A simple example of how running therapy opens your mind

Saturday morning I was sitting in my little economy car, heater on, trying to maneuver one leg at a time against the dash so I could start stretching without freezing while I waited on my sister for a run.

Eyeing the frost outside, I wondered if I was wearing enough layers.

Then I get out and say something to Traci about the cold, and she goes, “It’s not that bad. There’s no wind.”

And just like that, I stop shivering.

Despite the fact that she’s been trying to give me orders since she learned how to talk, I don’t always listen to or agree with my younger sister. We’re opposites in many ways; there’s a reasonable chance we’d hate each other if we met as strangers.

But we’re both so used to our joint running therapy sessions that we arrive with our minds more open than usual. We expect to have our preconceptions challenged – and during these runs, at least, instead of clinging to our own point of view we welcome the opportunity to hear the other person’s perspective.

Because we’re so different, what strikes one of us as an intractable problem usually seems like no big deal to the other person. In any other setting, that imbalance might lead to some eye-rolling – or worse. How many arguments have I witnessed that start because one person is dismissive or even derisive of another person’s concerns?

But here, on the running path, we’re committed to lightening our load. Sometimes we just need to vent for a while. It makes the miles go by faster, and depending on how we worked up we are, it sometimes makes us run faster as well.

Thornier problems get broken down little by little, mile by mile.  A simple solution, or at least a coping mechanism –  hard to see when anxiety fogs your vision – almost always presents itself.  

Of course, few problems are so easily solved as my misperception of Saturday morning’s weather. Once Traci pointed out the stillness of the slightly-below-freezing air, I instantly realized she was right: Without a wind, the cold had no hold on me that I couldn’t outrun.  

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