Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love" - A Runner's Version

Food = Energy
Food = Love
Food = Vice

Finding balance between my never-ending desire to consume anything and everything around me that is made up of simple sugars and my more reasonable awareness that I require a healthy diet to fuel my running is tricky.

I used to have issues with running and eating. I ran because I ate, instead of eating because I ran. I couldn't consume a single calorie without worrying about when and how I could burn it off later in the day. A couple marathons and a baby later, I'm obviously much smarter about the whole thing... usually.

My problem now is that I know all too well that every calorie will be burned and then some. So I tend to go a little overboard. Spoons in the Nutella jar, 2-for-1 Pop Tarts, buttermilk pancakes kind of overboard. It just all tastes SO good. I've been feeling a little guilty about it, but I guess I have to figure that I do typically eat some fruits and vegetables during the day, take my multivitamin, and that I feel really well overall.

I think it all comes down to common sense. You can't subsist on Nutella alone (can you?) but you can't get into the habit of depriving yourself while training for any kind of endurance event. Love yourself, but respect yourself, too.

Two of my favorite paragraphs from this book so far:

1) Flexibility is just as essential for divinity as is discipline.
Your job, then, should you choose to accept it, is to keep searching for the metaphors, rituals and teachers that will help you move ever closer to divinity. The Yogic scriptures say that God responds to the sacred prayers and efforts of human beings in any way whatsoever that mortals choose to worship-- just so long as those prayers are sincere.

2) When Gilbert has a conversation with a friend about searching for meaning for life and loss through religion, he tells her, "You don't want to go cherry-picking a religion."
Which is a sentiment I completely respect except for the fact that I totally disagree. I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted.

I've been reading this book in awe of Gilbert's drive to travel the world in pursuit of her own happiness and to find balance in all areas of her life. To her credit (and to combat how the movie trailer portrays the story), she is not out there just to eat pasta and find love. She actually makes a promise to herself to remain celibate throughout *most* of her journey, and spends a great deal of time scrubbing floors at an Ashram in India where she has to wake up every day at 3:30 AM.

I do not have the desire to dedicate 18 hours a day to meditation, but this book reminded me of something I have also read somewhere else: Prayer isn't just sitting down and wishing for good things to happen or for bad things not to happen. It isn't just begging and pleading. It's opening a door and allowing your soul to mingle with the world around you, pouring yourself into your surroundings and allowing the beauty of the world to come into your heart. It's an exchange of energy - of love.

While I am not down on my knees in a pew praying every Sunday, I realized I am praying every time I run. Sometimes it is a selfish prayer ("Please let me finish this run in one piece. Please let me not die of dehydration."), other times, there are no words at all. I'm just... aware. Every footfall, heartbeat, rustling of leaves, and sunbeam through the canopy of trees is enhanced. When I find myself focusing on that I'm filled with so much amazement and energy, I sometimes forget that I'm running.

This is the part where I say that I LOVE running, right?

Well, I do, but not like that.

Running makes it so that I can probably eat a bit more junk than a sedative person ought to. Running also gives me the chance to quiet my mind and connect with my surroundings. For those things, I am very grateful to have the ability to run and have a deep appreciation not just for the sport, but for the physical movement, itself. So I love running, just enough to do it as long as time and my body will allow, but not so much that it would take precedence over some major life event.

I think it takes more than a love of running to run. You need to love other things and receive a feeling of love FROM other places as well. When I run, I'm filled with the love I have for my daughter, my husband, our life as a family and our pets. I love the scenery, exchanging waves with others, the relief from finishing and the sense of accomplishment that follows. I love feeling strong, the slightly narcissistic sense that others are looking on in admiration and the way my butt looks in jeans.

Point is, it's not just the physical act of running, by itself, that I love. I don't think I could love running merely for the gross motor repetition any more than I'd love to play the piano with the sound completely muted. I don't just push keys for the sensation it provides my fingers. I need the sound, too. I need a sense of flow and the art of composition. So does my running. That's where I find the love.


Emz said...

My favorite post of yours to date.


Summer said...

It's great that you're enjoying that book so much and are drawing your own parallels to it. I think that's the thing that made the book so successful; that pretty much any woman can see herself in Elizabeth Gilbert.