“I was running away from the work that needed to be done to move my business forward. I was waiting for some magical beam of motivational light to come down from the sky. But what I found was that motivation isn’t a feeling…it’s a choice.” Josh Pigford

Running yields no obvious point in the modern society we live. Physically, it creates lactic acid build up in your muscles that disable the potential for optimal bodily comfort. Running wears down on bones and joints, creating unpleasant things like shin splints that take seeming decades to heal. It sucks time to run, and the more one runs the more time it takes for the run to be effective. The activity of it costs us money. We have to buy shoes, we have to buy seasonal running gear, we have to invest in the proper nutrition.

It doesn’t even really benefit us on an evolutionary basis to practice running. Except for rare, dire circumstances, there will not be a need to run away from a predator that is chasing me. Why wake up an hour earlier to the cold, frigid early-November morning to pull on my running shoes and subject myself to sixty minutes that I know will consist of pure, physical movement, when I could just as well utilize that hour to catch up on the sleep I already don’t get enough of? Why spend up to $150 on a quality pair of running shoes that will maybe last me a year at most, when I could just as easily devote that money towards something that matters? Like 10 pairs of actually cute shoes? Why should I ever blow $45 on a 13.1 mile race, when I could just torture themselves through 13.1 miles without spending money, or better yet, not ever run that far to begin with?

I use running as an example, because I am a runner, but these questions apply to almost any form of discipline. Any form of activity that requires intentional and uncomfortable effort. This can be practicing music for band or painting for art class. I hear these questions a lot, and often the source is my own head. Because they are valid. Exercise doesn’t really make sense…not really…

But it only doesn’t make sense if one skims the surface of discipline and never delve into the deeper point of the practice. So what would happen if one took the time to find the point in discipline?

Can’t I see? Exercise, in whatever form, does hold evolutionary value for us as a human species.

Our predator–the large, powerful animal that is chasing us through the woods trying to drink our very life–is still very much present in our society. Only it no longer exists in the form of a physical animal. Our contemporary predator has become instant gratification.

Our society has turned into a hungry culture that demands the pleasantries of life as soon as possible. We are a microwave-loving, Netflix-consuming, delivery-ordering world. I want to be full now. I want to be warm now. I want to be sleeping now. I want to be entertained now. 

Honest, I’m not here to dog on microwaves (I cave at the smell of microwave kettle corn), or Netflix (O Glorious Parks and Recreation, when will your last season become available?!), or the blessed Jimmy Johns. I’m not here to insult comfort or say somehow that I am better than the rest of the consumerism world. I love all those things, too, and I want all those wants daily. The problem is not with wanting to be comfortable, because wanting to be comfortable is natural and understandable. The problem is that we as a society has begun to become so consumed with the desire for instant gratification that it has turned us mean. It has turned us rude. It has turned us selfish.

That’s the problem. That’s why this instant gratification is our slow-moving, sneaky, contemporary predator.

I have found myself very willing and ready to serve myself first in food lines or at the dinner table in lieu of serving someone else, because I am hungry and I desire to be full now. I have found myself getting angry and upset when the Netflix browser is “experiencing unexpected technological errors” and snapping rude comments at my family in order to express my frustration. I have found myself asking for someone else’s coat when I am cold, even though it is at the expense of their own warmth.

Do you see a problem?

My desire for instant gratification has overridden my sense of servitude, kindness, and selflessness. Instant gratification has caught up to my slow jog and begun to feast on my moral flesh. Guys, it’s bad. And it’s so subtle. And when so many aspects of society reinforce instant gratification it’s all too easy to buy into the lie;

The lie that true gratification can even come instantly.

And for this very reason do I run.

I run to practice delaying instant gratification, because true satisfaction will never never come instantly.

I have reached the point where I genuinely do enjoy running, even the looming “during” part. I look forward to the times when I get to lace up Paula (my beautiful Pearl Izumi running shoes) and explore my town on foot. I love setting up a No Meat Athlete or NPR: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! podcast in my ear, and being alone with my thoughts for a solid, uninterrupted hour. And this feeling that has blossomed, this feeling of getting actual joy out of running…this is so much more satisfying than sleeping in for one more hour that one morning.

Before you dismiss me as some overexercising loon with no concept of what “having fun” actually means, bear with me.

By no means have I won the victory over desiring instant gratification in my life, and that pertains to running, too. There are so many slow run workouts that I want to run fast for, and so many fast running workouts that I would rather run much, much, much slower. Sometimes when I’m wrapping up my scheduled 5 mile run, I feel so good that I want to run two more miles. There are times (a lot of times) that I would rather only run 4×400 speed intervals on the boring, circular track than the 6×400 speed intervals I have scheduled for myself. It’s just two more miles…it’s only two 400’s less…

Instant gratification.

Yeah, I feel good enough to run two more miles on top of my 5. But tomorrow, when I run 6 miles, I’m going to probably want to run two miles less because suddenly I don’t feel as good. Sure, it’s just two less repeats, but what happens next Wednesday when I go to do 7×400 intervals?

It’s going to be easier to run 6 miles when I haven’t strained myself running an unnecessary and unplanned 7 miles the day prior. It’s going to be easier to add just one more interval than three.

I run to practice delaying instant gratification. And boy, do I really need the practice.

This applies to so many other areas in my life. Doing my homework even though I would rather be watching a movie with my residents; going to that pointless class when I would rather be doing the homework I didn’t do when I watched a movie with my residents. Going to Church service on Sunday mornings. Taking 20 credit hours. Eating a salad. Not eating all the chocolate (definitely working on this one). Heck fire, even doing laundry (which I’ve let build up over the week and am currently suffering through doing 6 loads. Like seriously, Sundays are popular days to do laundry, and who in the name of all that is good and glorious is taking up 6 flipping washing machines?!?! It’s me).

These things, difficult to motivate myself as they are now, would be so infinitely more difficult if I didn’t practice delaying instant gratification.

So instead of letting those “what is the point…” thoughts ruminate in your head and infiltrate your thoughts…instead of resorting to the easy way out for life’s many discomforts….

Why not go for a run?

“Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and the ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.” ~Stephan R. Covey 

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