Running In Pants, Pt 2

When was the last time you ran?  I’m willing to bet that whether or not the answer is last night or last year or even last leap year, the circumstances were similar:  You were wearing running clothes, running shoes, and were at a running venue of your choosing.  Continuing with my assumptions, you were there to “train” and there was a warm-up and probably some stretching.  But there was one critical element missing:  Need.

Need?  What does that even mean?  I “need” to lose weight/get in shape/improve my cardio/prep for a race/etc etc etc.  Therefore, I “need” to run.  Yeah…that’s not how I would define “need.”  Even a Kenyan, running at an event of some sort, chasing a first, second or third place purse just to put food on the table still doesn’t “need” to run.  This is a classic case of “you’re doing it wrong.”

Fine, define “need” then.  Ok, here we go:  people need to run when they have to evade something trying to hurt or kill them, such as a predator or villain.  Or maybe a person needs to hurt or kill prey or even another person.  People also need to run when an environment has become dangerous, i.e. a volcanic flow or an earthquake has made it necessary to escape the current locale.  And hell, let’s just admit it, maybe people have to run just to get away from the damn police.  We’ve all been there, right?  Right?  ….ok, maybe only some of us have been there…

Either way, there is one commonality amongst all of the activities in the “need” category: there is little, if any, room for choice.  Interestingly enough, all of those needs are also scenarios that every other creature in the animal kingdom are faced with frequently (except for maybe the police scenario…I don’t think tigers have a police force, do they??).  Seriously, could you imagine if an animal had to meet the same criteria to run that modern humans do?  Put on special shoes and do special warm ups in a special place designed especially for such things?  Hunters would starve or hunted wouldn’t stand a chance.

When a lion knows there is prey nearby, it up and chases it down.  When a gazelle knows that said lion is out to eat it, it up and runs away.  No warm ups, no lacing of fancy shoes, no stepping out to the track.  Can you do that?  Probably not.  In fact, I’m going to guess that the idea of jumping out of your seat right now and sprinting down the block is a bit scary.  It really shouldn’t be though.

Let’s step back for a second.  I hope that you never have to run.  Be it out of survival or combat, we’ve worked hard for our modern world and should reasonably expect a degree of safety that makes such a thing obsolete.  However, there are two problems with that kind of thinking:  1. Shit happens.  2.  Your body is meant to be prepared for when shit happens.  This does not mean preparing for some abstract potentiality in an effort to survive a one-in-a-million possibility, but rather taking full advantage of your evolved self (more on this in upcoming posts).

Actual insight and recommendations on running will come in future blog posts, but in the meantime, treat this as a mental exercise.  Running shoes are a product of the 1970s, running programs from the 1980s and sweat-wicking material the 1990s.  Human beings needed to run tens of thousands of years before any of these inventions, so why is your running contingent on them?

 

Running In Pants

The Seawall of Kota Kinabalu

It’s 35 degree Celsius and 95% humidity in Malaysian Borneo.  I’m hungover and have a belly full of nothing but coffee.  I’m wearing long pants.  It’s time to run.

….

I’ve been desperately searching for some inspiration to kick start my first FYMP post and I think I finally found it.  I’m just going to get right into it:  four former coworkers of mine died in a military plane crash in Afghanistan a couple days ago.  While I was not personally close to these men, many of my close friends were.  It has also dredged up feelings held over from a plane crash a year ago, on which I did have close friends.

When I found out about the wreck, I was in the middle of planning a trip to Malaysian Borneo.  The tickets had been purchased, I was just doing the research to figure out what I was going to do there.  Needless to say, this planning was taken off the rails and was never really completed.  Fast forward a couple of days and I found myself getting shit-faced in a bar outside my hostel a few hours after landing in Kota Kinabalu.  This led to sleeping in (like, to 12:30 pm) the next day which led to feelings of depression for wasting my time here.  Overall bad.

Additionally, in an effort to justify my laziness, I busted out the computer in order “to write.”  Really that just turned into me surfing the internet under the guise of “research” for my first post.  I finally had to admit to myself that I was suffering from project saturation and going impotent in the face of it.  Deadlines are drawing near on a bunch of schoolwork and I have so much that I want to write about for FYMP that I was all thrust and no vector and getting nothing done as a result.  Further depressing.

I finally made a step in the right direction by putting the computer away and deciding to go for a walk.  Walking down the coast of the Sulu Sea, I spotted a Starbucks.  Yeah, a drip coffee is somehow the equivalent of US$3, but screw it, I want coffee.  With my hot coffee making me even sweatier than I already was walking around in this humid oven, I kept trundling down the seawall.  I started screwing around by balancing on the edge, jumping back and forth over the ditch, hoping a few rocks.  Nothing significant, but the additional movement along with the walk was helping me to get my mind off of stuff.

That’s when I suddenly recalled a technically inconclusive yet operantly encouraging study I read while doing “research” earlier in the day about brain activity during a walk through a city vice a park.  Basically, and spoiler alert, walking in nature is better for you.  Shocker.  This in turn led me to my self reminder:  Move, Matt.  I had also made promises to myself and others that I would MovNat the hell out of Borneo.  Next thing you know, the only thing I could think about was killing my coffee and finding a trash can.

I succeeded in killing the coffee, but couldn’t find a trash.  Of course I’m not going to litter, so screw it, I’m wearing adventure pants, I’ll just shove the trash in a pocket even if it is a bit wet with coffee.  That’s when I started going.  First it started as a slow jog down the actual wall of the seawall.  Then it grew in intensity and I found myself making a few leaps across some crags.  I kept reminding myself to keep my legs under me and not in front of me, especially since my Minimus and my socks were already wet (more on that in a future post).  That’s when I saw a sign for the wetlands preserve and decided to run there.

Long story short, I kept running.  Persistence style.  I had no idea where I was going and I let my goldfish attention span take over.  Up hills, down hills, ohheylookanotherpath, time to play a few minutes of pick up soccer with some locals, ohheylookstairs, and so on.  I was wearing my aforementioned “adventure pants” (long, cargo style) and a long-sleeved, button-down shirt.  But screw it, you don’t always get to choose when to run.

Finally, I made it back into Kota Kinabalu.  My feelings for my former coworkers and for all of the brave men and women who continue to do that job no less diminished, but a renewed appreciation for life gained.  The lesson I learned here is that no matter the specific circumstances, a little bit of movement can go a long way.  I ended up scratched, bruised, exhausted and so sweaty that I needed to take a shower with my clothes on (no way could they go without a wash), but I was in such a better place emotionally and mentally.  My contributions to FYMP will continue to explore this phenomenon and hopefully help as many people as possible improve their quality of life.