Self-Care or Self-Discipline?

Running through Airport Lakes Park and Hotelland

I’m at a conference in Orlando this week. Meetings usually start around 8:00 AM, and it’s usually not until 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM before I get back to my hotel room. There are a lot of enjoyable components to a conference like this: catching up with old friends… eating good food… networking for strategic initiatives… But the days feel pretty packed.

Still, I rise before the sun rises every morning. I put on some shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, I lace up my running shoes, and I go out for a run. Four miles yesterday. Three miles today. Five miles tomorrow (God willing). Then, I cool down for a little bit before taking a shower, getting dressed, and packing up for the day. And often, over breakfast, I get a particular question.

“How do you do it?!?”

The question is usually asked with a sense of awe and respect (and I appreciate that). Because other attendees know how things feel, as conference fatigue starts to set in. And fatigue seems to call for sleep. Not extra exertion. Especially not in the early morning hours of the day of a conference. They assume that my early-morning runs are an example of tenacious self-discipline.

But then I tell them that their assumptions are totally off-base.

I actually consider early-morning runs a nod to my weakness, more than my strength. I think of running as a form of self-care, not self-discipline. I need time away from other people, especially during weeks like this. I benefit from preserving a space where my mind can slip into a meditative flow. And even on the physical level, running helps to loosen my muscles and prepare me for a long day of sitting and standing. Each stride of each run functions like a tiny little “scrubbing bubble,” scouring away the little bits of grime from my mind that accumulate over the course of a day or a week. And when I’m finished with a run, I feel more refreshed and more ready for the rest of life.

I’m grateful for this form of self-care, or self-discipline. Even if it means running three-and-a-half loops around the 0.88-mile loop that runs past ten large hotels in this section of Orlando, it’s worth it.

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