Run… for your life

An ad film that hit very close to comfort for me 🙂 This is for the sporting goods retailer Rebel, by the Australian agency The Monkeys that was acquired by Accenture in 2017.

From 2008/9 to 2018, I have woken up at 4:25 am every single week/working day to head to my morning run. Till 2014, I ran around the Kaikondrahalli Lake near the place that we used to stay earlier, on Sarjapur Road (Bengaluru). When we moved further down the road in 2014, I ran on the treadmill at the new apartment complex’s gym. My target was 5 kilometers every day – every single day, weekday or weekend.

Why 4:25 am? Because I had 2 constraints.

One, if I go at a later time slot in the morning (say 6 am, or 7 am), the treadmills are occupied and there is usually more than one person waiting. The bigger reason was the traffic situation in Bengaluru. I used to drive about 15-18 kilometers one way to the office and the only time I can save time by not getting stuck in some of the worst traffic jams in Bengaluru (my route, from Sarjapur Road to Whitefield and back in the evening) is to avoid the peak time and leaver early, even if it meant reaching office as early as 8:15-8:30 am, before most other people. If I take a leisurely run at the treadmill from say 7-8 am (assuming I get a slot), and then start driving towards the office at 9 am, I may optimistically reach by 10:30-11:30 am – things were that horrendous and unpredictable. Plus, the sheer waste of time being stuck in traffic was unimaginable and incredibly unproductive.

Almost every single day, I know the struggle it was to wake up at 4:25 am when everyone is asleep and the world is so peacefully dark and quiet.

I did have a hack to motivate myself and that has worked spectacularly for me over the past decade and more. That hack… later in this post.

That walk from my bed to the bathroom after the alarm rings is the toughest and the most daunting 10 steps of my life. 90% of those days, I have considered just dropping the plan and get back to bed with the usual, “I’ll surely do it tomorrow”. But I have pushed on relentlessly.

So, I can feel the weight on me as I watch this ad film. In my case, the weight was my own indecision/hesitation/laziness to proceed. For the woman here, it is the weight of others’ demands on her. The weight is real, no matter where it is coming from. The creative device of showing the weight literally is advertising exaggeration, of course, but it makes an impactful point!

These days, that is, since April 2018 when I quit Ogilvy and started working on my own and independent communications consultant, I have the freedom to not work based on a city’s timelines and run my 5 kilometers in the evenings. Since the lockdown, I got my own treadmill too, so I thankfully do not depend on the apartment gym that has been (understandably) closed since March 2020.

I still wake up at 6 am, though – it has become a useful habit to get a lot of work done in the calm, peaceful mornings 🙂

Now, for the hack.

What do you do when you run, either on the road, or a ground, or the treadmill? Do you listen to music? I did too, but music never worked to enthuse or motivate me to continue running or motivating myself to wake up so early.

When I was running around the lake, or on the road, I switched to listening to audiobooks. Why are they different from music? The main reason is continuity. With music, there is nothing to look forward to every day, but with audiobooks, there is a new episode to look forward to with every run. I tuned my mind to get up at 4:25 am by not focusing so much on the physical energy required to just get the heck up from my bed, but instead focused on “What will happen today?” in the book I was listening to.

When I moved to running on the gym treadmill, things got more exciting. I started watching all the TV shows I wanted during the run. All I needed was my phone and good quality bluetooth earphones (avoid using wired earphones – very dangerous on a treadmill). With TV shows, the “What will happen today?” got a lot more interesting and there is a whole world of TV shows out there to consume – literally endless!

By shifting my mind towards this continuity, I hacked my own mind to overcome the physical effort required to motivate myself. On most days, I forget the physical exertion too while being completely immersed in the show! And when there’s some adrenaline pumping, frenetic action on screen, I run even more effortlessly!

Thanks to this, I have also formed a habit of being addicted to sweat. When I complete my run and am completely soaked in sweat, there’s a very, very special high I feel – perhaps what they call the runner’s high. It probably is the healthiest and best form of high, though it sometimes makes me feel guilty on days when I do not run for some reason – when I’m not feeling well, or when work overrides my time.

But on most days, the sweat helps me feel like I have earned my dinner in the evening.

This hack works for me, but I know quite a few people who have told me that it doesn’t work for them because they are not able to concentrate or focus on a form of story-telling on audiobooks format or a TV show format while running. So, try your luck, with that knowledge.

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