Five life lessons I learned during my recent outdoor run, or how to find motivation, wisdom and inspiration

Posted by Olena Mytruk

The weather has been getting better lately, and this week I was able to go for an outdoor run for the first time in several months. As I was running, I came up with five realizations, or life lessons, about how to find motivation and inspiration. And I would love to share these lessons with you – because they are about running, but also they are not about running.

I hope you find this episode helpful and insightful. And if it inspires YOU to go for a run, just know that it will make me very, very happy!

Thankfully the weather has been getting better, warmer, and I was able to go for an outdoor run earlier this week for the first time in a few months and I really enjoyed it. As I was running I was thinking about different things, and I came up with a few insights, or I can say I learned a few lessons which are about running but they are also not about running. It’s so interesting how sometimes the most inspiration or best wisdom comes from the simplest things like going for a run. As long as we are curious, as long as we are present and we just try to understand how things work, why things work, why we do what we do, how it makes us feel – we can really gain a lot of knowledge and get a lot of insights and AHA moments from just these simple things.

So today I would like to share with you those 5 lessons that I learned because again it is about running but it’s also not about running. It can be applied to all areas of our life.

Know your why

The first lesson is when you want to start something or start working on a goal, know why you’re doing this and do it for the right reason. Here’s the thing, I rarely start my morning runs with the goal to hit a certain distance or a certain speed. I usually do it because I just like the process of running and I just know that this is my cherished alone time where I can just go outside and be one-on-one with myself and just kind of freshen my mind a little bit and to let it go and not work, not think about things, and I just really enjoy it. So whenever I decide to go for a run in the morning this is how I approach it. And yes I have an idea of usually how long I want it to be. Sometimes I pick the guided run on the Nike Run Club application so I choose let’s say the 35-minute run or 40-minute run.

But it’s not about the duration or distance.

It’s just about being outside and enjoying myself while I do it. I think this is really important when we approach any activity any goal anything that we want to do. It’s really important to do it because we enjoy the process, because if we purely focus on the outcome, it’s just so easy to get discouraged. I don’t always feel strong sometimes I decide to go for a run but I just feel sluggish and I just can’t get it to work. I can try for 30 minutes and I will still feel sluggish and slow and it will feel heavy. Sometimes I have to stop and just walk for a little bit or just reduce my pace. So if it was only about hitting a certain speed or a time it would be very easy to feel like you haven’t hit your goal, so you failed.

But if you approach it from a standpoint that you just like the process of doing it, basically, then you can’t fail. Then you already set up yourself for success because once you are at the starting line you already made it. Once you are in the middle of the run, you’re already successful. Once you finish it then it’s awesome!

So this is why I think it’s really important to know why you do what you do and really approach it for the right reason with the right motivation behind it.

Ease into it

Then, the next important thing is easing into it. I always find it when I get on a trail and I have all this energy I’m just ready to start running fast and my body wants to start running fast. And I often listen to this coach on the Nike Run Club app and he always says, “You need to start running easy.” He doesn’t say slow because it’s not about the speed, it’s about the effort. He always says you need to ease into the run because your body and your mind need to adjust to this change.

So you weren’t running, you were sitting, you were sleeping, you were driving, or whatever else you were doing and now you are running. Now your mind and your body, they need to adjust to this change because first of all, it’s a shock – something has changed and changed pretty drastically but also they need to realize that you’re not joking, that you are here for a long run and that in order to do that, it needs time.

It’s really important to start easier than you think you can.

I always find that if I listen to this advice, if I remember to listen to this advice, if I start easy, then I advance my speed throughout the run. I finish it running much faster, with potentially the same or even less effort. But if I don’t remember about that, sometimes I get distracted, sometimes I’m just too lost in thought and I really start running faster than I should, then I just get tired fast. These are usually the times when I have to maybe stop for a while, especially if it’s a hot day or just I haven’t slept well. It’s really important to start easy and then gradually improve your pace. I think this is just so true for our lives as well.

When we start working on something new, when we have this idea or this goal or just we want to change something in our life, we have all this energy, all this motivation. We want to just go all into it, right? All in. And it’s really hard to pace ourselves. But it’s also very important because the easier you go in the beginning, the further you get – you’re not there for a sprint, you’re there for a marathon. We’re talking about your life and if you want to establish any long-lasting changes, if you want to achieve some big goals, the easier you go in the beginning, the more time you give yourself to adjust to that change, the better you will feel later on.

Get into the flow

Then if you do it right, if you really take it easy in the beginning, then at some point, usually I find it maybe 15 to 20 minutes into my run, it’s like I get into the zone.

You start running on autopilot.

You start feeling like your body is really light and it’s really just carrying itself and you begin to really enjoy the movement, almost like you could just look at yourself from the outside, and you can really feel the strength that your body has. With every step, you move further and further and I think this is mostly the feeling that I look forward to when I begin my run. That feeling of that just being in the flow, of feeling that power, knowing that my body can do it and feeling free and just feeling so good. Again, I think the same happens with us in our lives when we do something that we love.

There is this expression of getting into the flow. It’s actually a term in psychology. It’s when you do something that you love doing and you get so deep into that activity that you become that activity. You become that thing that you do. You’re not yourself anymore, you’re just united with that thing that you’re doing, you’re so deep into it that you lose track of time.

You’re so passionate about it, and this is when you actually achieve the biggest results.

It is when you are so united with what you’re doing, you are just so deep into it that it inspires you so much and you just get that feeling of satisfaction right away just from the process of doing it. You don’t do it for the result, you don’t do it for something that will happen or maybe it won’t happen in the future. You get this immediate satisfaction and fulfillment from just the fact that you are doing it. I love it! When I get that feeling, it’s just the best feeling in the world. This is the feeling of that freedom and ease and this is when my mind really gets so clear. This is when I get most of my insights.

But again, it’s not about running. It’s about just doing things that you love and enjoying them and really giving all of yourself to whatever you’re doing.

Check your autopilot

But then the interesting thing happens. You are running on autopilot and this is good but sometimes our autopilot is not as good as we are, and sometimes when I run, and this is usually the second part of the run, you begin to realize that your form is not perfect anymore. It is because you’re not focused on it anymore.

You get into that flow, you let that autopilot take over but at some point, it’s good to check back with your autopilot and to see if what is happening is really the right thing to be happening.

You may need to adjust your form, your arms, your chin. It’s important to realize that and notice those adjustments that need to be made and I think the same thing is with our lives. Sometimes we just let autopilot take over. We set some goals for ourselves, we start working on them, and we never really ask ourselves again if we are moving in the right direction or if this is still the right goal.

Sometimes priorities change. Our family or life circumstances change and sometimes something that was once important might not be important anymore. Or sometimes things that we thought would work don’t work anymore. What’s interesting is usually the more effort we spend on something the more attached we become to this thing. So, once we start doing something then we get this feeling, “Oh I have to finish.” This is our stubbornness talking within us because we feel like we have put so much effort into it already. We have to finish so we keep putting even more effort.

Sometimes we put effort into things that aren’t really working but we never take the chance to pause and to see if this is the right thing to be doing.

This is why reflecting and really analyzing and staying present along the way is so important to notice when things get off track. To notice when maybe something that we were hoping would be the best way forward isn’t. If that happens, what helps me personally (because I’m very stubborn and I like to get things done, I like to get things to the finish line, so for me, it’s really hard to actually stop and re-adjust in many cases), is I ask myself, “Let’s assume I stop now and I will spend that next day that effort on something else.”

Will it be better than if I continue spending effort on what I’m doing right now?

And if I realize that me shifting my focus to something else will actually bring me more results and will be better, then it’s a sign that I should stop without getting even further into this thing that is not working, without letting it just drain me even more. The more I work on it, the more I will be attached to it and then it will be even harder to stop. Notice that and when you leave your life on autopilot, just check in with yourself because sometimes that autopilot is not as good.

If you train it, if you make sure it’s perfect, then it’s great. But in many cases, our autopilot is not as good as we want it to be, so that’s why it’s really important to check in with yourself regularly and just see.

Is my life going where I want it to be going?
Do I need to be to change anything in my life?
Why do I have this thing or this task or this activity or this habit every day?
Does it work?
Does it still work for me or am I becoming a slave of this task or activity or a habit?

Ask yourself these questions. Don’t let autopilot run your life because then you’ll spend your whole life really not living it but letting your autopilot live it for you.

Become a better version of yourself

Then, coming back to the run, the last lesson that I learned is – there was no case ever when I would finish my run feeling that I regret that I started it. It doesn’t really matter whether I finished it feeling strong, or I did all of it, or I stopped earlier, or I just did half of it, or I felt tired or I felt great. It’s not about that. But whenever I press that stop button, no matter how the run itself went, I always feel great about myself.

I feel proud.

I feel that I have become stronger, better, and it was absolutely worth it. It’s just so crazy, sometimes when I finish my runs it’s such a great feeling of relief that I get very emotional. Sometimes I feel like I can almost start crying. It just feels so liberating, so nice, and just so amazing to feel that you did it. It’s the most beautiful feeling of accomplishment and it’s just such an easy thing to do. You just go for a simple, recovery run but it just makes you feel so proud of yourself. You finish it knowing that you could have not done it, right? You could have woken up in the morning feeling lazy and you could have stayed home. But first, you went outside, you got to the starting line. Second, you went through the middle of the run and during those times when you’re probably getting tired you acknowledge that but you didn’t stop. Or maybe you stopped, which means you listened to yourself, so if you needed to stop because you were just getting too tired, then it’s also great. It means you really focused on what you needed at that moment.

So no matter how it ends you become better.

There is this little challenge that you embrace when you start a run. Or when you start something new, when you want to change something in your life. You accept this challenge and then working through this challenge and overcoming this challenge makes you a better person. It makes you more confident, it makes you feel good, it makes you feel accomplished, proud, and it just makes your day.

We should do more of that.

We should do more things that we love doing. When we start doing this thing for the right reason because we really enjoy the process. We’ll let our minds and bodies adjust and ease into this thing. Then once after we do this, we get into the flow and this is where we really realize our biggest potential, we can really get that satisfaction, that fulfillment, those insights, those a-ha moments… this all happens there.

Then we check back in with ourselves.

How are we doing?
What needs to change?

Once we are done we feel good, we feel proud… we better ourselves.

It is about running but it’s also not about running.

It can be applied to anything in your life and I think it’s really important to be doing more of these things and it’s really important, and I try to do more of this just with my regular life, just look around. Get curious. Try to just see what’s around me and how it affects me and why and how I can get and embrace that wisdom and that inspiration that is already in the world.

So I hope this was inspiring and insightful for you and I hope you can apply it in something that you do. Maybe if I inspired you to go for a run today or tomorrow it will make me very happy. Let me know if that did inspire you to go for a jog, even if it’s just to walk. It doesn’t matter. Remember, it’s not about how fast you go, whether you walk or run, or how far. It’s just about doing something and doing something because you want to do it.

Do it because you just love the process and you see the value that it gives you, and you know how much better and fuller it will make your life.

Related episodes

Episode 6 – What it Really means to be living YOUR life
Episode 3 – Being present, or living mindfully
Episode 2 – Five key ingredients you need in order to start living your life to the fullest
Episode 1 – What is the life ripple effect, and how it can help you achieve your goals

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