By Casey J. Cornelius
Over the last six weeks I, like many of you, have encountered the gambit of emotions; it was on March 10th as I was traveling home from what would become my last speaking engagement of the Spring that I started to wrap my mind around the looming impact of COVID-19. Although impossible to predict the total disruption it would cause, I had a sense it was going to present some challenges to me, my family, and our team at ForCollegeForLife.
Within 72 hours I was presented with the reality of a total work stoppage, the cancelling of my daughter’s school, my wife becoming my office mate as she started to work remotely, and the stress and uncertainty of not knowing what would happen next.
I took a couple of days to decompress, some may even say wallow, and assess what I could actually be doing with this newly acquired “free” time.
On March 15 I decided to pull out my running shoes and put some miles on them.
Since last fall I had tried to make running a part of my life. I have never been a natural runner, body chemistry and short legs conspiring against any desire to run long distances. Almost a decade ago I ran my longest race – The Crim – in Flint, Michigan, but the habit never really stuck. I like the feeling of running but the time commitment had been hard to integrate into my schedule.
Over the last 40 days I have run more than 100 miles, passing this milestone yesterday during a long, slow, 10.4 mile morning trek. It was amazing to hit triple digits! It felt like an accomplishment to hit the streets, day-after-day, and push my body and mind to be stronger and stronger during this lockdown.
It has also given me dozens of hours to reflect on some big lessons and takeaways from the process of going “zero to 100” and becoming a runner again.
Assess Areas for Improvement
As I laid in bed on the night of March 14, thinking about what I could do over the next foreseeable day/weeks during our quarantine, I decided focusing on physical health would be essential. I know my physical well-being is linked to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health and suspected each of these would be important to maintain for me and my loved ones during this challenging time. I also know my schedule during the first months of 2020 kept me from truly taking care of these areas as best as I could. My quarantine journey started with the recognition this current liability could be an opportunity to truly improve.
Control the Controllable
One of the most frustrating parts during this time has been the overall lack of power to change the trajectory of what is happening to me and my people. I can’t simply will change to take place and, admittedly, feeling out of control is one of my greatest fears. By focusing on running I have been able to control something in my life. I have control over the amount of time I will run, the route I will take, and how fast or slow I go during training. Being able to exert my will over these areas of my life has been tremendously helpful for me.
Prioritize (a little) Selfishness
There are countless cliches and reminders about how important it is for us to practice self-care, but my favorite has always been, “it is impossible to pour from an empty cup.” This is absolutely true. I recognize my responsibility to others including my family, teammates, company, clients, etc. but also know if I don’t take time and energy to care for myself I can’t be good for anyone. By choosing to be a little selfish, I am able to recharge myself and dedicate my energies to helping others. Too often we explain selfishness as a purely negative mindset but, in many cases, it is essential to be a little selfish in order to promote self-care, self-love, self-respect, and ultimately be able to be “there” when others need us to be.
The biggest takeaway I have made over the last several weeks is my ability to lace up my shoes 4-5 times a week is going to translate into something in the future. The will and determination to keep getting out there despite the weather, fatigue, or even my inner doubts is preparing me to achieve a success I haven’t yet imagined. Trust me, I am not going to be a professional runner; but as the sound of my shoes pounding the pavement echoes in my ears in the silence of the morning I tell myself this will pay off one day. It has become my mantra as the miles rack up:
This will matter. This will matter.
If you have gotten to the end of this post, you might be saying but Casey, I’m never going to be a runner. How does this apply to me?
Maybe you won’t ever follow my path and take up running as your outlet for mental and emotional stress. Fair enough. But how can you spend this time? What can you focus on in your life? Is it reading more? Creating something you have been hoping to but haven’t had the time or space? Spending energy focusing on your mental health? Connecting with family and friends in a deeper way? Eating better? Praying more? Reducing some of your bad habits? All of these (and so many more) are available to you.
Start at zero…see where you go from there.
Casey J. Cornelius is a leading national voice on the topics of personal development and healthy masculinity. A proud fraternity man and member of his chapter’s Hall of Fame, Casey travels the country helping organizations and individuals maximize their greatest potential. He resides in Michigan with his wife and daughter and is a dedicated practitioner in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Learn more about his signature programs at ForCollegeForLife.com/casey