On Happiness  

Monday, August 25, 2008

In the latest, soon-to-be-published episode of the podcast we talk about happiness and whether religion makes people happier than non-religious people. I'm not going to rehash what we said, but I did want to add something related.

Lately I've been euphorically, ecstatically happy. I don't get up bouncing with joy, but by the time I get to work I have so much energy that I'm about to burst. I don't really attribute it to work, although lately even work has been better. I attribute it to running.

I've always hated running. The only time I ever ran regularly was in junior high school when I played volleyball and basketball. I suck at sports. You only have to see me in action to know. I'm short and uncoordinated - terrible attributes for basketball. I don't have a lot of arm strength and though I could set a ball nicely for a spike, I couldn't get a ball served over the net to save my life. But I loved playing.. in practices. I even loved running in practices. It was hard work, but I was in the best shape of my life. And there was something about pushing my body to do more that was exhilarating.

Since then I've avoided running. If you don't do it regularly it's a chore. Breathing is difficult, sweating is guaranteed - and I hate sweating worse than I hate running.

Anyway, a few months ago I bought a Wii Fit board thinking it'd be fun to play around with for a while, but not seriously thinking it'd replace a gym (it doesn't). I started out with some yoga and resistance training and after a few days tentatively tried running. The first run was 2 minutes. I thought I was going to die before I reached the end. I was dripping with sweat. But I stuck with it, eventually moving up to 4, then 8, then 10 minutes. By then running was starting to not feel so bad. Breathing was much easier. When I ran it felt like I was stretching my lungs rather than killing them.

Eventually I worked up to 30 minutes. After that I started trying to run faster, getting to 5 miles in 30 minutes. Then I started trying to best my 5 minute time. (Wii Fit is good at motivating you to do better the next time.) Last week I ran 5 1/2 miles in 30 minutes. If I'm able to keep improving I'll be at a 5 minute mile soon.

Not that I think I'm actually running 5+ miles. The Wii is probably hedging a little bit or miscalculating my stride length. I'm not sure how it calculates. It does know how tall I am (by me telling it and I told it how tall I think I am). Eventually I'll get some kind of nifty fitness gear and run outside once the weather is a little cooler and test how far I run. Or try running on a treadmill. Although a treadmill seems awfully boring at the moment.

I'm even motivated enough to get up at 5 am to run, even after staying up late (for me now) to record the podcast. Of course by 3:00 Friday afternoon I'm ready to crash, but what else is new?

But the worst thing is that I have a guilty pleasure. When I run I pop in a DVD to watch instead of watching the clock. It makes the time go faster. Even as much as I'm enjoying running, I still wish it was all over about 20 seconds after I start.

Lately I've been working through the first season of Smallville. Yes, Smallville, that sickly sweet, teenage soap opera. I picked up the first two seasons several years ago for $15 a piece, but I never opened them. I wasn't even sure why I purchased them other than the idea of the show seemed slightly interesting and it was a good deal.

While my parents were visiting I needed something my dad could watch. When we get together we don't sit down and talk. First my dad will turn on the television. Then my mom will get out her DS or laptop and start playing games. Then my nephew will beg to play computer games on my computer. And then my brother will fall asleep. That leaves me either watching television or furtively typing emails about how miserable I am. Eventually everyone gets hungry and we go out to eat where we talk and sometimes argue. A normal, happy family, right?

Anyway, our movie selection wasn't too palatable to my dad and after watching Fallen, Open Range, and The Secret of Nimh he needed something else to watch. I scanned the television series I had and remembered Smallville. Bonus, there are hours of episodes in just one season. I didn't need to find anything else the rest of his visit.

I stuck the DVD in and went back to whatever I was doing, probably playing a video game. But as the show played I felt myself drawn in. After about five episodes I was hooked. Even though the episodes are predictable and squeaky clean I find they're perfect for watching while I'm running. I don't have to pay too much attention. Even though I know what's going to happen next I still find myself entertained enough to keep watching. And the shows are short enough to finish up as I'm cooling down on the couch.

I tried watching something educational, even something scientific a couple of mornings, but I find myself zoning out and not absorbing most of the information. So, Smallville it is, at least until I run out of episodes. Then there are always repeats of BSG, B5, Dead Like Me, and Arrested Development to consider. I have running material for the rest of the year.

So, despite always thinking I'd hate it, running makes me happy. And I've built up enough motivation to keep at it. Who says you need religion to be happy? Besides, religion never made my ass look good.

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9 comments: to “ On Happiness

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 7:33:00 AM CDT  

    Good for you, OG. Running is a great exercise, although I have more of a love-hate relationship with it (I dread the thought of GOING for a job, but love the feeling of just having GONE for one). As for Smallville and guilty pleasures, well, I live in a glass home in that regard, so I won't throw any stones!

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 7:33:00 AM CDT  

    I meant "jog" not "job." I hate my job.

  • suchlovelyfreckles
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 9:31:00 AM CDT  

    Oh my gosh, you run 5 miles in a half hour? I do 3! I knew I was slow, but that slow??? Yikes.
    Good for you!! :)

  • aprilbapryll
    Monday, August 25, 2008 at 4:13:00 PM CDT  

    I so want a Wii Fit, and this just solidifies it for me. I look every time I'm in Best Buy, but no one has had one in ages around here. Congrats on getting moving -- one day I'll join you!

  • Venjanz
    Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 1:29:00 AM CDT  

    Ahh this explains the comments you made the other day when I was talking about the Air Force physical fitness requirements.

    So since it has now been established that video games cause physical fitness, than we can also assume they cause people to commit mass-murder?

    Seriously though, I'm impressed.

  • Nita
    Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 11:00:00 AM CDT  

    I think exercise increases some types of "happy" chemicals in the body. But after some time the effect passes.

  • Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D.
    Friday, August 29, 2008 at 7:17:00 AM CDT  


    My fastest run was a mile in 5 min 19 seconds, on pavement I was 31 at the time.

    I was running 3.11 ,miles in 20 minutes on the treadmill untill i injured my self.

    I am now focusing on hill running.

    Its probably the oxygen in your blood giving you that high.

    Good luck with it.

    Happiness episode was great

  • EnoNomi
    Friday, August 29, 2008 at 1:53:00 PM CDT  

    My friend has the Wii-Fit and I've tried it once at her house (watching my very round Wii-me going around the park). So are you just running in place holding the Wii controller while watching your TV? I'm curious because not having room for any fitness equipment is one of my many excuses for not exercising, I never thought about just running in place while watching TV.

  • Ordinary Girl
    Friday, August 29, 2008 at 8:10:00 PM CDT  

    Lifey: It definitely is hate sometimes, but I think it's mostly love at this moment.

    Suchlovely: Well, it may be three. Once I run for real and not in place I'll know for sure.

    April: It wasn't easy for me to find one. I checked Walmart online and found one that had limited stock. I drove out there and was able to purchase the second to the last unit they had in stock. They didn't have it on the shelves, but back near the register in electronics.

    Venjanz: Video games are the scourge of the human race, obviously. Thanks.

    Nita: That's probably why I crash later in the day as with sugar.

    Sean: Hill running is evil. I still have some trouble with stairs. I get up them fine, but I'm always out of breath after a few flights.

    Enonomi: That's exactly it, running in place while watching television. You can change the channel or the input and the remote will continue giving you audio cues. And you can do it with the step exercise as well. The other exercises require you watch the screen.


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