Monthly Archives: February 2012

Movement & Confinement

I can ignore the act of running for only so long. Some mornings the dark and the cold are too much to get me out the door. Sometimes I just don’t feel like expending the energy to factor the appropriate amount of clothing to deal with the changing weather. Sometimes I’m just too damn busy to run. Deep down, however, there is a pressure cooker building steam and after a few days I just can’t take it. I Have. To. Run. It might be catching a glimpse of trail winding into the woods. It might be watching someone else trot down the street. Whatever it is, that urge to get out and run, to move, to feel that sense of velocity and (dare I romanticize it) “freedom” takes over me. It’s a compelling force that seems almost external it’s so strong. So I throw on my shoes, nearly bolt out the door and take off down  the street to see what happens.

I do this, this act of running, for many reasons I’ve drawn out on this blog previously and I’ll spare you the rehashing. What I don’t want to neglect though is the appreciation I have for my ability to run, not running “well”, but just running, the ability to move relatively freely. I never take for granted the freedom I have to run the streets, down the trails, into the city, back home. When training for my attempt at the Marathon Trials I constantly feared injury or mishap that would render me unable to move, unable to train. It was excessive worrying, but the thought of a broken leg, severely twisted ankle, etc. was cringe-inducing, and although the stakes aren’t as high now, I don’t like to imagine any scenario where my body is effectively useless.

I think of my sister who was taken by cancer, once a runner, but ultimately eaten from the inside to the point that moving off the couch was impossible. To have the awareness of running ability reduced to immobility must have been mentally torturous. I don’t know how I would cope to be honest. So yeah, I sound rather bleak here, but this serves to highlight the appreciation I have for being an able-bodied, active individual. And to think, my sister was rendered immobile by a disease, while others are due to self-neglect. My sympathy has its limits.

Then there are the other victims of immobility, the animals we have stolen into domestication and objectify as food products. Their immobility haunts me. Have you ever considered the toll immobility must take on these sentient creatures? Here is the thing…you can’t. Yes, you can imagine how YOU would feel confined in a 3 foot by 5 foot space (which might be generous), but can you REALLY empathize with how that must feel to others? I can’t. My mind instinctually diverts itself when I try to imagine the anguish of being unable to move, unable to escape. I’ve seen the toll this sort of immobility takes. I’ve seen the dead chickens lying on the floors of factory farms, their bodies grotesquely swollen till immobility and death sets in. I’ve seen the mink who are so racked with immobility that they swing their heads back and forth, bite at the wires that cage them to alleviate boredom, pace madly to fend off the effects of confinement. I’m proud to say I also gave thousands of them respite from their mental anguish and watched them sprint towards freedom. This is, however, a cyclical system of immobility and hundreds of thousands more are born and bred into this confinement, living out their lives in mental and physical anguish, never knowing what it is to run, jump, relate, swim, fly….move. Not only confined, but not understanding why. Only wanting to NOT be confined. “Torture” doesn’t adequately do it justice.

And we complain about being stuck in traffic.

I am appreciative of my ability to run, to be mobile. I don’t take it for granted and  seize every opportunity available to get out there when the motivation is strong, because if someday I do end up immobile (chance forbid) I want to know that I never wasted the ability, never gave in to passivity, took hold of momentum always. It is cliche, but I run because I can.

And for those that can’t run, that are confined by our stupid, unthinking routines, that have been rendered immobile by the unempathetic dictates of supply and demand, what will you do for them? Can you extend the appreciation and understanding you have for your own mobility to their circumstance? Can you see it through to make a simple dietary change that removes you from the processes that create their confinement?

Consider the physical and mental value of your mobility. Then consider how to grant the same to the non-human animals confined by our systems. Go vegan.

What’s My Motivation?

The alarm sang out its incessant beeping at 5:15, reminding me what I told myself last night,

“You are going to get up early and run tomorrow….and then take a shower. You ARE!”

I hit the snooze, groggily stumbled into the bathroom and stared at my running outfit laid out in a manner that all but put itself on me, doing what I can to make the morning ritual as simplistic as possible the night before when all my faculties were firing sufficiently. I brushed my teeth and stared into the mirror. Then the voice crept in. The voice I try not to hear every single morning I get up to run before my body and mind are ready.

“Why are you doing this? Your legs are sore. You need the sleep. You’ll get plenty of exercise at work. You can do it tomorrow.”

I counter….sort of,

“Why AM I doing this? I’m tired. I’m not training for anything. I’m in shape. I’m only 140ish pounds. I’m…..oh yeah, I haven’t taken a shower in weeks.”

And so I force myself into the dark, drive to the gym and by the time I get there my mind has finally woken up on par with my body and doing something physically active before work not only doesn’t sound COMPLETELY INSANE AND NUEROTIC, but actually sounds appealing. And then there is that hot shower waiting.

The shower was nice, yes. Very much needed, for sure, and ultimately that is what got me out the door and running a decently quick 5 miles that encouragingly felt routine and almost too easy. And right now, it’s those small things that are my motivation, that are my way out the door to put one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t always this difficult or deluded…. A shower being the motivating factor I mean.

When I was training for races and putting my abilities, reputation and physical self on the line, finding motivation to get up and run was shockingly easy. 15 miles at 4 am? No problem! 1 run before work and a speed workout after? No big deal! No big deal, because the motivator was strong. But it’s not so much what motivator one has, but simply that it is there to get you through those rough patches.

And with that, if I had a dime every time someone said to me, “I could NEVER be vegan”, I’d have, I don’t know, at least 20 bucks, probably more (hey, I don’t exaggerate to make a point). My response has shifted from something a little less compassionate to, “Well, you certainly COULD. You just don’t have the motivation, the reasoning to do so. If you had the knowledge and experiences of how animals are treated for food production, I bet you’d find some motivation to eat vegan.”

That’s, of course, assuming one puts aside enough of their disassociated and desensitized upbringing to actually CONSIDER what food production must feel like for animals. No matter, the point stands. But maybe it’s not just the ethical motivation that matters, because for some it’s weight reduction. For others it’s avoiding a heart attack. And so on. The point is, if you don’t have convincing enough motivation to engage in any sort of lifestyle habit, whether that is physical activity or diet, you probably aren’t going to stick with it. More than likely, you are going to toy with an idea that was presented to you as “good”, but without sound reasoning or personal motivation you probably aren’t going to continue on with the change despite how simplistically reasonable it might have sounded at one point.

On a personal level, it is why I don’t mind continuing to expose myself to animal suffering through educational materials, books, videos, etc. It’s not necessarily a fun process, but the motivation that follows presses me onward to consider new ways to halt animal use and abuse. Despite understanding the issue directly and living vegan for so many years, having reminders or boosts to my motivation is never a bad thing and to surround oneself with motivating factors can only make your efforts more lasting.

On the same note, (most) EVERYONE can run, despite whines and cry’s to the contrary…. It’s just about having the motivation to do so. I could play tennis, but I don’t have the motivation to even bother. No big deal, tennis is just a sport. Veganism on the other hand, is an ethical consideration and the repercussions (to others) for NOT finding the motivation (or offering it) are much more dire and far reaching.

So I beg of you, if you are one of those who has said “I could NEVER be vegan”, please don’t be so absolute, and accept that you certainly COULD be vegan (I hope I and the hundreds of other vegan athletes have proven as such), you just need the motivation. Just as runners have to convince themselves out the door, whether that’s for a race or a shower, please consider the many reasons and motivations to live vegan. It’s one of the most important considerations you’ll ever make.

I can afford to demotivate myself to run (what’s another week without a shower?!), but losing motivation to live vegan is simply unacceptable in light of those affected by our decisions.