They say ‘slow and steady wins the race’ but obviously that’s not true in many cases – the 100 metre Olympic sprint, for example. Maybe also an event that requires walking over red-hot coals. Going swimming in shark-infested waters. All these things would benefit from a touch of velocity.
I have started jogging again, and I am definitely slow, usually steady…. I’m not out to win any races though. After two years’ break from jogging since having a baby, my fitness is not as good as it could be. My motivation for this exercise stems partly from vanity, trying to whittle away my pudgy belly, and partly out of the need to escape the daily routine and have a break. Jogging gives me a real buzz, mentally and physically. There’s a great deal of satisfaction gained by exerting myself and testing my muscles and lungs.
I’ve done a few different sporting activities over the past 20 years but I keep coming back to jogging as my favourite. I was a moody, self-centred and critical teenager – just perfect for team sports… not! If the team didn’t play well it was always someone else’s fault, not mine. Yet when I ran - sprints or cross-country, there were no scapegoats. If I did badly, I only had myself to blame. Conversely, when I ran well, it was through my own efforts.
After I left school I discovered the delights of running purely for my benefit, not for competitive achievement. It was exquisite poetry when I moved smoothly and rhythmically, my breath marking time with my steps. My cells became infused with oxygen and my thoughts were crystal clear. This was a joy I could share with no-one else.
I was never a speedy jogger, even in my ‘prime’ teenage-years. When I was 19, I used to jog to work, carrying a change of clothes in my backpack. A workmate mentioned that she had seen me on her way past one day. Her actual words were: “I saw you power-walking down the road.”
I gritted my teeth, and said, “I was jogging.”
Her response was, “Yeah, whatever….”
Nevertheless, having a form of exercise that requires discipline and motivation is great for the soul. In the process of strengthening your body, you often strengthen your attitude. Going out in the heat or the cold, in strong winds or misty rain is something we can relish in.
(Of course, we’d much rather sit in a comfy chair, reading a book and eating those chocolate biscuits hidden in the back of the cupboard, but that doesn’t give much reward. Well, a couple of bikkies are okay, but four or five are overdoing it. All right… if you’ve had so many bikkies already, you may as well go all out. Get a cup of milk to help wash it down, then you can savour them properly. Soon you’ll have to eat the whole packet and thus remove all evidence of the indulgence. Then you really need to get out and exercise!)
What was I talking about? Ah – overcoming our instinctive reluctances. When we have overcome our apathy and fears, we discover an inner strength that enables us to persist with our other struggles in life. It’s the sort of principal that underpins resilience programs for at-risk youth. Get some disheartened teens (pry them off the computer first), take them into the bush, and throw them off a cliff with only a small nylon cord preventing them from smashing on the rocks. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… or cripples you for life. One of those options.
So now I find myself plodding along the dirt road in the morning, not quite as quickly as I’d like to, but at least I’m a tad faster than a walk. It’s a great opportunity to meditate and think about the day ahead. The surroundings are quiet, with the occasional wallaby bounding through the bush as it’s startled by my approach. Cattle graze in the paddocks and stare at me as I go past.
I can’t see the smaller aspects of my journey, as I don’t wear my glasses while jogging. As long as I can see the general direction of the road, that’s okay. I appreciate the metaphor of not worrying about the finer details but concentrating on the ‘big picture’. And as I travel along this road, I realise it’s not about how fast I can reach my target, but how well I enjoy the journey.