When I first met my wife, one of the things she talked a lot about was long-term gain versus short-term gain. It was a philosophy of hers that applied not just to the financial aspects of her life but to life in general.
The long and short of it is that most of the time, the value of long-term gains almost always outweigh that of the short-term. Generally speaking, if you sacrifice the long-term for the short-term, in all likelihood you’ll end up paying for it later, usually negating any gains made in the short-term.
It’s not an easy philosophy to stick to. In this day and age of immediate gratification, we, as a society seem to have lost our ability to see down the road any further than our next meal, paycheck, trip to the mall. It’s easy to give into the flash and dazzle of getting it/doing it/buying it/watching it/eating it now, forgetting that a few hours later, that sensation will, at best, be a dull, forgettable feeling, and, at worst, a feeling of regret and, at times, literal pain. But memory can be short.
The long-view is hard. Patience is hard. It can be full of doubt and even despair.
And that is part of the reason why it is so rewarding.
Marathon training has taught me that.
After a long day of work or a night with too little sleep, most of us just want a little decompression time. A little “me” time. Time to veg, turn our brains off and put ourselves back together.
For many of us, that “me” time is usually spent in front of a screen, our mouths full of scooby-snacks.
I want to redefine what “me” time, or “veg” time is.
For me, whether it’s morning, noon or night, when it’s time to run, there is always, ALWAYS an internal struggle:
- Do I run or go back to bed?
- Do I run or do I chill out on the couch?
- Do I run or go to bed at a decent hour?
Sometimes the balance leans toward the run, others it leans towards potatoing. I’ve reached the point, however, where I know I will be much happier in the long run if I go for the run. Choosing the bed or the couch may feel good in the here and now, but eventually I get restless, antsy, and sometimes downright grumpy.
Most people view running as an exertion, a time where you spend energy instead of re-charging, and on the surface they are right. You can’t argue with physics (not in this universe anyway), and the laws of physics clearly state that to move an object you must use energy. Even if you are able to overcome the inertial gravity of the couch or bed and get yourself in motion, you’re still fighting air resistance and gravity.
It takes work to run.
But sometimes, on a meta-physical level, 1 – 1 ≠ 0; sometimes 1 – 1 = 2. And that’s where running as the new “vegging out” time comes into play. After a good run, I can be physically spent, but my mind is refreshed and alert. A good run can wash away the imaginary burdens of the day and help you work through the real ones. The blood coursing through your body and the endorphins firing off in your brain allows your mind to work on problems in the background while your consciousness only has to work on the simple task of putting one leg in front of the other.
You can get some of the same effects from sleep (and believe me, sleep is an integral part of overall health – a topic for another time), but you certainly cannot get them from potatoing on the couch with a bag full of Cheetos.
At the end of the run you get the added bonus of knowing you improved your health just a little more, buying yourself another day, another week, another month with your family on our little planet.
In the end, is waiting an hour for the satisfaction of a good run that much longer to wait that plopping yourself on the couch? One of the benefits of marathon running has been a new ability to mentally speed up or slow down an hour depending on the situation. Besides, the couch will still be there at the end of the day. If you run first, you’ll smile knowing you got to take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Then you can curl up on the couch and watch a little trashy TV, you know, like the View!