The Experience of Exercise

At the beginning of the summer my husband had a fitness idea.

Another fad?

Another set of workout videos?

Another new pay by the class workout studio?


Running the 55-mile trail that’s near our home – at least some of it is near our home.

It starts near the city, making its way north through the suburbs and then into farm country.

This was an atypical endeavor for us.  Neither of us are marathon runners, cross-fit junkies or gym rats.  We’re not couch potatoes either.

We primarily exercise for the health benefits.  I typically cram as much as I can into three 20-minute time slots each week.

THE TRAIL RUN IS DIFFERENT – an enjoyable experience that goes beyond the physical health benefits

Ultramarathon runners complete this kind of distance in a day or two.  We decided to do this over time in 5 to 7-mile legs.  Primarily one evening a week – on date night.

The first 4.5-mile stretch was the toughest.

It’s summer.  It’s hot.

Neither of us had run more than 2 miles in some time.  As we were both out of breath, most of the run was quiet.

I tried to run mindfully, but spent most of the run fantasizing about an after run cheeseburger.

One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other, we did it.

We were sweaty, tired and out of breath.

That pleasantly fatigued feeling settled in along with a sense of accomplishment that was more than enough to keep us coming back for more.

And we did get those cheeseburgers!

The second leg was 7 miles.  We ran at a moderate pace.  The goal of this endeavor was to finish the 55-miles, not to set a world record.

We paused to enjoy the view of the river and woods as we crossed an old railroad bridge.  We slowed to admire the old brick buildings and quaint shops you could see as the trail moved through each “old town” and “historic downtown” located by the river and former train stations.

As the miles and weeks went by, we were both enjoying exercise more.  Running was actually becoming peaceful. 

As we moved further north on the outskirts of the suburbs the trail became less populated.

We were in our own world.

We stopped to see an abandoned World War II powder factory and marveled at the view looking up at the tallest bridge in our state.

The miles ticked by more quickly and we found ourselves sometimes running in peaceful silence, sometimes in deep conversations about the future.

During our 7th leg, we were having a conversation about taking our boys on a trip to the Pacific Northwest.  The hubs will be traveling there for business in the spring and I am actually ready to take our two toddlers on a plane on my own to meet up for a long weekend.

We were both smiling, enjoying the view of the wooded trail bending up ahead and the adjacent farmland with tall corn stalks, almost ready for harvest.

And suddenly, my husband stopped, put his arms around me in a full embrace, kissed my head and said, “I love you.”

We shared a moment.  Shared how happy we are, out running, taking some time together to enjoy the trail, talking about our boys and everything we want to experience as a family.

After the trail runs, we still return to the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, yet everything seems just a little bit sweeter because of moments like this.  

It’s these little moments.  Less than a minute, but it feels like the earth has stopped spinning, just for a moment so you can catch your breath.

This moment didn’t just happen.  We built up to it over 7 weeks. It took time for us to get used to running, to relax and be able to appreciate our surroundings.

Good things come with time.

We have one leg left on this 55-mile journey.

I’m looking forward to it.  Achieving our goal.  But the journey has been so much fun, that for once I don’t want it to end.  It’s not just a race to the finish.

I’m already feeling a bit of nostalgia.  I know we’ll always have fond memories of these trail runs.

What started as a fitness challenge, has led us to more deeply appreciate our surroundings.  We are bonded to each other in a deeper way and will always feel bonded with the trail.

Exercise can be fun and rewarding.  It can take you to see and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise experience.  It can help you to appreciate the good things in life, just a little bit more.

How will you experience exercise?

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