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7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner

7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner

Running seems so simple. You just put one foot in front of the other over and over again really fast. Who would have ever guessed there was more to it? Yet, in its elementary lack of complexity, you stumble into the profound with each swish of your shorts. If you listen, running can tell you about yourself in a way that few things can. The more you embrace each mile, the more you understand that the wisdom found in the quiet, dew-filled morning runs is unique and spectacular, all wrapped up in one heart-pounding combination.

So how can running teach you about life? Read on. Then lace up your shoes and see what you can learn!

1. Synergy isn’t just a buzz word; it’s how you get better!

Synergy simply means that 1 +1 = 3. That is, you are so much more powerful working with others than alone. If you have been a runner long, you know that we form a global community. I can pass another runner on the road, or find out someone is a runner, and we instantly share a connection that warrants getting up at the crack of dawn to meet a total stranger and go pound the pavement together. Because, if you’re a runner, then you instantly get a huge part of me—no explanation necessary. What better way to start a friendship?

Runners support each other. They push each other. They unite over running together. You find you become so much faster when you are surrounded by the sound of other feet slapping the sidewalk right next to you. With a good support group at your heels, the miles fly by, the mountains become molehills, and you suddenly discover that you are faster than you ever thought possible.

2. Your body is capable of more than you ever dreamed.

When I first started running in high school track, I never dreamed I would run farther than the few miles needed to train for the mile race in the track event. I thought a 5K race was a huge deal! Now, I’ve completed a marathon and I am training for my first Ironman triathlon; which has you running a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles to warm up first.

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I can honestly say that finishing my marathon made me realize that endurance running wasn’t something only obtainable by those born to run. Regardless of genetics, any healthy person can become a distance runner as long as they put in the proper training time. Your body can do truly impressive feats when given the right training and nutrition.

Now, when I drive distances, I think, “Hey, if my car broke down right now, I could run that!” It’s actually an empowering concept!

3. Your competitor isn’t the one beside you; it’s the one inside you!

Sure, it’s nice to outrun other runners. I like winning my age group just as much as the next girl. But, the real war is inside. It’s that voice that tells you it’s too dark, cold, and windy to get out of your unbelievably soft, warm bed and go for an early morning run. It’s the very sound, logical whisper that tells you it’s better to slip on your slippers then your running shoes after work. After all, you’ve worked hard all day. You deserve a break. If you do manage to overpower that siren of sleepiness and make it out the door, it’s that whimper nagging your mind the entire run that you’re going to get heat stroke if you don’t turn around right now and go back and get a nice, cold lemonade.

If you want to become a serious runner, you have to learn to silence that voice. I can promise you, running a marathon is not easy. It hurts. And, if you don’t learn to defeat the enemy in your head, your feet will never take you very far.

After running, I see that enemy inside everywhere. When I want to eat healthier, she’s tempting me with the junk food. When I want to be productive, she’s arguing how a movie would be a nice way to relax.

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Every time I want to move against the current of easy, my inner enemy wants me to stop struggling and just let life happen to me. But, even a dead fish can swim with the tide. I want to live! And that means defeating my mental monster and giving up what’s easy to discover that you can push past the pain to the impossible. There’s a war inside, but for now, I’m winning!

4. You are what you eat!

When I’m seriously training, I think about every meal as it relates to my run. Are my food choices helping me or hindering me? You see, some things I eat will reduce soreness, strengthen my body in muscle repair, and help keep me lean so I can cover distance more easily. Other foods will slow me down, make me feel sick when I’m running, cause me to pack on pounds, or loose my immunity to illness. While I don’t remember every amazing thing that I’ve tasted, I do remember what it feels like to lose my fitness, endurance, and health. It is directly related to my daily eating habits.

When you run, you can easily see a direct link between what goes in your mouth and what energy pulses through your feet. Once you see how much better you can perform with clean eating, you start to see a connection with how food affects the rest of your life too. I now understand how my food choices impact my mental clarity, performance, confidence, mood, and relationships. I never would have seen the causation so clearly without running.

5. A little grit is required in life for anything worthwhile.

If you want to get better at running, you have to stress your body. In order for your muscles to get stronger, they first must be slightly damaged through exertion. Then, your body builds the muscle fibers up stronger to handle the increased workload. The damaged muscles are what cause you to feel sore after a good workout.

While you should be responsible and manage how much pressure you put on your body to avoid injury, you can’t get better without adding in some stress.

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This also translates to other areas of life. People who are successful are usually so because they didn’t shy away from hard work and a little pain. They stepped outside their comfort zone. They put in the extra elbow grease that most won’t exert to reap the rewards many will never achieve.

While gaining fitness in running and life is always an uphill battle (especially if you’re doing hill repeats), the view from the top is spectacular! You learn you really can live a life of no limits, and it’s worth every painful moment needed to reach your full potential.

6. People who are better than you should motivate you, not intimidate you.

When I’m training, I love to seek out people who are just a little faster than me. It helps push me to catch up to them. I also love watching elite athletes race, because I mentally envision how they move when I’m running and strive to replicate that. Emulating someone who has reached higher levels helps keep me excited about improving, and to remember to never be content with a stagnant life.

Your life is always fluid as well. You can either be moving towards good or bad in your relationships, health, fitness, career, and mentality with every choice. For me, running is like the canary in the coal mine. I can see results very quickly for my decisions. In other areas of life, it takes more time for your choices to produce change. But, if I want to become better, I need to surround myself with people who know how to get me there. After all, who better to show the way than those who have already been there before me?

7. You begin to see potential in everyone.

Fitness is attainable to everyone, no matter what your waist size or body fat percentage. When I see an unfit person sweating and slogging through a walk / run workout on the track, I know if they keep at it in a few months, they will be transformed into a different person. A fit, fast, confident runner is being chiseled out from their exhausted attempt to move with each trembling step.

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How do I know this? Because I’ve completed that metamorphosis a few times myself. I’ve gone from an overweight, depressed couch potato to a sleek, fit marathoner and triathlete. The great thing about running is that you don’t have to be incredibly talented, just determined.

And, honestly, isn’t that how we should view everyone? As a potential success story in progress? While someone may not live up to the stereotype currently, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be successful when they put some actionable work behind their dreams.

Running mirrors life in so many philosophical ways. I think that’s why I love it so much. As I dig deeper into each mile, I learn so much more about myself. With each pair of running shoes I wear out, I gain a deeper perspective on life’s journey.

Plus, running gives me a valid excuse to collect copious amounts of psychedelic shoes! And, really, what girl could resist that?

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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