Simplicity. It seems that everywhere you turn, there's another slogan, another catchphrase, or another add using simplicity as a means of making a sale or pitching the latest craze. To be quite honest, I'm completely fascinated with the idea of simplicity in my own life. I've actually tried to simplify things quite a bit, although that seems to be an unattainable goal. The more I try to simplify things, the more complicated they get....which must mean that I'm doing something wrong.
One area that I've continually tried to remove the unnecessary is exercise. I started mountain biking consistently in college and started racing soon after. To train for mountain biking, I found that road biking was the ticket. After college, I was lifting weights, running and riding, but not with great consistency. When I moved to Boulder in 2004, I was on the plan to do as much outside as possible, with little rhyme or reason. I was trail running, mountain biking, road biking, hiking, skiing on the weekends, lifting weights and throwing a little whitewater kayaking in the mix. When I moved to Longmont, I decided to give triathlon a try.
As you can see, my fitness regimen was all over the map in the span of 5-10 years. (I guess I should mention that I wasn't all that good at any of it!) A typical weekend in the mountains would involve my SUV being packed with every piece of outdoor gear imaginable. Needless to say, I think my time outside was anything but simple. Which brings us to my latest adventures in running. I've found that by running, specifically trail running, I can experience the outdoors that I love so much without the complication of tons of gear. I've been able to slow things down, getting to take in the expansive views when I'm on a beautiful section of trail, rather than seeing quick blurs when I'm on my mountain bike. Over the past 6 months, I've even tried to simplify my running. I've moved more and more toward minimalist shoes (I'm currently running in the New Balance MT100's). Along with the shoes, I no longer wear socks, which hasn't been the best smelling choice I've made! Typically it's shoes, shorts, and a hat.....a solo bottle depending on the distance being covered.
At this point, I'm at a crossroads. I've been running more and more, feeling as if my fitness is improving. My thoughts are starting to migrate towards goals, especially since I climbed Mt. Rainier, which had been a goal climb of mine for quite some time. Goals in running tend to be in the realm of racing, whether it's a 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, marathon, or even an ultramarathon. For some the goal is just to finish, for others it's to finish within a certain time, and for the select few, it's to actually win. Whatever the specific goal, it's almost always centered around 'the big race.' Racing brings about even more complexities in my mind. It has the potential to cause me to lose focus of the real reasons that I run.
So why do I run.....let's start with that question. First of all, I feel like moving is what I/we were meant to do. Our bodies are designed to move, in a various ways of course. Movement itself can look drastically different from person to person. My wife for instance, grew up dancing....ballet, tap, jazz, modern, etc etc. You can see in old home videos that she loved the feeling she got when she learned to move her body in a new way. Whether she was in the middle of a recital, in front of her Dad's camera at home, or with her Mom in the grocery store, she was always moving (and it was typically a performance!). Even though she no longer dances (with the exception of our ballroom lessons), movement is ingrained in her. She now loves to run, ride, snowboard, and hike. As for me, my current choice of frequent movement is in the forward direction on my own 2 feet....running. Secondly, I love being outside, preferably away from people and even more specifically, in the mountains. If I were confined to running around my neighborhood block everyday, I'm not sure I would continue running at the same level I am now. But in the mountains, I feel at peace. No matter how fast or slow, uphill or down, singletrack or service road. I'm continually yearning to be surrounded by nature. Lastly, I would say that I have a desire and need to exercise. I feel better, physically and mentally, during and after I exercise. It helps me gain and maintain perspective. Without sounding too clique, it's healthy!
So, I guess you're wondering how all this ties into simplicity. Well, as I've began pondering goals, and therefore pondering races, it's turned my simple act of running into a far more complex thing. First of all, I can no longer run with my $6.99 watch from Target. I need a watch with an altimeter and heart-rate monitor, or better yet, a GPS. And I can't just cruise around my little lake loop or up Heil Ranch. I have to check every split, continually tracking my pace and comparing it with the times before. And, do I record my runs? Of course. With the upcoming race, I have to see statistically where my fitness level is if I'm ever going to reach that 'goal!'
With all that being said, I'm probably taking yet another complex look at a really simple idea. Pursuing a goal, whether it be running a 36 min 10k, a sub 3 hr marathon, or just completing an ultra, and moving forward to the best of my ability, should be simple. I mean, in the end, there's a lot to be learned, and learning must be the key to simplicity! Right!?
"Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated!" ~Confucius