I’m sitting on Jessica’s sofa in Austin checking Facebook and blogging on Sunday after the race. I can’t see her because she’s lying on the floor on the other side of the table, and we have the table piled up with race paraphernalia, books, women’s magazines and clothes. I hear this….ah…..oooooohhh…..sigh…..aaaaahhhhh…..sucking in of air…..oooooooo…….oh, god……..panting…..ohhhhhhhh….. – “What the hell are you doing over there, Jessica. I’m in the room.” She laughed. “I know…..it sounds bad, doesn’t it?” She had run a marathon a few hours earlier, and she was rolling her achy, tight hurting muscles over a foam roller to help speed her recovery.
I walked into the kitchen to get some tea. “You know, I’ve been thinking you should blog about how sex and running are alike. You know, when you are not having sex, running is the closest you get to it,” she said. Jessica is a blogger. Why doesn’t she write it? Well, because I’ve become the Ann Landers of the Midlife sex and dating game in my circle. I sort of blew it off because I didn’t have much energy around the topic, but my mind has a way of changing the course of what I write. I woke up this morning with analogy after analogy of sex and running spinning through my head. Alright…here goes….
The most obvious thing that jumps out at me is that both are physical, usually sweaty, half nekkid or totally nekkid things to do. Well, I wouldn’t run totally nekkid, but some people do. Click here for more info on naked runners. Running and sex get your heart rate up, and they both focus you on what’s going on in your body and being aware of how you are responding. And, everybody responds differently to both. Ever watch a race? Everybody has a different style, gait, way of looking at the race. There are as many different ways and reasons to run and race as there are different ways to have and enjoy sex. You just have to find a training partner or group that resonates with you! You can run alone and enjoy the scenery, and you can ……well, you know…..go it alone in sex, too. But, I think they are both more fun when done with others.
I googled sex and running, and they both impact hormones in similar ways. Women and men experience different hormonal cocktails during orgasm, but the effect is very similar. Dopamine is the hormone that is produced when we do something pleasurable, and it causes us to crave it again. It is produced during both sex and running. Ever thought someone was addicted to running? Sex? It’s the dopamine they are addicted to – not the activity. But, it keeps you going back for more. The endorphins released during running and sex are your own personal narcotic. You want to be happy and feel high without the downsides of alcohol and sugar? Try running or sex – but not at the same time. And, the quickest route to better sleep? How about a roll in the hay or a daily run? Both help you sleep better and more soundly.
There are times that I run as a daily exercise. I’m not training for anything. I’m just taking care of myself, or I have a lot of energy, and it’s a beautiful day. Some people never train for races. They just go for a run. There’s no commitment; there’s no end goal. You can have sex that way, too. I prefer to have a commitment in both my running and in my sexual partners. This, of course, for those of you who don’t know, is called a relationship. Jessica joked about having a relationship with running. “We’re on a ‘break’ now,” she laughed. “We had a bad fight yesterday.” Relationships and training for runs both take time. They take focus. They usually are more successful if you take advice from others who know more than you do. You have to be committed to the program in order to succeed and reach your goals. Sacrifice is essential whether it’s sugar from the dinner table or sugar from another person’s lips. And, you can cheat….but you’re only cheating yourself.
Only runners know how difficult the mental part of running can be. When I am running a half marathon or a full marathon or even a race where I have to ignore the pain in my body to run faster, I have to take my mind off my body and use my mental capacities to pull me forward. I don’t want to hurt. But, I know that the pain of exercise is good (unless you’re injured of course), and I love the spirit of the sport. I really love the feeling of crossing the finish line and accomplishing something really special. Or, even better, I love helping a friend accomplish something they’ve never done before. So, it’s my mind that keeps me focused on my goal when my body is saying stop. Relationships are very mental, too. You have to be focused on the journey of the relationship instead of just what’s going on in the moment. You have to pay attention to the person you are with and know what makes them happy and what triggers them. Sometimes I want what I want, and I forget that part of what I want is the relationship. If I’m not very self-aware, that can harm my relationship. It’s called being a grownup and being disciplined. In running, it’s called pacing.
I learn a lot about myself from running and from relationships and sex. Running teaches me how my body responds to the demands of training. I learn what kinds of
food fuel my body responds to, and I learn what hampers my progress. I remember one night before a long run, I had a bowl of ice cream for dinner. If I wasn’t running, it probably would have impacted me a little but not enough to worry about. I ran my long run but had to quit about halfway through. My body didn’t have the fuel it needed to perform. A relationship is much like this. I learn in relationship what I can tolerate and what I can’t. I learn what kinds of people support me in reaching my goals and which ones distract me from being the best I can be. I can theorize about it, but it’s in the actual doing that I learn.
In both running and relationships there will be pain. And, the pain can be chronic or it can be acute. This morning my calves are killing me, and I feel bloated and sore. Jessica can barely walk without wincing. We’ve done this before, so it’s not a surprise how this feels. We know when we sign up for an endurance race that our bodies will be broken down with the experience and will require nurturing and patience to recover. It’s the same with relationships. I know that there will be hurt. There may be rejection. There may be a gradual dissolution of the relationship. But, in most cases, even if the relationship endures, there will be hurt….tiny, chronic hurts and some huge heartaches. And, that’s the biggest, scariest analogy between the two. With both, it’s the exercise of doing it, of stretching ourselves to do more…be more….to excel…. that makes us grow and be stronger. And, it’s the desire for that feeling….the feeling of the afterglow of sex…..the feeling of infatuated love….the feeling of crossing that finish line….that keeps us coming back for more. Jessica made the comment to Erin about her first marathon on Saturday, “None will ever be as special as your first one.” Hmmmmm…I can say that about sex, too. Why don’t you lace up your shoes and go for a run or NOT? Either one will make you feel a whole lot better. 🙂