Why You Should Run
A Key To A Tolerable Existence
When I stopped running after high school, my ability to block everything out and get stuff done deteriorated until it was completely gone. My focus evaporated, my endurance and lung capacity deflated, my physical fitness peeled away, and everything got worse for me. Then, I started running again and it all started coming back! It’s miraculous as far as I’m concerned; don’t you want these benefits for your life? Back when I was completely out of my mind, batshit crazy, running helped me level out and stay sane… so imagine the good it could do for you!
Simply put, running is a key to a tolerable existence. Notice that I said a key, as in singular but not solitary; it is certainly not the only available path. Some choose to isolate themselves in mountaintop temples and meditate their way to contentedness. Some practice martial arts and learn how to kill a human using only their pinkie finger. Some record themselves playing video games and put the footage on the internet. Some spend obnoxious amounts of money traveling the world, and some do it for cheap by living a nomad’s life. The truly crazy ones make art – music, paintings, sculptures, some are so far gone they even write and publish books! For these types of human, the thought of running may not cross their mind – although for some it does! – and their existence is still pretty tolerable; they can torture themselves and enjoy it. They’re sustainably crazy all on their own.
But, chances are, these scenarios don’t match up to your existence. And that’s okay. Not everyone can be sustainably crazy by themselves… well, everyone can, but not everyone realizes it. Not yet at least, and that’s okay too. For the 99% of humanity who’s crazy isn’t at the level of being able to enjoy self-torture, running is a fantastic way to get there. You know what they say: in order to get anywhere in this life, you’ve gotta be at least a little crazy!
Speaking of which, what is life? Or, better yet, what is Existence?
I have absolutely no idea. It’s weird, that’s really all I can tell you with at least a shred of certainty. Outside of that, the general consensus is that it’s broken up into three pillars: mind, body and soul. And guess what? Each one of those pillars has its own special benefit to be gained from running.
If there’s one thing about the human mind that I’ve learned during my go as a psychology major in the American higher education system, it’s that humans don’t understand our minds nearly as well as we think we do. We think everything has a physical cause – an imbalance in brain chemicals, childhood trauma, inherited genes, what have you. I’m not going to sit here and say none of that is true, because like I said, humans don’t understand the mind nearly as well as we think we do, and even with my shamanism, I’m just a human. But what if the physical “causes” are actually symptoms…? Take my Lyme stuff for example – I’m pretty sure that I had bacteria eating away at my brain (a physical cause) which threw the rest of my body, and therefore my perception (and mental health), pretty far out of whack. I was also living my life in a way that made me totally and completely miserable, and when I finally stopped doing that and started living like I wanted to (which was right around the time of the events akin to those detailed in the appendix), the out-of-whackness started to go away.
What I’m saying is that although my ego loves to believe that the reason my life sucked was because of variables out of my control, there’s a solid chance that my life was hard because I wasn’t living it right for me. Cut and dry, plain and simple: I did not ask, so I did not receive.
Now let me ask you something: why does anybody do anything? To not feel bad, or in other words, to feel good! You go to work because earning that paycheck at the end of a hard week/two weeks makes you feel good. Or maybe it doesn’t, maybe I was on to something when I said you don’t really earn your own paycheck. Regardless, you need money to buy food to eat and fluids to drink. You eat and drink because starving/dehydrating does not feel good.
Let’s pretend eating isn’t a basic requirement of living – if things didn’t taste so good, would you eat? The answer is no; why would you shove stuff down your throat just to expel it later? That’s incredibly inefficient, you could spend that time doing something more enjoyable, something that gets you high. After all, getting high is just short language (read: slang) for entering a state of feeling good; stretching it a bit, the word high is just an acronym for harboring intense giddy happiness. The word doesn’t have to apply to the state of being under the influence of drugs.
Don’t get me wrong, in our society the word high almost solely applies to a drugged-out state of mind because the numbing trend of pseudo-slavery of those who respire under the dollar that dominates modern human civilization leads humans to ingesting illicit foreign chemicals (sometimes nature-based, sometimes laboratory-derived) in order to feel something, that something (sometimes) being confused for feeling good. But it doesn’t have to.
In fact, I can think of one circumstance in which the word high is often used that has nothing to do with drugs. And what circumstance is that? The runner’s high, of course! – that feeling of lightness, of pure euphoria and endorphins flooding your body after a good run. Ask anybody who runs, the runner’s high is better than any drug you could ever take. If it wasn’t for that runner’s high at the end of the workout, nobody would do it! I sure as hell wouldn’t still be running without the runner’s high, it’s that stellar!
“Really?” I can metaphysically sense you asking, “This hippie who thinks he’s Jesus is telling me to run so I can get high? This is ridiculous, I’m getting rid of this book.”
Fine, do it. While you’re at it, tell your manager I said hi.
Running isn’t all about getting high, boomer, we’re still in the domain of the mind. As far as the mind is concerned, getting high is all that matters, all the time. That and control, because having control makes humans feel higher than god!
I’m not speaking hyperbolically either, all humans want to do is get high. If I had a dollar for every time I got a text or a Snapchat from a human saying “High as fuck at <insert literally any function, solo, social or otherwise>,” I would be loaded.
Why do you go to work? Because it gives you a purpose, which makes you high. Why do you own a pet? Because it makes you feel less lonely, which makes you high. Why do you get together with another human? Because that human makes you feel high. And why, pray tell, are humans always trying to get high? Because when we’re not high, we can’t do anything.
This is where depression comes in. Depression, as far as my own experience with it has led me to understand, is a prolonged state of not being high, or in other words, feeling low. When we feel low, we feel sluggish; our brain doesn’t brain right, our bodies get heavy, and even the most remedial tasks like, I don’t know, going outside and running around seem neigh impossible. Sure, one can transform the crippling feelings of sadness and anger into beautiful art and transmute the negativity into something positive, but unless one has an outside force pushing one to do that, one won’t do it. They’ll be too busy sitting in a depression hole drinking pulverized bits of corn chips out of a crinkly-ass bag and not leaving their bed for days on end, save to relieve themselves (I hope. The bag of chips may empty, but there’s no need to refill it!). Humans, all lifeforms really, just aren’t productive when they’re depressed.
So how do we cure depression, then? We don’t. The way I see it, depression isn’t so much a curable condition as it is a repeated pattern of feeling not great. Depression isn’t a physical or permanent malady, it’s a cycle; it doesn’t need a physical cure, it just needs to be broken. So the question becomes, then, how do we make the bad feelings go away so we can resume humaning?
There is a myriad of available options. You can consult the psychotherapy industry, which is idiotically expensive and doesn’t really work half the time. You could consult the pharmaceutical industry and their flavorless candies, which, especially in the case of SSRIs, hardly work any better than placebo sugar pills and are idiotically expensive (anyone else sensing a pattern here?). You could seek out shamanic and/or psychedelic intervention, which involves the very difficult task of finding a legitimate shaman and securing legitimate and pure psychedelic medicine; this method works but is largely frowned upon by the humans in charge of our society because… well… because it
’s not idiotically expensive and it works.
OR you could get high by running, by getting your blood pumping and forcing your body to wake up and activate. Clear out the toxic nonsense that’s polluting you and leave it all on the road behind you. Strive for that runner’s high, it’s literally the best feeling in the world and it’s free. Ironically enough, the system the runner’s high operates through is called the endocannabinoid system, the same system which facilitates the high of smoking cannabis. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Before continuing, you need to experience the runner’s high for yourself so you have some semblance of an idea of what I’m on about. Go outside and run for… let’s say five minutes. Push as hard as you can, really kill it for five little minutes, get yourself high and come back. Don’t worry, I’ll be here waiting for you. Go.
SO! You just went out for your first run. You got your blood pumping and boy are you high right now. That’s fantastic, great job! But at the same time, everything kind of hurts, doesn’t it? At the very least your legs do, and chances are you’re still trying to catch your breath. Guess what? None of this will change for the next five to ninety minutes, and that’s fine – for now – but this kind of extended recovery time isn’t sustainable, surely it can’t be like this after every run… can it?
Yeah, actually, it can be like that after every run… if you only run when you’re feeling so depressed that you can’t move, that is. See, getting high is great and all, but it’s not the only reason you should run. You’ve gotta be healthy, you have to take care of your body so your body can take care of you. And running will help you with that.
By forcing yourself to run, you’re primarily working your cardiovascular system – in less jargony terms, you’re working your heart! While you’re out there beating feet, you’re breathing in tons of oxygen, which makes your heart beat faster and pump blood harder throughout your body. The heart, like the rest of the body, is a muscle in the sense that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. To use an analogy, which is more likely to start: a car that gets driven every day, or a car that sits for months on end without being so much as turned on?
Your heart isn’t the only thing you’ll be improving by habitually running; you’ll improve your lungs too, you’ll tech them to absorb oxygen at a faster, more controllable rate. You’ll also improve your brain; you’ll gain focus, you’ll be able to handle stress better, you’ll sleep better, and your mood will be better. As for the rest of the body, you’ll burn all the calories, your legs will be as solid as tree trunks and you’ll be toner than face lotion. You’ll be a healthier human overall.
Another perhaps less obvious benefit is control. This falls into the realm of the mind as well – running is as much a physical sport as it is a mental sport. While it’s your feet that are hitting the pavement, it’s you telling your feet to keep going. It’s you blocking out the pain, the stress, the exhaustion, all those nagging voices just begging you to stop – it all starts inside of your head. Through running you automatically condition your brain to push through stress and achieve your goal, even if that goal is as simple as running up a little hill. You will automatically learn that it’s better not to stop until you’re done, an invaluable lesson that one cannot learn from simply reading a book, no matter how incredible this book is… I mean, no matter how incredible that book is, the hypothetical one. Uh.
One day, you’ll realize the only limits that bind you are the ones you set in your own head; one day, you’ll realize it feels fucking great to get out there and work your hairless ape body. That’s when the real fun begins.
You’ll also probably come to the point where you realize your nutritious diet of hot pockets and other microwaveable delectables isn’t as digestible as you once thought it was. You can be running and working out constantly, looking big and feeling great, but as soon as you sit down and eat that processed product the supermarket claims is real food, those feelings slip away. This is another bodily benefit to running – you will want, nay, feel the need to change your diet for the better because of it.
You need energy from good, natural, healthy foodstuffs to properly fuel a runner’s body. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, fresh meat singed on cast iron cooking ware over an open fire, not processed, BHT-enriched garbage food that wouldn’t look or taste half as appetizing if it wasn’t loaded with artificial preservatives, food coloring and sugars/sugar substitutes. Healthy food leads to a healthy body, which leads to a better mind state, which leads to a happier and fuller life. You can bet on that.
But honestly, you can rea- wait, how could I forget? As you continue to run, you’ll pick up on another extremely healthy habit: stretching out! You know, bending and pulling on the various limbs of your body until you feel that intoxicating burn reverberating through the very fibers of your being. Sure, there are specific stretches you can do that “optimize” the activity, but the important part is that you stretch in the first place. You know your body best, and you will find out that if your muscles are primed before they’re used, they’ll work much better. When you go to blow up a balloon, you stretch it out a bit first, right? Same idea; before you expand and contract your leg muscles, stretch ‘em out, loosen ‘em up. Do some deep breathing exercises for your lungs too, so you can take in more oxygen. Oxygen is energy, fuel for the furnace that burns inside your heart and propels your body forward.
But honestly, you can read all this online. I certainly did, not gonna bullshit you here. I feel like the majority of the stuff in this section doesn’t even need to be stated because it’s so obvious; you’re using and properly caring for your body, of course it’s going to become stronger. As humans, we are not piloting a fleshy machine that unstoppably breaks down over time.
Don’t get me wrong, the body certainly can break down over time, but that usually doesn’t happen unless you do a terrible job of taking care of yourself OR unless you’ve been humaning for so long that your body doesn’t want to body anymore.
The body is fluid, it is constantly moving and working whether you’re aware of it or not. So you have two choices: work with it by exercising and being active, or work against it by being stagnant. Regardless of what you do, one day your body will give out; since you went through the effort of not only buying this book but reading it too, you might as well take the third step and do what I’ve made it say: work with your body.
Finally, we come to the soul. The spirit, the energy coursing through everything from your body to the Universe itself, the last pillar of Existence. Consciousness, inner space, the final frontier; the very intangible thing that is largely ignored by most American-flavored humans. In my opinion, American culture is extremely disconnected from the spirit – everyone seems to be stuck in the material, the physical, with no awareness of the immaterial, the metaphysical. Admittedly it’s kind of fun for me, being a shaman and all; I’m in the know, so to speak, being at least in some form aware of what’s going on behind the scenes while everyone around me is blissfully unaware, repeating the same exact mistakes thinking they’re doing the best they can in an unrelenting and merciless self-fulfilling propalactic of self-destruction that I have to sit by and watch them suffer through because no matter how many little hints I drop, no matter how many times they don’t listen to the advice they ask me for, they stay stubbornly stuck in their ways… okay so it’s really not that fun. It’s a big problem for a whole bunch of reasons.
Humans get trapped in the physical world where specific things lead to other specific things and everything works in a defined system, it’s mind-numbing. As a species we’ve allowed ourselves to become creatures of habit, not even thinking as we go through the motions day after day, serving a system that we ourselves created supposedly for the benefit of mankind. Nothing for nothing, the system has become redundant. It’s outdated, it’s a problem. And how do we deal with our problems? We run from them, figure out how to solve them, and then go about solving them!
Alas, where do we run when the problem is all around us? That’s just the thing: the problem isn’t all around us, we just think it is. Society, the system, the man – it’s all in our heads. No matter what, we are hairless monkeys living on a rock circling a ball of fire and there’s nothing that anybody can do or say to change that fact. Me’lon Qusk launched a car into space, and guess what? He’s still a hairless monkey. A badass, rich hairless monkey that sold flamethrowers to the public, sure, but a hairless monkey, nonetheless.
The point is, we can do whatever the hell we want in life! It seems like we can’t, it might even feel like we can’t, but that feeling is all in your head. Want proof? Check this out.
When you go for a run, I bet you stick to the roads. Your town is nothing more than a system of roads running through a geographic area, and when you run, you stick to those roads like a fly on flypaper; you probably only have a single route planned out too, you scamp!
Or, if you’re the adventurous type, you might run on trails. The trails are strict, skinny little pathways that wind through the forest and you stick to them like a branch fallen off a tree. It would be weird if you didn’t, right? Where else could you possibly run other than the paths that those who came before you have carved out?
Well… pretty much fuckin’ anywhere else. It might be easier to stick to the roads and the trails, but… why take the easy route? Since when was the path more traveled ever worth going down?
The next time you go out for a run, don’t plan your route. Just go out your door, start down your street and go wherever the heck you want. That street you usually turn left on? Turn right. Go up that big hill that’s been stalking you in your dreams. Go down that road that everybody avoids because they think it’s haunted by demon wolves or ghosts or the KKK or whatever the hell. Get off that trail and blaze your own imaginary path through the forest, one nobody else can follow unless they’re running right behind you. Challenge yourself to look at the whole piece of paper rather than just focusing on the lines that have been drawn on it by others.
When you start to do this, you will truly understand what freedom is, what spirit is. You will experience what it’s like to have a soul, you will feel all that metaphysical energy coursing through your body. You will understand what it means to be alive. You will create your own running path, become your own tour guide through the beautiful little corner of Existence that you call home. You might even find some stuff you’ve never seen before; in running through my local forests, I’ve found abandoned iron mines, dilapidated stone remains of farms and houses, veins of quartz bigger than my entire body – all because I blazed my own trail.
You’ll never know what’s really out there until you look, just like you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of until you try. Connecting to spirit, connecting to your true self, becoming one with I – this is why you run.
Allow me to outline the benefits for you, now that you’ve read through them all. For the mind, running is about getting high so we can function. For the body, running is about being healthy so we can continue to function. For the soul, running is about having freedom so we want to continue to function. Through running, we automatically upgrade the three pillars of our existence with tricks and tools to help us progress along the journey that is life, and you don’t even realize it’s happening until it’s already happened. Magic.
All right my human, now you know why you should run. Maybe you even want to run too, that’s great. It’s time to learn how.
Hello Commons, this has been the second chapter of Running: How To Torture Yourself And Enjoy It |The Unvictimized Edition|, a satirical self-help book about running that’s more about its author than anything else. Running is the first book of the First Spiral, a longer story called The Highest One Writing.
The Highest One Writing is a story about an author told through the books he wrote. It starts with a self-help book and ends with the destruction of Existence. Also, it may or may not take you to the depths of insanity and back.
Running is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Running and would like to help support my work, buy a copy of the book here.
Be well Commons~