How Running is Getting Me Through Grad School

As you know, I’ve had my share of ups and downs when it comes to grad school.  When I began, I was not sure what I wanted to do, I just figured that I should get started toward a degree if that was an option (which it clearly was).  Over time, I kept going and kept working — sometimes painstakingly, but always working toward my goal. 

Running (and all forms of exercise, really) has helped me get this far in so many ways. 

1.  One Mile at a Time.  I tell myself to just do one mile.  I never commit to more than this at once, even if I have an overarching goal in the back of my mind (4 miles, 6 miles, etc.).  I tell myself at each mile marker that if I feel too tired, if I hurt, if I have side stitches — I can stop.  I can walk for 2 minutes if I need to.  I never have to keep going.  This means that if I’m running, it’s because I choose to run.  If my legs are moving, it’s because I’m making them move.  No one is compelling me, I am motivating myself.

I do the exact same thing with grad school.  There’s no need to push myself further than I can go.  I take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one month at a time.  I look ahead to milestones (like “this semester” or “this publication”) and I commit to staying the course for only that amount of time.  This means that I always know I’m there, working my tail off because I chose to be.

2.  I Find a Mantra.  Brainwashing ourselves can be a huge benefit.  When I want to think about how my shins hurt, or how I just want to quit, I start repeating something to myself like “Right, left, right, left.”  Or “I can do hard things.”  Or “dig deep,” synchronizing the mantra with my stride. 

I do the same thing at work sometimes; I count off tubes as I pipet into them, “1, 2, 3, 4..” and I match a rhythm in my head. 

3.  Run Your Own Race.  This is huge to me.  If I try to match what the girl on the treadmill next to me is doing, I inevitably end up putting myself down.  To compare is to despair.  Comparison is always a trap and when I compare myself to others, I always lose.

Instead, focus on being kind to yourself.  Cheerlead for yourself.  You got out of bed this morning!  You are a champion!  Think back to a time when you couldn’t run a mile, and think about where you are now, you speedy little devil.

And for my degree program: it doesn’t matter how long it takes anyone else to do a project, or how many publications some other joker has.  What does matter is whether I am putting my best effort forward. 

The rewards of fitness are so much farther reaching than just physical health.  Exercise is all about our minds, our hearts, our beliefs, our self-perception, our self-image.  The healthiest version of me is the version where I am treating myself well, believing in myself and trusting myself. 

Exercise empowers me to do so much more than I ever dreamed possible. 


What does running help you do?