it is only speculation, Christopher McDougall, provides what, to me, seems like a valid explanation for the evolutionary development of this trait. He argues that our need to run in packs might have had something to do with it being rewarded by the bounty of protein calories provided by hunting. MacDougall believes that humans learned to outlast even the fastest animals by developing the ability to run incredible distances. Although not perfect, by any means, his explanation seemed to make sense, and provided me with a nice origin myth about why we run. Enjoy the video!

Click here to watch the video

McDougall’s explanation propelled my imagination as I moved though my workouts. I imagine a vast savanna and a tribe of hunters chasing after a few tired antelopes. The mention of dogs in the other article makes me wonder if hunting in packs was something that made the ancestors of dogs and humans become enamored with each other to the point where it’s almost impossible to think of a stereotypical human American family without thinking about a dog.

I wonder if the ritual of putting on our flip-flops, and bath robes on in order to sleepily take our useless, but nevertheless lovable, Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians out for a walk originates deep within our genetic memory. I wonder if, just like us, small dogs running through urban parks, and avenues feel that twinge of ancient power course through their veins as they forget about their small doggie issues. Is that why we run also? It is true that we no longer have to worry about capturing the fleeting calories cohabitating with us in a dangerous environment. We rarely have to worry about mountain lions, and Tigers chasing after us, but we stillrun. We put on our soft and comfortable, sweat absorbent clothing, and carry small water bottles attached were belts, as we listen to music.

Many people run, bike, walk, swim, and move for exercise. We do it because that’s what makes us feel like a part of our ecosystem. It is as natural to us as telling stories, and while I might agree that I am one of thousands of people doing what everyone else is doing, I can say, that without the shadow of a doubt it is a privilege, and in honor to run with the human pack as we make our way through the history of this small but beautiful world.

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Written by Hector

April 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Why I am Running, and Something I Have Never Written About

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“…And perhaps, until we are tested, we don’t know what we’re made of…”

–Aimee Mullins

I am ashamed to admit that it has been quite a while since I’ve pushed my body far enough to feel like an athlete. Over the past year I’ve been making small changes to make sure that I can get back on track when it comes to physical fitness. I am not a big fan of extreme training programs, or quick solutions, so I decided that I’m going to run a half marathon on September 16, 2012 in Philadelphia. Although I’ve been training since the beginning of the year, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I formally began to put myself through a 13 week walk–run beginners program designed to facilitate the transformation I am hoping to achieve. I am supplementing my training sessions, which I’m supposed to undertake three times a week, with yoga, which is also a new discipline to me.

So far, there are four main personal motivators, and one spiritual, and I use the term spiritual loosely, that I hope will keep me going through the months leading to The Rock ’n Roll Marathon. Here’s a list:

  1. I’m running with my wife. We are not proud of it, but we both have been leaning towards the potato side of the couch for a few years now, and we decided to end that cycle back in January. We see the half marathon as an opportunity to change our life, and to prove to ourselves that we have it in us to stick to a new lifestyle. Although we’re still finding out about it, we want to run for science education, or health education. We feel like both are worthwhile causes that can make a huge difference in the world. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
  2. I have told somebody I deeply respect and admire about my commitment to run this marathon. This person is also a runner, and agreed to keep me accountable as I find my way into this brave new world.
  3. I’ve had a couple of health scares over the past months, and feel like I need to take ownership of my fitness, and physical my body. There are many health issues that are preventable simply by eating a better diet, learning to manage stress, and exercising. Additionally, exercise can help to make you smarter, more responsible, and better looking. If you want to learn about the effects of exercise and the brain check out this book, which was instrumental in motivating my nerdy self to exercise.
  4. I have discovered that running has become a little bit of a spiritual practice. Although I do not believe in the supernatural, I feel like there is some kind of evolutionary connection to my ancestors whenever I push myself on the treadmill, or make my way to the hiking trails around my house. I am probably going to be writing a lot about this particular topic as I delved deeper into it through personal experience.

I am, of course, taking my training slowly since injury is not something I want to have to deal with. I am sure that I will be filling my blog with posts about this particular subject. It is not my intention to push anyone else into running, but rather to inspire people to exercise regardless of their situation, and fitness level. To do that, I’m going to share something that I have never shared in a blog post before. I haven’t mentioned it because it hasn’t been important, considering the kind of stuff that I usually write about, but it may be relevant now that I am talking about physical exercise. Although what I am about to mention is obvious to anybody who knows me in person, it is actually impossible to figure it out just for my writing. Okay, so here it goes: I am missing my forearm right below the elbow.

Although not having a body part has never been an issue for me, or for anybody I care about, and it has certainly very little effect on my running ability, I do require some adaptation in my newly discovered yoga practice. I do not necessarily think that my disability qualifies me as inspirational. There are people out there who have done greater things while facing much greater challenges, or opportunities, depending on how you look at them.

So far, I given four personal reasons for running, and one that, I hope, is bigger than myself. I want to show you that there is something in you that has the ability to turn an otherwise drab story into a journey. I understand that comparing life to a heroic quest can be considered, by many, to be an overused simile, but the truth is that life is all we have. I am going to drink in the savage beauty of the world, and I want to share it with you, not because of some self important compulsion to document all but I do, but rather because it is my hope that we can walk along the path together, even if we are not in the same location. Will you join me?

Written by Hector

April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm