I’m not “a runner.” I don’t get up at 5:00 am five times a week to hit the pavement. And I never expected to add long-distance races to my repertoire. But, it all started in my mid-twenties when I rescued my first dog. She was a seven-year-old Vizsla with tons of energy. We started running together a little bit every night after I’d returned from work. Yet, here I am: 40-years-old, a nine-year-old son, countless races, a divorce, and my second rescue Vizsla later…still running.

What started out as a “chore” has become a habit. I have gained so much from my commitment to running, besides doing 5k and half-marathon races. I’ve thought a lot about why I run. Here are the top three reasons for me:

Focus

When I leave my door, all I focus on is my run. We all try to “multi-task” too much and we end up being ineffective. Focusing on one thing, my run, helps to clear my mind of everything else. I focus inwardly, on my breathing, my cadence, my pace. I focus outwardly on my dog’s clicking paws on the pavement, the birds chirping all around me, the bikers coming up from behind to pass on the left. I tend not to listen to headphones so I can be more aware of my surroundings and present in the moment.

I focus on mental challenges. I focus on getting up that big hill without having to walk at the top. Focusing on little goals along the way helps keep my mind on one task at a time. It keeps me focused in other areas of my life too – both personally and professionally. I plan everything. I plan my run schedule for training for a particular race. I plan my work schedule by the day, week, month, and year. I write these plans down so I stay on track. If I need to, I go back and revise the plan. Everything starts and ends with a plan. Without a plan, a goal is just a wish.

Clarity

Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m running. I often stop to voice record my thoughts so I can write them down when I get home (such as this blog post). Once I write them down, I have a roadmap to creating my plan. During my runs, I sometimes work out math problems in my head. Sometimes I’m thinking about a work issue or a personal issue. Giving myself the time and freedom to think about these issues outside gives me clarity to see a better solution. Have you ever been working on a puzzle and can’t see the piece you need? As soon as you take a break, walk away, and come back – there it is! That’s clarity.

If you’ve ever seen Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk or read his book, “Start With Why,” then you know what I mean when I say – find your why. It’s not until we know exactly why we do something that we can fully appreciate it. Once we figure that out, we create much more inspiration and fulfillment in our lives. Sure, running is good for my health, but that’s not the only reason why I run. I run because my dog needs the exercise too. I run so my son sees me taking care of myself. I run because it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m done. Those are just a few of my “whys”. If you lack conviction as to why you’re doing something, it’s likely that you won’t feel inspired to continue doing it. It’s the reason most New Year’s Resolutions fail. Finding your why will inspire you to pursue the end goal.

Peace

With all that is going on in the world today, getting outside brings me a deep sense of peace. I leave my worries at the door. I open my mind and my heart and just breathe. I believe deeply that whatever happens – I am going to be okay.

I greet neighbors on the path who are also enjoying the fresh air. People always seem to be happy outdoors. There is peace in community, in knowing my neighbors, in knowing we would come to each other’s aide if necessary. If people took more time out to be kinder and gentler to themselves, they would be better equipped to be kinder and gentler to each other.

It’s hard to find focus, clarity and peace in the world today. I’m not saying that running is the only way to find it, but it works for me. My reason for writing this post, my why, is to share with you how I find my focus, clarity and peace. My hope is for you to find what works for you. We can’t very well take care of others until we find compassion and empathy for ourselves. Be kinder and gentler to yourself and it will spread into all areas of your life and inspire others around you.

Wendy Althen, Polka Dot Powerhouse MemberWendy Althen is member of the Milwaukee Polka Dot Powerhouse Chapter and a Financial Advisor at Baird in Milwaukee. She has earned a BBA degree in business management and an MBA degree with a focus on finance. She holds her Series 7 and 66 securities licenses as well as life and health insurance licenses. She is on the board of directors for three non-profit organizations and involved in multiple student organizations at local campuses. She enjoys spending her time with her family, running, practicing yoga and is always reading a good book!

You can connect with her here:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-althen

Twitter: @WAlthen_baird