First published in Status Magazine.
Four years ago I started jogging. I can’t remember why. I found it incredibly difficult getting through the couch to 5K. A friend had taken up jogging at the same time I had and was quickly racking up the miles, thrilling that it was their favourite new thing. Quite soon, they were competing in half marathons, changing diet and getting super fit while I was repeating weeks just to get to my 5K. I eventually made it - mostly hating it - and once managed a 10K by promising to buy myself a literal medal. I let running slide.
I’m writing this on 17th May 2021 and that’s significant in the UK because it’s the day we’re coming out of the pandemic in the most tangible way for a while. Many people have had their first if not second vaccine, theatres are opening up, friends can stay over, accommodation can open, we can meet in larger groups, some international travel is possible without quarantine and so on. Though we’re opening up at different times in the world (and some are suffering more), a lot of people are moving (back) to real world improv.
Eight weeks ago, I started jogging again. We’re planning a hike in Scotland and I need to get physically ready after a year of yoga and nature walks. I expected to agonise through it like last time, but something interesting happened… I liked it. I have had a complete attitude shift. 41 year old me is much more chill. Last time, I was executing the instructions to the best of my ability. I was running as hard as I could during all the running bits and impatiently striding in the walking bits, or worrying about the next run. I was trying to be physically fit. This time, I’ve been enjoying my music, the Zombies narrative of the app and the nature around me. I’m not looking at the clock and I’m cooling down with yoga as a ‘treat’! I’ve been listening to my body instead of the commands.
There’s a ‘free form’ run bit where you can choose to run or walk as much as you like. I mostly jog at a gentle pace, but I walk if I feel like I want to take a moment to catch my breath. I am doing it for my mental health. Physical benefits are a bonus. 4-years-ago-me would be pushing hard through discomfort. We’re told to push ourselves, to battle constantly, to never quit, to be the best we can be. In this new season of C25K I am being present and enjoying myself and noticing the difference in attitude between now and before. It’s not always easy to leave the house for it, but knowing I don’t have to put in a personal best when I’m on my period or go as fast as I can despite the muddy, rainy conditions is a huge relief. And you know what - now I’m running all the running bits.
I have my first live gig soon. I’m not rushing into it. I gave myself some time. Friends are throwing themselves right back, but I don’t have to run a half marathon just because they are. I am listening to my body. A rehearsal Doodle has come through, but I’m asking the company what our goals, vision and expectations are before I tick the boxes and opt back in. ‘What is this and why am I doing it’ are important questions. I’m not just going to pick up where I left off. I have learned a lot and I’m much better than that.
If you want to do (and are able to do) live improv (again), run at your own pace. If you’re not half-marathon person, that’s fine. You don’t even need to compete with past you. Come with a beginners mind. Enjoy everything you learned and put it gently into practice. There is no worse or better, there’s really only present and different.