We all know that running has big benefits on our health and cardiovascular fitness, but what does it do for our inner happiness and strength? Turning to top running instructors for the answers, we learned that running cultivates grit and mental focus. According to Angela Duckworth (recipient of the Genius Grant) in a recent Forbes Article, grit is made up of courage, conscientiousness, follow through, resilience and excellence, and is —the key element to being a total badass.
So how does running cultivate grit?
Courage requires commitment and runners are the ultimate champions of commitment. To commit to a distance, time, or coach for a run is to be courageous. The goal setting and personal promise sets up an environment of vulnerability that introduces the potential to fail. It is the acceptance of this challenge that creates courage. That 5:00am run that has you sneaking up on the sun, the midday 10k, the mountainous marathon that you commit to all exercise that inner resolve that we call grit.
What is more painstaking and meticulous than putting one foot in front of another strategically in pursuit of a goal? Running a race or running towards a PR is the ultimate exercise in cultivating conscientiousness. As you grow as a runner you learn to notice your stride, your breath, and form. To go deeper you can work with a trainer who will push you with purpose.
Every step you take as a runner is a small victory of following through. As your lungs burn, your pulse races, and your muscles tire, it takes great mental fortitude to carry on. According to Duckworth, “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.” This is the runner’s journey—to persevere through boredom, frustration, injury, and circumstance. Every training session is an invitation to apply the grit that Duckworth refers to and she points out that the rewards are great. “Follow-through was also the single best predictor of significant accomplishment in science, art, sports, communications, organization, or some other endeavor.”
Running tests your resilience with blistered feet, chafed skin, emotional ups and downs, painful muscles, and the constant need to juggle life and training time. Through repetition, runners develop strength to continue despite the many excuses that could be made to avoid a run.
Excellence is self-determined and includes process. The intrinsic nature of this quality means that there are no external parties or factors who can determine what is excellent for you. An excellent runner is a runner who strives for excellence—there is no specific goal, number of miles, or race time that is better than another. Committing to life as a runner means that excellence is is part of every step. It means that every step is your personal best, which means that you must be present to your experience.
And finally, running brings a mental focus and clarity that we carry into our entire lives. Whether that’s in the board room, a presentation, an exam, or being present as a parent, running helps us how up as our best selves.
That’s grit. That’s running. That’s cultivating your inner badass.
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