Sure, there are elite runners who do amazing things. World records broken, Olympic medals won. Distances never covered before.
But honestly, you know what inspires me, sometimes to the point of tears…good tears? Seeing someone trying something new and maybe struggling a little, or a lot, but trying.
That is inspirational.
Someone posted a video to the None to Run Facebook Page recently (and yes, I poach the page!). She was starting week one and moving along a rubber track. I was so inspired by her getting started, by her sheer effort—her slight trepidation, but her effort—that it moved me almost to tears.
It made me happy.
Later that day I saw a college-aged student cautiously riding a skateboard down a smooth sidewalk, stopping to put her foot down often and restarting. She wore a helmet and looked unsteady, but she was trying. She continued back-and-forth, back-and-forth from where I was sitting watching my son’s soccer practice. I felt a sense of pride for her similarly to what I felt for the runner who posted the video.
Multiple studies have praised the benefits of learning something new.
It’s good for our brains—so much so that learning new skills has been linked to warding off memory loss by creating new neural pathways. Also, the mind-body benefits of learning a new skill include increase confidence, decreased boredom, and increased overall happiness.
I see the benefits in my younger son. Aside from soccer, he’s also playing lacrosse this spring. He’s never played before and is learning every time he puts on his pads and picks up the lacrosse stick. He’s an actively minded 10-year-old who is happier and calmer every time he gets in the car after lacrosse practice. It’s his new thing.
My new skill I’m working on is playing the piano. I’m learning to read music as an adult. I’m enjoying it, and not only feel like it’s balancing out my all-sports-all-the-time self, but I know it’s good for my brain and general well-being.
But back to running.
If you’re new to running, or considering starting, may this be an additional form of cheerleading for you: Not only is learning to run great for you and your body, it’s good for your brain. Plus, know that your efforts are hugely inspirational to others, even others like me who have watched, known, and written about some of the most amazing runners in the world. (So, thank you!)
And if you’re now an old pro at running, consider integrating some speedwork as your new skill, your new thing that’s good for your brain. Or drills, or strength training, or juggling (or music, or art, or a new language or…).