Running Over, Around and Through the Recession

Whether you are looking for work, renegotiating your mortgage, reallocating your IRA, haggling with your creditors, or personally okay but worried about your family and friends, find the time to run more and run harder.

One of the worst things about economic chaos is that it makes you feel like you have lost control of your life. Maybe you've lost your job, or your retirement, or your house. Or economic events are going to force you to make difficult business decisions or career decisions you dread. But you own your body, and can still put one foot in front of another. Every step you take is a reminder that you have more control than you realize. Running empowers you.

Economic problems are stressful for you, your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Running will pump endorphins into your brain and help you chill out. You will sleep better. Your body will produce less cortisol and adrenaline. As you go about your day more relaxed, you will help those around you relax. Your peace will breed peace in those around you. The Buddhists have understood that for over two thousand years. The Old Masters would be runners today.

Running allows you to escape the incessant negativity of television. TV thrives on drama, tragedy and conflict. Unfortunately, pessimism is contagious, and the constant bombardment of the angry talking heads breeds fear in anyone who watches it. Peace and quiet don't work on the tube. It's a puny, square, distorted window on a big, multi-dimensional world that can only hold your attention with loud noise, canned laughter, and extreme views and behaviors. Running puts you in the real world where you listen to your own thoughts and the reality around you.

And while you are away from the TV, you will also escape all the ads telling you that you need to go buy something to overcome a personal shortcoming, satisfy some craving, keep up with the Joneses, and achieve happiness or faux security, whether or not you have the money to do so or it's really in your best interests. During a recession is a good time to take a break from it. TV doesn't know you and cares about you only as a customer.

Running keeps you healthy, thus lowers your healthcare costs. Medical costs are the major cause of personal bankruptcies. During a recession, more and more people are uninsured. If you are behind on your mortgage or out of work, the last thing you need is to pay more money to a healthcare system that already consumes more than any other industrialized country on earth. Plenty of reliable evidence shows that regular, moderate exercise helps prevent numerous chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancers and a host of other degenerative conditions. With every step, you protect your health and assets at the same time.

You need to think clearly because you are faced with difficult decisions, irrational fears, and an unstable, shifting economic environment. When you run, your brain will produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (see Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey's Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain), which actually makes you smarter and more creative. You will be armed with the best weapon a human has to cope with adversity: a high-functioning mind. You are better able to see the Big Picture and find solutions, rather than get stuck in the problems of the moment. Some of your best thinking happens while you are running and not fretting. You are in the present, where problems vanish as you struggle to keep a pace, breathe, and ignore the growing pain in your legs.

Finally, running is cheap. Cheap is good if you are broke or need to hold on to your savings in case you are going to be out of work. All you need a good pair of shoes, you can skimp on everything else. You don't need to spend money on a gym, exercise DVDs, or fancy home equipment or fru fru lycra with dayglo trim. You can just step outside of your door, lace 'em up, and go.

Out on the trail, you will run over, around and through rocks, stumps, downed timber and streams. You'll go up, down, then up again. You see the world is alive and constantly changing, everything is passing by. The recession will pass too.

Note: What is true of running is also true of biking, hiking, swimming, rope jumping, rowing -- whatever you do hard enough to elevate your heartbeat for thirty minutes or more each day. Running is my favorite. Follow your own bliss.

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