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Get off that treadmill and into the game

The treadmill stands folded in the corner these days.

The treadmill stands folded in the corner these days.

The treadmill sits in the corner these days, collecting more dust than it does miles.

When I first started running, that ol’ treadmill felt like my best friend. I was 39 years old. I had done a few things in my life, but running never was one of them. I thought I needed that treadmill to help me get over three basic beliefs I had at the time:

  • I was too fat to get out and run with other people.
  • I was too slow to run with other people.
  • I was too clumsy to run with other people.

But here’s the truth about my relationship with that treadmill. It didn’t help me get over any of those things. Sure, it helped me sweat off those first few pounds, and it helped me find my own unique running form. But after a while, running on the treadmill became a mindless and tedious endeavor. I could put my earbuds in or turn on the TV, and I would disengage for mile after mile. Not exactly what I was looking for in a new hobby.

So what did I do? I opened up the door to my little comfort zone, stepped outside and went for a real run!

Yes, I was slower than most of the other runners. And yes, I looked awkward compared to some of them. In fact, not much has changed. My form has improved, but I am still slow. The important part is that none of that matters. The running community accepted me because I chose to step out into their world.

Running outside is still a whole new experience for me. I feel the ground under my feet. I breathe in the crisp morning air, letting it jumpstart my lungs. I bask in the morning sun as it creeps above the eastern horizon. I welcome the rain showers that refresh my weary body. I embrace the cool autumn breezes that come along to push me home.

Inside, every run on the treadmill seems the same. The distance or the speed may vary, but the surroundings never change. The only stories on the treadmill are recorded songs on my iPhone and reruns on my TV. Outside, every run is different. The distance and the speed definitely will vary, and so will the scenery. The stories on my outdoor runs are the creations of my imagination, built on the unique sights, sounds and even smells of each individual run.

It’s not just running. Golf is still like that for me. I feel like Ben Hogan on the driving range, because I can control the circumstances. But I struggle out on the course facing a side-hill lie or a 30-foot putt, or even the first tee box, especially if people are watching or waiting on me. That’s the next place where I need to get into the game.

Life is better when we are fully engaged. An iPod is convenient, but it can’t hold a candle to live music. Watching a baseball game on TV is great, but it can’t compare to being in the stadium to see that expanse of green grass, hear the crack of the bat and smell the popcorn and roasted peanuts. At a much more serious level, family time, your job and your own passions and dreams are all better when you open that door, step outside and fully engage.

What about you? Where are you needing to step out of your comfort zone? You can start that journey by sharing in the comments below.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going outside for a run.

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