5 Lessons Learned From Jogging

The more I learn about Medicine, the more I’m becoming a hypochondriac. I guess that’s a good thing though, since I’ve started jogging again. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from jogging.

1. Set Goals

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I don’t know who said it, but he or she said that “a goal set is half the work done.” To set the intangible goal is as important as attaining the tangible product. This is a fact that is often overlooked by people, who in their zeal, just plow right into the fray without asking themselves the what’s, the why’s and the how’s of what they’re doing.

Before I began jogging again, I spent the first day on a walk around the path I’d be running. The walk took me about an hour. I began to feel the vastness of the distance I’ll be running, and doubt began to shake my resolve to even start jogging again. So I divided the course into parts, which were “marked” in my mind, and I resolved to conquer, a run at a time.

When I did a “test run”, where I would just run and stop whenever I felt like I couldn’t run anymore, I found that I finished less than half of the course, panting heavily and sweating profusely. It was a good start.

From that baseline, I began to increase my jogging distance with each subsequent run, and now I find myself running farther than I have ever ran before.

And now for a nerd moment. Physiologically, the body releases a chemical called Dopamine, a  chemical that is released whenever we accomplish something. This “feel-good” chemical makes us happy when we’ve eaten that cake – on the flip side, it also makes us happy when we finish our “Rocky” training montage of a day. By application, setting a goal, even a small one, like running the extra 5 meters makes one feel satisfied.

In the greater scheme of things, I find that setting goals (and gradually achieving them) helps me stay more motivated. When the run seems long and arduous, you can always take satisfaction that you ran an extra mile each time.

2. Consistency is Key

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Consistency should be a lesson taught to everyone at a young age. We’re taught to be honest, to be kind, to be diligent, but in a weird way, not so much on being consistent. Consistency is that virtue that creates powerful habits that break equally (if not more) powerful vices.

Nerd moment number two. The brain is an organ that is complex, but very stubborn. It is an organ that knows its potential yet feels very snug in the status quo. To challenge the brain with change will be met by strict opposition. Who hasn’t had the experienced of making a New Year’s resolution, then breaking it the next day? And who cringed at the obvious grammatical error of the previous sentence? That is the brain screaming at you to comment on my bad writing.

In jogging, being consistent made me get up from bed (the hardest part) and run. It was an internal voice that nagged me to run. It was the voice that told me: “Hey, you ran this far yesterday, so you can run further today.”

In life, consistency allows one to create habits. As of this writing, I find myself automatically putting on my jogging shoes every other day and just running. Mind you, in the past, the thought of going out and jogging was met with: “But I just wanna sleep/watch a movie/read!”

It turns out, I have the ability drag my sorry butt out of bed and make me do things that matter.

3. Everything in Moderation

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I usually jog alone. During jogging, there are two conflicting voices that battle in my mind: the “Keep Running!” voice and the “Hey, I’m tired. Ugh, your body hurts. Hey, let’s just watch a movie.” voice.

The experience made me realize that your greatest foe is also your greatest ally: yourself. We are limited by what we limit ourselves, and conversely, we can achieve as much as we want to achieve. Now, I don’t mean it in a way that says “I am an invincible being! Feel my wrath!”

I mean it in a way that says: “we should see limits as frontiers of what we can do, and of achievement as a gradual process of breaking limits.” That said, in jogging, you don’t just plot a course and run through it all – you might overexhaust yourself.

The two voices in my head are two sides of the same coin: the “Keep Running!” voice is a whip that inspires me, yet if I listen to it alone, I might destroy my body. The “Hey, I’m tired… blablabla” voice obviously, will keep me lazy if I listen to it exclusively, but it also has the wisdom of telling me to not kill myself in the pursuit of health.

Nerd moment three. The body is well made to handle stress. Take the lungs for example. During exercise, it is able to oxygenate the blood adequately, such that even during times of severe exercise, blood is close to a 100% saturated with oxygen. Then take the heart. It has the ability to pump blood to meet the demands of the tissues, and has several fail-safe mechanisms to keep it running under various conditions. Then take the muscles. Muscles have the ability to keep contracting and contracting as long as it’s ordered to. In fact, it still has enough energy to contract despite seeming tired. The one that limits the body then, is the brain, which feels pain and fatigue – but it doesn’t contract or do any of the work the lungs or the heart or the muscles do. But it’s an important organ that tells you not to kill yourself in the pursuit of health.

As I began to jog more consistently, I began to discover that I should listen to the two. In essence, there will always be two voices in your head – the angel and the demon. You need to listen to both – not just one.

4. Ditch the Distractions

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I’ve tried running with earphones on. Bad idea, in my opinion. For one, your safety will be compromised. You can’t hear a brakeless car heading your direction with the “Final Countdown” song blaring at your ears. It’ll also be too late when you feel your leg being gnawed on by a dog you didn’t hear chasing you. Second, it’s a surefire way to destroy that electronic equipment, especially if you sweat profusely. Third, it robs you of the experience of feeling and appreciating  your body.

The last statement may be due to my habit of running alone. It is during jogging that I get to commune with my body, feeling my heart beating faster, my lungs breathing deeper; my feet striking the ground and my muscles tightening.

Sometimes, before I jog, I latch onto one idea – it may be an experience, a problem, or a thought, and think about it during the run. Or, since this number has to have a nerd moment, I also ruminate on a concept in my studies when I run. I find that after running, I become enlightened on that idea I meditated upon.

5. The Last Stretch Syndrome

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In this post, I defined the “Last Push Syndrome”. The Last Stretch Syndrome is the opposite of that. It is when a person, in his desire to finish a goal, burns himself out in the process. These are periods of extreme zealousness that causes one’s downfall.

I usually feel this when I’m at the last mile of my run, when I see the electric post that marks my “finish line.” In the past, when I saw the post, I would make a mad dash towards it. Most of the time, it would lead to my downfall – I would tire out and stop at the sidewalk, and feel disappointed and confused.

I was *this* close. When I realized what I was doing, I began, at first, to look down when I saw that finish line. To achieve is a tempting thing, and it can cause one to lose focus. Over time, I managed to rein myself enough to keep the pace and finish the course.

In life, there will be many opportunities when goals seem to be in one’s grasp. However, one must not lose sight that it is the journey (or the run), and not the achievement, that makes us the better people we are today.

Nerd Moment Five: Jogging improves your cardiovascular health.

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