When we discover a new hobby, it’s usually accompanied by the thrilling rush of a first-time experience. That sensation of utter novelty is what may very well hook us in the first place. But that wasn’t the case with my newest hobby.
Up until the past month, running was something I hadn’t done since my days chasing the Crimson Ride around campus. I preferred the smooth, controlled nature of resistance training to jiggling down the sidewalk, sweaty mop plastered to my forehead. It wasn’t until I experienced the freedom of a solitary, outdoor run that I fell in love with the sport.
Motivated by the new activity sharing feature on my Apple Watch, I was envious of my friends’ already-filled exercise rings. So, I strapped on my electric blue running shoes, grabbed my wireless headphones, and headed out.
Strangely, I was nervous. I watched people run up and down the city’s sidewalks all day long, yet this very normal activity was suddenly rather intimidating.
Casting reservations aside, I tuned for the first time to my Spotify running playlist. I was fascinated at this feature I never knew had existed. A voice came through my headphones and told me to begin running. Well, there’s my kick.
I started trotting down the sidewalk. The app measured my pace and adjusted the tempo of the music accordingly. I’d be lying if I said this magic playlist wasn’t what enticed me to run in the days following.
I found my pace, and at the same time found a foray of new emotions and sensations.
While I love a crowd and consider myself quite social, I’m usually a bit uncomfortable being somewhere like a park alone. As I neared the entranceway to the city park, I felt my perception of my own presence transform. I was no longer simply perusing through the park, feeling as though I needed to be on my phone or talking to someone. Instead, I felt both present and removed.
I watched people picnicking, children playing, lovers strolling. I was there with them, yet I was also there with only myself. It was a comfortable sense of removedness, enhanced by the rush of adrenaline from my pace. The music, which I feared would disconnect and distract me, instead acted as a filter on the world. It was the same scene, but experienced through a different lens. My own lens, one where I set the tempo.
This sense of ownership over my own perception added to the rush of emotions I already felt at that moment. Part of why I think I could appreciate this moment in all of its fullness was the absence of a competing priority. By running, I was relaxing, recharging, and upping my fitness all at once. This sense of accomplishing multiple goals in tandem is what let me be free to fully take in the moment.
I used to get antsy on rest days, not knowing what to do between my regular weight training sessions. Now, I look forward to a switch in routine, and to experience the sensation of being both there, and not there, that I only get on a run. If I wanted, I could rip the headphones out and halt dead in my tracks. But I don’t. After all, those moments of transcendence from the world are what got me hooked from the start.