Thursday, June 27, 2013

A false sense of accomplishment

For about a day recently, I had nothing to do.* Nothing. On a weekday. Sure, I could have summoned something - there are always footnotes to format, new projects to begin. But the best I could come up with was an apartment-organizing marathon. And a nap. Also some running.

This comes up in Jamie Quatro's essay on running: "delusions of grandeur: visions of the Self at moments of glory." I've never experienced this as anything quite so specific as what she describes. It's more that everything worrying me - whichever insecurities I'm experiencing - vanish. But beyond that, there's also this sense, while running, that I'm being productive, and once the run is over, that I've accomplished something. (Hank Azaria describes something similar in his Marc Maron interview.)

In reality, neither of these things are the case. Running is nice and all, but I walk a good amount (a hyperactive dog demands this), and I possess adequate amounts of no-doctor-would-call-me-overweight-except-maybe-we-could-find-one-with-that-view-on-the-Upper-East-Side privilege. Any time spent running probably should be spent doing something else. Honestly, given my ambitions, blogging is a more productive use of my time than running loops through this tick-filled idyll. Running beats anxiety, but so too does a glass of red wine with dinner, which, given the tick situation (can you tell I'm reading that New Yorker article?) might be the healthier choice. Whatever marginal, only-I-would-ever-notice-it aesthetic benefit comes from running is zilch compared with what could be accomplished if I more regularly remembered to style my hair and put on eyeliner. And running reduces the likelihood of primping, enforcing a kind of low-maintenanceness-by-default.

But the appeal of running for me kind of does come down to that sense of accomplishment. Therefore my commitment to running probably correlates inversely with my overall sense of getting things done. Which is weird, right? Runners are so often these hyper-accomplished people. I can't figure it out. All I know is, if I ever announce plans to run a race longer than, say, six miles, or a jog longer than, say, nine, it might be time for some kind of towel-throwing-in intervention.

*Rest assured, various edits later, I have plenty to do.

10 comments:

Petey said...

"Therefore my commitment to running probably correlates inversely with my overall sense of getting things done. Which is weird, right?"

Nope. Obvious. Perfect time to be chasin' that endorphin hit.

"This comes up in Jamie Quatro's essay on running: "delusions of grandeur: visions of the Self at moments of glory." I've never experienced this as anything quite so specific as what she describes."

This is why bicycles, good weather, and good road are superior to Keds. Superior path to endorphin nirvana via the whole flying sensation. But I digress.

"All I know is, if I ever announce plans to run a race longer than, say, six miles, or a jog longer than, say, nine, it might be time for some kind of towel-throwing-in intervention."

Indeed. At that level of junkie-hood, meth is actually healthier for you. And it would make apartment-organiazing quicker too.

caryatis said...

Phoebe, yeah. I've asked myself the same questions. Myself and other women at the gym. I see them there every day--they are thin--they're constantly seeking a more strenuous workout--if they're like me they would only gain perhaps 5 pounds if they stopped going to the gym altogether. And, aside from the time and effort, this particular gym costs ~$100 a month.

So why do we do it? I tell myself it keeps me sane, but is it just an addiction? If it is an addiction, at least it's healthier than most. My conclusion is that, since it's working for me, I shouldn't question it too much.

Also, I came home from a recent hiking trip with two ticks! Eww. And people eat deer.

Phoebe said...

Caryatis,

Gah, the ticks! I recently had my first sighting (on my person, but it hadn't bitten me) of a deer (as vs dog) tick. But this really means people should eat more deer. Or, if the New Yorker article is to be believed, more white-footed mice. No thanks.

As for the gym, I suppose some of it could be seen as an investment in future health and/or slimness. As in, you may be fine with what you're built like now, but maybe you won't be in 20 years if you don't get in the habit of working out. But I suspect a lot of it is that it's anxiety-zapping, without any real downside, unless you overdo it and injure yourself/become an exercise bulimic.

caryatis said...

Phoebe,

Good point. I suppose it might be good to perceive (extra) exercise as a need, even if, as a young bike commuter, it's not really one yet.

Petey said...

"So why do we do it? I tell myself it keeps me sane, but is it just an addiction?"

Who cares? Addiction is not necessarily a dirty word. I'm addicted to blueberries, and I don't think that's a problem. (Though withdrawal can be unpleasant.)

I think most sensible folks do indeed exercise in moderation precisely to stay sane, and it seems to have fewer side-effects than SSRI's.

caryatis said...

Petey, it works for me. Although only if I go beyond the "in moderation."

Phoebe said...

The issue here isn't so much "addiction" as it is the potential for working out to kind of take over. To feel as though one has accomplished enough by working out. And this seems potentially more complicated for women, who have a greater history of food-as-control issues (full-on eating disorders being only the most extreme example) and of seeking self-perfection in physical appearance as vs. achievement.

caryatis said...

Phoebe, did you intend to draw a dichotomy between exercise and "real" accomplishment? Seems to me exercise feeds both our physical vanity and our desire for achievement.

Hence why some runners pay to run races--they don't burn any more calories but they get to feel proud of themselves--and why I like yoga, because it allows me to do things with my body I couldn't do before. I get a sense of strength from it which feeds other activities and seems to give me more confidence that I can overcome non-physical challenges. It's the mind-body connection, man.

Phoebe said...

If running/exercise is contributing to other activities, than all is well. My concern is when it kind of replaces those other activities. What I described here. If I have to choose between spending whichever time pitching an article or running some great distance, either will leave me feeling accomplished, but only one will actually accomplish anything. Obviously it's not either-or, and I'm honestly not athletic enough to have that problem. But it can be, in a sense, because it's less scary and lean-in-ish to athletically accomplish than to do so in less predictable realms. If one sets out to run X miles, that happens. If one sets a professional/artistic goal, the possibilities for accomplishment are greater, but so too are the risks.

caryatis said...

Agreed.