Daily Zen

The Wisdom Of Giving Up

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Lately, I’ve been running instead of walking hills for my morning workout.

The world of running is completely new to me and I never planned to take up running. Walking just sort of evolved into running, all on its own. But at first, I could only handle a very slow jog. Other runners on the trail were running right past me.

After jogging every day for a while, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong. It felt kind of boring, difficult, and pointless. I tried to increase my speed a little. But that wasn’t fun for me. I was out of breath and I couldn’t run very far. I guess I just had to start reeeeally slow.

But then I tried something else. I tried running fast and then walking and then running again – off and on. This worked GREAT for me. I could run faster, go a longer distance, AND get my heart rate up – in the shortest amount of time and distance necessary. I could also take on a steep hill or two. Why wasn’t I taught this form of running in high school P.E. class??

I noticed that no one else on the trail was running this way. Was I doing something wrong again?

My son Zeke who’s a certified personal trainer said it was actually a smart way to run and there’s a name for it too. It’s called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. There’s no set standard. You could walk slow, then walk a little faster. Or run, and then do dead sprints. Apply to anything.

My strange form of running doesn’t seem so strange after all. But there was just one other problem. As a new runner, I found myself worried what other people thought of my running skills. Why did I feel so much shame and guilt every time I slowed down to a walk? Why could I feel people frowning at me?

I remembered high school again, when I was playing field hockey and other sports. We weren’t supposed to slow down. We were supposed to keep pushing hard to the end of the game, with one short break at half time. If we slowed down, that was frowned upon, whether spoken or unspoken.

You might notice similar expectations in everyday life: Do your chores. Brush your teeth. Wake up early. Earlier. Study hard until the exam. Now get to work. Work hard until retirement. Now you have to work on your failing health…. Giving up is not an option! Shame on you if you don’t keep going….

But maybe this formula is a little out of balance. Maybe it emphasizes hard work to the point where hard work really isn’t worth the energy. Maybe it’s even a waste of energy, or harmful. It certainly isn’t fun. It might even feel like torture. Yet, it’s familiar. So we keep at it.

Medical science has been talking more and more about our circadian rhythm. If you look at the studies, you’ll notice that your hormones such as cortisol and other chemicals go through a series of highs and lows throughout the day and night. This pattern is similar to a complex sine wave. The sine wave is found throughout nature such as in light waves and sound waves.

Sine Wave
Sine Wave

It’s also alluded to in esoteric or enlightened texts. The entire universe functions on the yin yang balance which consists of polarities, or highs and lows, or… intervals of walking and running!

However you apply it, whether it’s interval training, intermittent fasting, eating and sleeping on a circadian rhythm – or just taking a break in life when you need it… The Buddha’s ‘Middle Way’ might be the “formula” for minimal effort and maximum return.

In other words, WHEN YOU DON’T PUSH YOURSELF, YOU CAN PUSH HARDER. OR, THE MORE YOU GIVE UP, THE MORE YOU WON’T GIVE UP.

During my walk/run, I deliberately began slowing down when I felt someone’s eyes on me. That helped me break free from expectations – perceived or otherwise. A sense of freedom can allow for ‘flowing with the universe,’ even if it runs contrary to social norms.