My Post-Election Advice: Go For a Run

As I write this, it is 10 a.m. Tuesday, November 8. Election Day. (Did you happen to notice that? The election? Several news outlets covered it.)

This means, obviously, that as I write this I have no idea which presidential candidate will be celebrating late tonight and which one will be delivering a concession speech. Whichever way the election falls, though, I am certain of two things:

One, by this time Wednesday many millions of Americans will feel like winners, millions of others like losers. 

And two, many of us—most, I think it's safe to say—will feel drained, exhausted by what's been a relentlessly vicious and divisive election cycle. We may also feel a little apprehensive as we wonder what's coming next. 

I don't know what's coming next. But I know what I'll do to help myself process it:

I'll go for a run.

If you're reading this and you're a runner you already know that even a short, easy run can change your day for the better. Just 20 or 30 minutes can leave you feeling energized, grounded, and focused.

The world is a huge, overwhelming place, but when you’re running it shrinks to a manageable size.

It goes beyond that, though, at least for me. Especially when things get rough emotionally. 

At times like those—which is to say, times like these—a good run isn't just a way to burn some calories and clear your head. It's a way to regain a measure of control when you're feeling helpless. The world is a huge, overwhelming place, but when you're running it shrinks to a manageable size. For a little while, existence narrows to the path under your feet, the rhythm of your gait, and the beat of your heart. No matter how crazy and clamorous things become, running remains simple and serene.

For a little while, you alone are in control. You alone are moving yourself forward. All else recedes into the background.

Also, by the way? You are sweating, breathing hard, maybe even hurting a little. By choice. You are alive and doing something pretty wonderful that you won't always be able to do. That's another thing that a good run will remind you of, and it's no small thing. 

This all occurred to me—reoccurred to me, I guess—in the days leading up to the election. My running has been sporadic for a while now, and on most Tuesdays I take a zero. This Tuesday, of course, wasn't most Tuesdays. It was a big day, possibly a portentous one. More than anything it felt like an approaching storm. And my subconscious was telling me to be sure I got a good run in that day.

So I did. A friend met me at 6:30 a.m. and we ran through a local park, chatting and laughing. Apart from a few opening remarks and nervous laughter, we barely mentioned the election. As we parted, I thanked him. He thanked me. And we each ran home.

I immediately felt better, as I almost always do after a run. More important, I felt ready—prepared for what I knew would be a long, intense day. 

This is the beauty of running—it doesn't just strengthen our bodies and minds. It bolsters our spirits. It recalibrates. It fortifies

This is why I plan to run Wednesday as well, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's election. Whether I'm happy or disappointed, a run will leave me a little calmer, a little stronger, a little more resilient than when I started.

A run will keep me moving forward for one more day.

Isn't that what life is all about?