ADHD, Running Shoes, and Discomfort
I ran my last pair of running shoes to death. Like the pair before them. And the pair before that.
It’s not that I fall in love with a pair of shoes and become reluctant to let them retire. It’s that every time the subtle, tell-tale pain in my heels reminds me I’m running on so little cushion that I might as well just sprint barefoot down the highway, I forget to make a note to go shopping. After all, I don’t carry my to-do list with me to my favorite trail by the river (if I did, I would most certainly lose it, anyway.)
There are other factors, of course. My tendency to blow my clothing budget every month, leaving no money for big purchases. My obsession with the color black, and the running shoe industry’s abject failure to produce black shoes that do not also cost $200.00….
Eventually, though, the jarring sensation in my knees prompts me to forgo the run I had planned for the day and go get myself another pair of shoes, even if I have to buy something in whatever garish collision of colors is popular these days.
So that’s what I did a few months ago. I picked out a pair of Asics (I’m not an affiliate, guys, but if you have narrow feet and run a lot, get yo’ self a pair of these bad boys) that felt like cloud-cushions under my poor tootsies, forked over the cash, and proceeded to take them for a test drive.
And that’s when something interesting happened.
The shoes hurt.
Now, I’ve purchased enough new athletic shoes in my lifetime to know that there is a hurt that means you have made a grave mistake, aaaaaaand a hurt that simply means you are wearing new shoes. This hurt was the latter. It was the pain of my formerly over-worked, under-supported feet adjusting to the structure and padding of the shoes they had needed for months now. I knew all of this, and yet my brain and I had a very heated conversation:
Brain: These shoes suck.
Me: These shoes are exactly what I need.
Brain: We should go back to the other ones. They didn’t hurt this much.
Me: Are you kidding? Those shoes were DESTROYING my joints! Do you WANT me in a wheelchair by age 40?
Brain: No. (Pause) Maybe we should just quit running. It would be better for everyone involved.
Me: Everyone involved, meaning…ME. And the answer is no. I love running. Quitting is not an option.
Brain: But this HURTS.
Me: It doesn’t really hurt. It’s just uncomfortable. And it will go away.
Brain: But its uncomfortable NOW, and we have ZERO guarantee that it will ever stop being uncomfortable…so I suggest that we abort this activity and go eat empty calories and watch “Elementary”.
Me: Yes, well…your suggestion has been noted, but I have a very important, mindless pop song with lots of bass to listen to at the moment, so kindly be quiet while we log a few more miles, will you?
Variations of this conversation played in my head every single run I took for the next ten days. And then they stopped, because my feet adjusted to their new, healthy home, and the pain went away.
The POINT, for those of you who have made it this far and are still wondering, is that my brain, though it was doing its best to keep me from experiencing discomfort, actually wanted me to do things that DIRECTLY OPPOSED my goals, and that would have led me to giving up one of the greatest sources of joy in my life. I LOVE my runs. They put me in touch with nature, my body, and my most calm, contemplative self. I can’t imagine giving that up. But my brain, faced with a little discomfort, immediately sought alternatives, even at the expense of something that gives me great joy.
The takeaway for YOU is that this experience is NOT unique to me. It happens to you ALL THE TIME.
Any time you stretch yourself in the face of a new experience, REGARDLESS of whether that experience is for you GOOD or your ILL, you will experience discomfort.
And any time you experience discomfort, your brain will likely recommend to you that you HIT THE EJECT BUTTON as fast as you can. This is not your brain’s fault. It is a function of your mental system, designed to save you from things like roasting your hand over a bonfire. But your brain cannot distinguish between discomfort that means you are being hurt and discomfort that means you are BECOMING SOMETHING BETTER.
YOU have to do that.
YOU have to realize that any time you take a risk, start a conversation with a stranger, push past a fitness plateau, start a new job, do ANYTHING worthwhile, there will be a certain amount of discomfort involved. And your brain won’t like it. But that’s okay. All you have to do is notice the discomfort, consider the payoff, and decide, a la Forest Gump, to “just keep running.”