How I Obsessed With Running

The universe works in mysterious ways. As an avid DeveloperOnFire podcast listener, I’m often amazed at the wisdom that each guest brings. The guests range from super stars like Scott Hanselman and Uncle Bob to other “regular Joe” software developers like the rest of us. Recently, I’ve been connecting with Pavneet who blogs at CodingWithEmpathy.com.

He wrote a great piece on his most recent personal burnout. The story is very personal and even made it to the top 10 in Hacker news at one point. Although I relate with him in many ways, one thing stood out like a sore thumb:

…I struggled to start take care of my body. I realized running had become one of the things that brought me down. Not running itself, but my attitude towards it. It had become all about the numbers; heart rate, cadence, speed, distance, recovery time, personal records, races…

PavneetCoding Empathy

When running turns on you

After reading that section, I’ve been wondering if I had been making a similar mistake. Have I pushed my body, emphasized on numbers, and removed the joy out out of running? Did running contributed to my burnouts as well?

“I thought running was suppose to help you, not the other way around.” Yeah, you are right. But as software developers, we tend to get just a little obsessive with anything (specially if it’s shiny and helps us). We go from one extreme to another. We forget about what nature teaches us: balance.

balance

I’ve been analyzing and noticed that I’ve been getting a bit obsessive about running. My attitude changed. I began to focus on running x amount of miles per month instead of just enjoying the run itself.

My rule is very simple: run every other day. Rain or shine. Holiday or weekend, run every other day. However, I started breaking my own rule and ran on days back-to-back. I ignored my body’s cry for rest. All in the name of running x amount of miles in a month.

What’s the big deal?

At first, you may think a little obsession is OK because you can control it. You think you are in control (hehe, developers with the god complex, who would’ve thunk it!). You’re loosing control without realizing it. Who knows for how long your obsession has been in control. Even if you realize you are obsessing, you will either deny it or justify yourself, or both.

Alcoholics Anonymous calls it “hit bottom”. We call it “burnout”. (I think burnout is less severe than a serious illness like alcoholism). It’s no surprise that accepting that we have a problem is the first step towards healing.

My acceptance

Hi everyone, my name is Jose. And I have a running problem.

acceptanceI’ll say it again: I’ve been focusing far too much on the miles I run. The main reason why I use a pedometer (RunKeeper) is motivation. It’s to prove myself that I can achieve certain milestones and measure them.

RunKeeper is like my running diary. Fortunately, I don’t keep track of calories burn, heart rate, miles per hour. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was heading that direction.

This isn’t the first time I struggle with my obsession. In fact, I faced this before when I had my first running injury.

Running for fun (again!)

Today was a beautiful morning. It was a sunny morning with a warm sun and cool breeze. In my opinion, perfect running conditions. My original idea was a quick run for 5km (3.11 miles).

A few moments after I began my run, my obsessive thoughts invaded my mind

  • Faster, faster, we need to break 8:30min/mile.
  • Great day to set a personal record.
  • C’mon, push thru!

At this moment, I turned up my music louder. I decided to take back control of my joy. “Not today, today I will enjoy this run”, I thought and smile.

4-16-2016-run

Even though it ended up being a “slow” run, I enjoyed it! I ran a semi-new route. The birds were singing, the wind blew down the early leaves from the trees. I remember trying to catch some of the leaves as they fell down with a smile on my face.

I felt like a kid all over again.

TL;DR

Sometimes, you need to read other people’s story and reflect on yourself. Whether it’s burnout, running, or writing software (or improving our craftsmanship!), be sure to not obsess.  You are probably obsessing on something without even knowing it. Analyze yourself, figure out what it is, and fix it.

Find balance before it’s too late. Remember, life it’s not a sprint but a marathon…and most importantly have fun!

What are you obsessing about today?

  • It is pretty remarkable the way we make connections and find inspiration. It gives me great joy to know that I had a part in connecting you with Pav. It’s funny that my contribution is cited in a post about running when I find running just to run to be a mind-numbing activity, not only sub-optimal, but counter-productive. That it is often considered the paramount of healthy activity is misguided, in my opinion. Still, you emphasized here, Jose, the joy of running. Though I haven’t experienced that, given that you have and that it provided you with enjoyment, it’s certainly something different for you than it is for me. Here are my thoughts on training to take care of your body: http://optimizedprogrammer.com/blog/training-for-the-body (warning: I consider this the very best of my writing and don’t think I’ve ever written anything as well as this one.)

    • All thanks to your DeveloperOnFire podcast.

      I don’t know why but I’ve always found running fun. Ever since I was a kid, I remember enjoying running on the streets (on my small town). To be honest, I don’t do it for any health reasons. I’m just a guy who enjoys it. Oh and “Runner’s High” baby!

  • Jose, this was deeply moving. I am so humbled that you’ve discovered something about yourself through something I have shared, especially that post.

    There’s balance required to any activity we do in life, and that has to fit in our total life-balance as well. It’s not easy, yet essential we take time for introspection to adjust our course.

    I applaud you for reflecting over your own self and sharing this. It’s a reminder that it’s easy to get over-obsessive about things, and also the importance of adjusting ones course before we push ourselves too far.