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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Drive Angry

This goes for running, too.

Actually, it's not entirely that simple. Running is actually a great stress reliever. The trick is that you let the running govern your emotions, not the other way around.

I've got a lot going on in my life right now that you might consider stressful. Without details, let's just say that there are many things that are out of my control that I wish were different than they are. Wouldn't we all, right?

It's just that the last couple of days have involved a great deal of ups and downs, all coupled with the fact that I'm not getting enough sleep at night. I get home from rehearsals late, and as I have no other time during the day, I am trying (unsuccessfully) to get up and run before work. If I were only physically exhausted, I would have more than enough time to get rested, but it's the emotional exhaustion that really takes the wind out of my sails.

As such, when I woke up yesterday, I just didn't feel like going for a run. I chose to sleep in for another hour or so and got up for work. The stress kept building throughout the day so that when I got to my lunch break, I had to do something. I headed to the gym and took out my frustration on the treadmill.

The first two miles felt great. I was running fast with hard rock music blasting in my ears. At the time, it felt like just the adrenaline rush I needed to burn some fuel.

Here's the problem, though. As every good director I've ever had has told me, anger itself is not interesting, because anger itself is usually not a simple emotion. When a character is onstage in angry, it's usually just the unhealthy expression of hurt or fear or confusion. Saying that your character is "angry" misses a lot of the point of why.

In the same way, using pure adrenaline to burn off "anger" isn't going to last very long. By 2.5 miles, I had to stop the treadmill and take a breath and a little walk around the gym, because the outward frustration had given way to the exhaustion behind it. I got back on after a couple minutes and ran another 1.3, at which point my right knee decided I was done. With a few choice words for the various malfunctioning parts of my body, I decided to give it up for the day.

Though I was scheduled to do six, I decided to mix up the schedule for this week a little bit. When your body says it's done, sometimes you have to listen.

My big issue, of course, was that I went to the gym to burn off some frustration and ended up just being more frustrated with the fact that I didn't finish my scheduled workout. It had the opposite effect, and it's because I let my emotion drive my legs.

What I needed to do was clear my brain, put on some more chill music and let my legs burn all that excess steam, finishing my run with less stress and a sense of accomplishment. Instead, I went for the instant gratification of pure speed and burning muscles, which would be okay if I were doing quarter-mile intervals or something like that. For a six-mile run, it's not a good choice.

This morning, when I woke up, both my knees hurt. The stress hadn't abated at all, and I still hadn't slept enough. In the dim light, I told myself one thing.

Take the day off.

I open a show tomorrow, and I've got a lot going on between now and then, and it'll actually help to get up early and run in the morning as motivation to keep myself moving. Most of everything else is out of my control right now, so I can't worry about it too much. There is only one thing I can control, and that's what I choose to do. If I choose to make myself get up tomorrow morning and run six miles, then I've taken control of something, and that's a step in the right direction.

And that's a start.

Tuesday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
3.8 Miles
25 Minutes, 39 Seconds

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