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Why Do I Run? Discipline and the Body

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

I run to discipline my body. No, I do not need to lose weight. But, I want to discipline my physical body. Not to cause myself pain, but to remind myself that my body is present and a part of who I am. When I first start off running, it feels like dancing; like bouncing to my favorite beats and lip syncing to my favorite rhymes on the dance floor. I'm that person that you see running down the street, pointing my finger, and mouthing the hook line. My neighbors must think I'm crazy. Or, a gangster-runner. After about 5 minutes into the run, my leg muscles decide to join the party. Luckily, my brain starts playing tricks on me and chooses to focus my attention on the song lyrics. The run is no longer carried by sounds and beats; I'm being carried by the rhythmic words flowing between my earbuds and my ear drums. This is about the time when I turn the volume up a notch (I will probably be hard of hearing by 50). I begin to analyze the lyrics to the song. I've heard the song dozens of times by the time it makes it into my playlist titled, "Work it, V". Yet, while I run, I imagine what the artist must've been feeling and thinking when they wrote the song. Yes, I analyze the hell out of everything. I like to get into people's heads. When I run, I'm in my head imagining what is going on in the artist's head. Who is she in real life? What is she sacrificing to become this public "character"? What are the lyrics saying about the person, if anything? What's the message? Is there a message? Before I know it, I'm about 15 minutes into the run. It's at this moment that I realize that I have a body! Feet, legs, stomach, arms, mouth, and a big head that I have to hold up.... I do a quick RoboCop scan of my body. Let the internal dialogue begin: "My achilles is tight." "One day I'm going to get on that hamstring machine." "I need to do squats." "I got my mama's ass." "Arms at a 90 degree angle. Check." "My titties aren't bouncing. Where did I buy this sports bra?" After the full body scan, my mind realizes that my body is still working...and in motion. And, every time, I come really close to what feels like a panic attack. "Oh, shit, my lungs are going to explode!" Consciously, I spend the next 5 minutes convincing myself that I will not have a heart attack. Deep breath in, exhale out. "Please, God, don't let a bug fly in my mouth." For whatever reason, once I catch my breath and realize that I am not dying, my brain is ready to get this run over with, and tries to convince me that I will die of something, even if it is not a heart attack. "Will I be hit by a car?" "Will I be kidnapped by a crazy White man?" "Will I be attacked by a deer?" Then again, a possum attack is more realistic. At this point in the run, I realize that Venus has showed back up. I am no longer in the "zone". It is time to wrap up the run. It is actually in this moment that I am consciously disciplining my body. See my body wants to give up on me, however, I still need to cover ground and make it to my destination. This is the point where my mind and body have to come together in unison in order to conquer my environment (e.g. wild animals, rocks and concrete, grass and dog poop, flying insects, and deranged people). I spend the last 10-15 minutes of the run choosing to push my body pass its comfort zone. Not only do I realize that I have a body, but I also realize that I am in control of my body. At this point, Beyonce' or Jazzy, or Rihanna, or maybe it's Nicki Minaj or Kendrick Lamar, are blaring in my ears. But at this point in the run, I am not their therapist--they are my personal cheering section. The beat carries me; my foot plants at the same time the baseline drops. I pump up the volume. The chorus and the artist screaming in my ear are my hype music. The sound becomes a war cry. At this point, it is not about time or distance. My body is convinced that it can run forever. I know that it is not ready to run forever--maybe 15 more minutes tops. Nearing the end of the 55-minute run, I feel nothing but my breath; my lungs actually. I speed up. My legs turn over quickly (Is hyperbole a side-effect of runner's high?), because I need to get done with the run, before my body gives up on me. Damn, my body is strong. (Sasha or Tina Turner?) Fierce. Resilient. Capable. My body has been through some shit, but it still belongs to me and has yet to fail me. Thus, every time I run, I become witness to a miracle. Before long, the run is over. I bust into a warm damp sweat. Not a dripping sweat, but a dewy wetness that attempts to cool off my body. Now that I am stopped, I hear the music. The sound irritates me. I turn off the music, or the noise coming from my cheering section, grab water, shed my dreadfully hot, moist clothes, and just sit. Strangely, after a run, I have more energy than I had all day. I am not sure if I want to dance or read or maybe write. My disciplined body sits. Be still. And know that I am. So, what do you do regularly to discipline your body and mind? Leave a comment below or tweet a response @DrVEvansWinters. ~Dr. Venus Evans-Winters


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