January 6th, 2012

Purposeful running

In my personal and professional life, I find myself fascinated by the things that make us whole and complete.  Running is one of many outlets that can provide a sense of purpose or wholeness, especially in combination with balanced nutrition, soul-care, a supportive community, and meaningful work.

We all know the many physical benefits of running… gaining health and fitness, maintaining a healthy weight, building strength and endurance.  But I want to explore the inward benefits and outreach potential of running.

One of my goals for 2012 is to explore how we run with purpose, or the ways we can find greater purposes in our running, and I would love to feature your stories and examples.

A bit of my story: Part of what got me hooked on running were the therapeutic side effects I experienced while processing my dad’s MS (Multiple Sclerosis) diagnosis in the spring of 2000.  I’m not even sure I could have put it into words at the time, but in hindsight, it’s obvious that the distraction of training for my first half marathon and the thrill of crossing the finish line gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment that could translate into other areas of my life.  As I’ve continued running, I’ve found it has carried me through significant life changes, provides stress relief, and gives me a burst of endorphins that set the tone for a more positive outlook each day.  I’m now running my first charity run at the Houston half to benefit the National MS Foundation, and am finding the whole process incredibly meaningful.

What’s your story?

Here are a few reasons we may choose to run, beyond the health and fitness benefits:

Inward Benefits:

  • stress relief
  • grieving process/healing
  • finding balance
  • running community/identity
  • building confidence
  • consistency/strength during life transitions
  • satisfaction of achievement
  • positive energy and perspective for daily challenges
  • self esteem/ self love
  • character building/life lessons

Outward potential:

  • raising awareness/funds for worthy causes
  • setting an example for spouse, family, friends
  • taking care of self so we can better care for others

Can you relate to any of these? Would you add anything else to the list?

Would you be willing to share why you run in a guest post? I would like to write a purposeful running post once or twice a month, and would love to include your examples and stories.  If you would be willing to share how running has been meaningful in your life, email me at peifer (at) gmail (dot) com or leave a note in the comments.  You also don’t have to be a blogger to share!

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37 comments to Purposeful running

  • great post! I run for a clear head, fitness…balance, confidence. I’ve ran once for charity and thought it was amazing, however, it was more of a selfish thing to get into a race.

  • I love this! The reasons I started to run are not the same that kept me running. I think my reasons for starting were a little selfish. I was kinda of “running away” from reality. Once I got out there, I realized I loved it and I did feel better. I kept running so that my children would see that you can do whatever you put your mind to. If you want something you will do it, if you don’t, you will find an excuse. I found that the greatest motivation sometimes comes from other runners, and I am amazed how complete strangers, (mostly bloggers) have kept me going. I have found a great community and there is no going back now. My new purpose is to get women moving and doing something that they love. It doesn’t have to be running, it can be as simple as knitting or as exciting as bungee jumping. I just don’t want anyone to feel as lost as I was because you don’t have to. Lets all live this life to the fullest! We only get one chance.

    • Thanks, Nicole–great points! I think too that a lot of people’s reasons change once they get into running… after awhile, you realize how it’s affecting other parts of your life too (in a positive way).

  • I love this post! Maybe this will help non-runners understand why we do what we do! Sorry about your dad. I hope he is doing well. I have a friend who’s husband has MS. I love that you are doing a charity race. Good luck!

  • This is a really good post! I am running for charity myself for the first time in Houston (for the Houston Food Bank). I’ve been doing it for years but had never done that before. I hate asking people for money. But I was amazed at how quickly my friends and family came through…and I have come out of it thinking I should have tried to raise more. I’m really looking forward to meeting the Food Bank folks when I get down there. And I know I will be proud to sport their bib during the marathon–it definitely is good to make about more than me.

    That said, my main reasons for running are still the inward ones. I never thought I could do it as a young person. Yet here I am! It still gives me a charge to think about how astonished my younger self would be if she knew. :^)

    • I felt the same way about asking for money! It’s not something I would want to do very often, but it’s been a good experience. How cool to be doing (and loving) something you never expected you could do!

  • I started running strictly to lose weight. Well, I did that in a few months and I gained so much more. I understand myself better, I’m happier, I’m a better mom, wife, and daughter.
    Sure, the running is “all about me.” But I’ve met so many wonderful people through it. My son has joined me and our time running together or him biking with me on my semi longs are the best.
    Just like Terzah, this was something I could never fathom when I was young. I get a selfish little charge when I hear from old friends from HS who are just shocked that I’m a distance runner. Tee hee.

    • Thanks for sharing! I don’t think there is anything wrong with running for ourselves… but I love, like you said, that along the way, running can provide so many additional benefits. How fun to shock your old hs friends! :)

  • What a great post.
    After a family member passed away from cancer I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research UK- they organise Race for Life which are 5K runs all over the UK. Before that I had never run before. I kept it a secret from everyone for a while, because I was not even sure I would manage to run. I literally started with 1 min run, 1 min walk for about 20 mins. It was so hard but the incentive to raise money for charity and to know I was doing something for the memory of this person (although I was (and am now) still too emotional to write on my race number who I was running for) it was in my head for them and that is what helped me. But then I found that I actually loved running and so kept it up.

  • What a great post! I am glad that running has made such a difference in your life! And doing it for a good cause is always rewarding! Mine reasons are more selfish! I would totally do a guest post for you though!

    • I would love to have you do a guest post, thanks! I hope it doesn’t sound like selfish reasons are “bad”– I think we all run for what running gives us! I just find it fascinating that running can surprise us with so much more along the way… I’ll be in touch. :)

  • Jen

    Great post! It is so important to remember why we run, I tend to run into problems with training when I forget the true reason why I love to run. For me the reasons always change depending on the day, my mood and life in general: fitness, stress relief, achievement, etc.

    I’d love to write a guest post :)

    • Yes, mine changes regularly, too, and I agree that it’s so helpful to remember the bigger picture and what keeps us going. Thanks for being willing to write–I’ll email you!

  • I love this post. I’ve never been really introspective about my running, but this made me realize that I started running when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe it was a way to blow of so steam? It was something I could do that was seemingly mindless and a stress relief. My dad has since passed away, but I run today because it feels good to move… and as I began getting faster it’s been more fun to be (slightly) competitive in local races.

    • So sorry to hear about your dad! Yes, I don’t know what the connection to the grieving process is… I think part of it for me was a sense of control in this one area, and like you said, a way to blow off steam and lose some of the heaviness of it all. Thanks for sharing!

  • I started running to deal with stress, but I didn’t really start running consistently until I was trying to cope with a miscarriage and the following infertility. It kept me sane. I’m sure I’ll be back to running to deal with the stress of child rearing as soon as I’m allowed.

    • Stress relief is one of the main reasons I run, too. It’s such a helpful release with a child in the house! I struggled a bit with infertility too (about a year) and running helped keep me sane and hopeful.

  • thank you so much for sharing this, learning why others run is really what keeps me going. I think all of the above is why I run but also its a little piece of me I can give for ashlyn even though she isnt here. She keeps me running and I dont want to lose that connection.

  • I ran my first marathon with Team in Training for the LLS folks. I talk about my reasons for running under my ‘About Me’ tab on my blog. It all goes back to that marathon experience. Good for you! New reader here from Fitness Blog Hop.

  • Amy

    I love this post… there are so many different reasons why we run and it is so inspiring to see why different people do and what makes them go. I run for so many reason – and some are listed above… I’d write a post for you anytime! :)

  • Great post! I run for so many reasons and one that keeps me running is running changed me for the better. I’d be happy to write a guest post. Would you consider a post exchange?

    Thanks for linking up this week!

    • Thanks, Jill! Running certainly changed me for the better, too. Thanks for being willing to share, I’d love to hear more of your story….and I would love to do a post exchange, too!

  • I would LOVE to share why I run in a guest post! Just let me know when!

    I love this post and I love that you are going to run in a half marathon to benefit the National MS Foundation.

    There are so many reasons why I run, to relieve stress, to be with my husband, to set and achieve goals to name a few.

  • Jennifer

    Love your post and I’m excited to see more. I run for so many reasons, but I started and I’m sure a reason why I continue to run is that it is in my blood. My Mom is a marathon runner. My first half is in one week!!

  • Great post! When I lost my brother I ran to help me connect with him. He was a runner, track and cross country throughtout highschool. Now it’s been 9 yrs since he passed, i don’t run consitently due to bad knees but enjoy the health benefits. Visiting from fitness friday bloghop!

  • What an excellent post! Runners are truly amazing people.

  • [...] you missed my original post, I want to share your purposeful running stories this year… reasons you run beyond physical fitness.  What additional benefits got [...]

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