I lay in bed listening to the rain. The brook outside my bedroom door, normally babbling, was now a loud roar. I remember when weather like this darkened my spirits — when weather like this presented me with a good excuse to curl up in bed and read for a few hours. Or the entire day. There was a time I was sure I’d never like rainy days. But that was before I started training for the Camino.
In January 2012, I determined I would walk every morning — no matter the weather — to get my body ready for the 500-mile pilgrimage walk I would begin in May. I bundled up and headed out into whatever was outside the door — biting wind, snow, rain, hail. I was like the postal service: none of it stopped me.
And a funny thing happened. Every day, upon my return from my morning walk, I determined that it was a lovely day outside. Dark and stormy maybe, but lovely none-the-less.
Upon my return from the Camino, however, walking took a back burner. I tried, but it wasn’t nearly as fun without a cafe to stop at along the way, without tens or hundreds of other people joining me along the journey. Pre-Camino my daily walks were in preparation for something, but now I had no end goal in mind and therefore couldn’t find the motivation. I wondered if I’d ever make exercise part of my routine, if I would ever do it if I didn’t have a goal to reach.
A couple months ago I pledged to try daily morning exercise again — but I gave myself permission to think of something other than walking. I started with push-ups one day, sit-ups the next, but neither felt satisfying. A friend said he was getting back to running. Running. That’s it. Why I thought this was a good idea I’m unsure: I hadn’t run voluntarily since I was 10.
I surveyed the opinion of my marathon-running sister Jessica. She counseled me to get fitted for good running shoes. Though I understood her point, my heart said, “Don’t you dare use that as an excuse.” I hate shopping. If I waited to buy proper shoes before I started this habit, I would never get started. I wasn’t preparing to run a marathon. I was just going to run to the end of my street. Three hundred seventy one feet.
So I put my sneakers next to my bed, determined to put them on as soon as I got up each morning. They were not ideal for running. They were the hiking shoes I’d used on the Camino. The ones that now have holes in them through which, if you look hard enough, you can see my socks. But that first morning, I did it. I ran to the end of my road, then walked the rest of the 3/4-mile loop around the block.
The universe looked kindly upon my attempts, providing me with perfect spring weather as I gradually increased my running time and decreased by walking time. No, I had no end goal in mind. No race I was preparing for. For the first time in my life my motivation for exercise was purely internal. It was for me.
So this morning, as the rain pelted my windows, I never considered not going for a run. I pulled a rain jacket on over my T-shirt, tightened the hood around my face, and I was off.
What are some things you do just for you — without any external motivation or outside push?