I started this weekly feature on self-care partly as a means of keeping myself honest, because frankly, I’m great at taking care of other people but lousy at extending the same courtesy to myself. Self-neglect rarely ends well.
One of my most valuable self-care tools is long-distance running. I don’t run as often, as regularly or as sensibly as I should. But I run when I can find the time and energy, and I’m always glad I did. Even if I’ve gone too long between runs and lost some of my training base, the mental and spiritual benefits are enough to make up for whatever physical discomfort I have to deal with along the way.
I’m terribly prone to seasonal depression, and when the days get ridiculously short, an hour or two of fresh air, sunlight and endorphins can make all the difference in how I feel.
In addition to doing nice things for my brain chemistry, long runs give me some much-needed time to think, pray or just “be still and know.”
Yesterday was gorgeous, so I treated myself to an ill-advised 10-mile round trip out to Abbey Road Christian Church to walk the labyrinth.
I say “ill-advised” because I’d planned a walk and ended up turning it into a run on the spur of the moment. The problem with that lies in preparation: A walk that long is fine, but if you’re going to run more than five miles, you really need to take along a couple of packets of carb gel and a quart or so of water. I’d made no such preparations (that self-care thing again), and about seven miles into my impromptu jog, my calves and hamstrings started telling me about it.
I was about a mile from home when I looked up and saw salvation in the form of an IHOP. I limped in and ordered a meal specifically intended to replace the nutrients I’d lost on my run: orange juice (potassium, quick carbs), whole-wheat pancakes (complex carbs, a little protein), bacon (protein, salt) and several glasses of water.
Eating solely for nourishment was a singular experience that made me rethink what and why I eat, and it made me genuinely grateful for the meal in front of me, which I desperately needed to soothe my sore legs and fuel that last mile home.
When I was still a practicing Christian Scientist, I was particularly fond of this quote:
Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.
— Mary Baker Eddy
The labyrinth of my life has taken me on a little different spiritual path the last few years, but that truth remains with me, and running has a way of reinforcing it.
Yesterday, that reinforcement came in the form of a well-timed stack of pancakes that met a pressing need beautifully.
I’ll take it.