Life lessons I got from jogging (or, Obvious Bits of Common Sense Wrapped up in a Fancy Sports Metaphor).

I’m not an athlete. I’m not even a Mathlete, despite the Asian blood coursing, disappointedly no doubt, through my veins. I’m not great with sports, exercises, or anything that requires me to use my arms and legs, really, and I don’t usually enjoy such activities.

I do, however, like jogging. That’s not to say that I’m any good at it. I have no endurance, I’ve (literally) been outrun by surprisingly sprightly old ladies garbed in outrageously neon sweatpants, and my running form looks more like I’m attempting some sort of really intense, really awkward shimmy. Still, I treat it as a break (usually from whatever other task I’ve been procrastinating) and I feel better for it (minus the occasional nausea and breathlessness).

Although I’ve never run competitively (because even Good Effort participation certs require some sort of non-laughable baseline), I have jogged for a large part of my adult life. Clocking in that mileage has given me some general life tips that I am now going to generously share with you.

1. Some days are good, some days are bad; do it anyway.

Two hours ago, I completed a surprisingly smooth 8km run. I ran at a decent (for me) clip, kept it up consistently, and, sure, there were moments of fatigue but they were never too overwhelming. At the end of it I was pretty sure I could have gone for another few kilometers. Just two days ago, I (barely) completed a 6km in similar conditions, except that I felt tired from the start, every step was a leaden, laborious feat, and I only completed it because I had taken a route that ended up a considerable distance from my house and I had no cash to take a bus back.

Similarly, there will be days when tasks that seemed do-able just days before feel like impossible mountains to scale (second sports metaphor check!). Just do it anyway, reluctant as you might feel. I don’t think there’s been a single time when I’ve forced myself to jog when I didn’t want to and ended up regretting it. You can cut yourself some slack in the final product (perhaps by lowering the goal just for the day) but the important thing is to not avoid it altogether, something I’ve been trying to keep in mind when it comes to other tasks (like blogging). Inertia is the worst.

After all, we all have our good days and bad days. Unless you’re Beyoncé. In which case, BEYONCE READS MY BLOG, Y’ALL!

2. Breaking it down makes for more bite-sized chunks.

It’s never a good idea to start off a planned long run ruminating about how ridiculously ambitious it is. I know for a fact that runs that start out with me obsessing over my end point never end well. Instead, I set (wayyyyy) smaller goals for myself. First, I’ll get to that park. When I do, hey, maybe I’ll just run around the perimeter of the park. After exiting the park (hopefully dog-poop-free), I think I’ll just aim for that tree at the end of that road. And so on and so forth.

Similarly, it is good to have a long term goal but also vital that we have short-term markers we can aim for. This way, that long term goal doesn’t look so incredibly daunting and we get to celebrate along the way, which does wonders for our self-esteem. Trust me on this. I have a degree in psychology and thus am, of course, the foremost expert in all matters of the mind, ever.

3. What fits for some people don’t fit for others (i.e. Life Lessons I Also Got from Cinderella).

Some people jog at the crack of dawn, which I don’t because I am normal and am asleep at that time. Some jog in the dead of the night, which again see: normal and in front of computer surfing Tumblr. Some crazy jokers seem to prefer zipping around under the noon sun, because I guess Dehydrated Zombie is the new In look. I prefer to run right before dinner, when the insane Singaporean sun has started to set but it’s not so late that any such activity will keep me awake for hours (I already have enough insomnia-facilitating stimuli as it is, see: Tumblr).

Similarly, not every piece of advice works for everyone (including those on this list). Sure, not smoking is a pretty universal lifehack, as is brushing your teeth every day, unless you’re not into simple life pleasures like dental hygiene or A Social Life. Still, there are plenty of other guru-dispensed pearls of wisdom that might or might not work for you. Find the ones that do, and don’t be discouraged when you come across those that don’t.

4. The only person you’re racing is yourself (unless you’re in an actual for-realz Race, in which case ignore this bit altogether; also, it would be great if you could help me out by giving some actual real tips).

It can be fun to jog with someone. You have someone to push you, to talk to you, to call for an ambulance in the event that you overextend yourself and have dramatically collapsed on the road side (which, thankfully, hasn’t happened to met yet. Probably because overextension is not possible with my speed). Still, I’ve never been one for jogging with others, primarily because it’s impossible to find a running buddy with the same pacing (I don’t even run at the same pace on different days!). So, it’s either a case of “should I just ditch this snail and get some actual exercise done?” or “it’s too late for me, save yourself! Go!”.

Similarly, recognise that while friends and family are great in general, you are not running the same race as them. You are running your own. Don’t try to keep pace with those you view as overachievers and don’t slow yourself just so someone else doesn’t have to feel bad about it (having been one of those that people sometimes slow down for, let me tell you that the embarrassment is way more painful than not being able to keep up). Everyone has their own journey so don’t let others’ race drag you out of your own if it doesn’t make your end point better.

5. Abrasions make you aware of the need for running tights (or, what doesn’t kill you makes you better-clothed).

I remember going once for an 8km run wearing just running shorts and I guess my thighs must have been more thunderous than I thought because I ended up with excruciating abrasions that plagued me for an entire week after. Since then, I’ve made sure to only go for long distances if I’m wearing running tights under my shorts.

Similarly, sometimes we go through painful events but the lessons we learn from making those mistakes end up helping us in the long run. Who would ever leave a pot of pasta saucing boiling at high temperatures again if they did it once and ended up having to clean it off every possible surface in the kitchen (totally happened to “a friend”, y’all)? Yes, making mistakes can be painful. Making mistakes can be embarrassing. Making mistakes can make us never want to leave the house again (unless the mistake you made was made in the house, in which case all the best!).

But if the mistake has already been made, try to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Another life lesson? Sometimes good clothes make you feel better.

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