A physician learns from the lessons of running

Slow. Sluggish. Feet dragging. Legs heavy.

The run was not the effortless morning wake-up I had envisioned when I sat on front steps tying the shoes. The gazelle I had envisioned, gently bouncing over the trails, had turned into more of a hippo waddling along.

Then, around 15 minutes into the run, I remembered a friend’s wisdom. “Don’t fight the current. Find it and flow with it.”

So, flow with it became my mantra.

As a competitive runner, flowing at an admittedly pedestrian speed is sort of new.

But then again, I am a competitive runner three months into a pandemic, exhausted from work as a family physician to support others in movement and health. I am a runner whose competition has become measured by resilience more than by mile pace or race times/awards.

It took some effort, but over the next miles of the run, I repeated flow with it and let the run take over. Suddenly, the trees seemed more present. The flowering plants of our New Mexico landscape became more fragrant. The sand beneath my feet that had earlier seemed a culprit in my slow pace now welcomed my every step with a grainy cushioned embrace.

Before I realized it, I was in that wonderful space that running offers us, escape from the pandemic and all of life’s stressors. I hardly noticed that my pace had quickened.

Flow with it.

That’s my prescription for us all. Let your movement be medicine on all levels – mind, body, and spirit. Let your runs be a way to connect with yourself and nature in a way that we know is deep in our DNA as humans: running. As we see a world suffering, dedicate your movement to the healing of those infected and all of us affected. Flow with it.

And in the fine print of the prescription, I might also add that flow with it means to take care of being gentle with ourselves at this moment. Right now, the best things we can do on some days is to throw out the pace or mileage goal for the day and focus on being present, giving thanks for the moment, and for your body that allows you the gift of that day’s run. As we say in our running medicine program, “Breathe deep, forget all worries, and get your medicine.”

Anthony Fleg is a family physician who blogs at Writing to Heal.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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