Running has always been a small part of my life. In high school I briefly ran track and field before making the cheerleading team. I honestly did not enjoy it and I had a lot of stress and anxiety around the mere concept of competing against other athletes in the few 4 x 4's and 400 meter solos I ran. My track coach was not at all disappointed when I told him I made the varsity cheer squad and would be changing sports (and yes, cheerleading is a sport to all you haters out there). After leaving track and field I would still run here and there during conditioning at cheerleading practice, as a precursor to a workout class at the gym on the treadmill and sporadically outside when the weather was decent in the midwest. But it was always something I did very randomly as a quick way to burn some calories or break a sweat. After moving to Los Angeles five summers ago, I had access to a lovely street in my neighborhood, very conducive to long distance runners. And so every now and again I would do a short 1 mile run/walk/mostly walk when I couldn't get to the gym. But running was never a consistent practice or something I felt I really enjoyed for more then the first couple minutes of a good song. But then I hit a rough spot in life last summer and needed something to help regulate my emotions out of my body and so I started to run everyday to maintain my sanity and who knew it would be so life changing, let alone something I still do now. And here's why, enjoy. 

What's different now, is that I run more consistently, longer distances, and at the end of the day. My ideal time is an hour before sunset and I have never held any consistent exercise routine this long, let alone in the evening. And I think it really has to do with my shift in perspective about the purpose of this practice. And yes, I am referring to my running as a practice. Running has since become my mantra, the repetition of familiarity, safety, acceptance and access to myself through my body that has become an opportunity for reflection and release. When I started running last summer I set a very specific intent to use it as a positive outlet, a way to take care of myself sans expectations, guilt or obligation. In other words, I wanted to frame it as something I did for myself rather then to myself. And it was important to clarify that the sole purpose of running was to add to my happiness, not stress. Therefore not allowing myself to feel guilty if I missed a day or any length of time. And absolutely no use of it as a way to burn calories or make up for consuming too much pasta. And finally, no expectation that at some point I would run a marathon or hit a certain time. This was somewhat easier said then done, as the second I tell people I run they tend to immediately ask how many miles and when I might be ready for a half marathon. I know the questions are well intentioned and very relevant, but I like to clarify that it's something I enjoy doing to feel good first and foremost. Instead of counting miles, I count on good songs. 

Despite all these good intentions, I do know how far I run, thanks to the iPhone health app and my own natural curiosity of course. It's honestly hard for me to not to compare distances and shame myself for not running as long as possible every time. Full disclosure, I don't always run everyday and there are definitely days when running at night just isn't feasible or something I want to do. Not all runs are equal and many times they differ depending on what I have eaten, how hydrated I am, the temperature outside, my mood, my outfit 
(I wish I was kidding but I am not), how into the music I am, etc. But some of the key ingredients to good run have been this: engaging music, hydration, and believe it or not, a slightly higher stress level. I am assuming because I feel more relaxed by the exercise when I am really stressed and it makes such a significant kind of impact on my mood that it perhaps feels more beneficial. But I can honestly say no two runs have been the same and many of them involve me walking at various points (usually when my music selection is off or my mother calls). Sometimes the purpose of my run is just to get outside and feel some fresh air. I have a very idyllic route and there is certainly something to be said for how some beautiful trees and a sunset can inspire so much hope and thought. Despite all these realities I can say with certainty that running is no longer scary or stressful, I have enough confidence to go the extra mile, literally hehe, or walk the entire way home knowing full and well that the priority is always to have fun, relax a little and meet my body where it's at. 

I run at night to release the stress of the day.
I don't count on miles, count on beats.


{ photography by Sabrina }

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