There is something about exercise that has unlocked in me a desire to learn and create. I find myself at work programming more and more with languages I haven't used before. I've started to get further and further into Linux scripting to do things I would have normally written a quick Perl or Java script for. Instead of sitting back and taking the familiar path to a solution, I have started to explore other options, try new things, and push myself to learn more.
It might be tough to scientifically correlate my desire to learn and create to running. The fact is, though, during the past six weeks, I've been exercising more than I have in the past two years combined, and I feel better and more energetic. It's given me more energy to pursue my interests when I get home from work. It's given me more energy in the morning so I'm not dead to the world until 11:30 a.m. It's kept me going during tough, boring afternoons where programs I have to get to work just aren't running.
You may argue then that running is not the culprit of unleashing the stored potential in myself. You could say that it is, in fact, the result of running that has given me the desire to do more. The real culprit is the extra energy as a result of exercise. This is where I disagree. I really feel that the action of running in and of itself has removed some mental barriers that I've experienced in the past few years.
The action of running is very methodical, very even. When you hit a groove, you go and go for ten, twenty, thirty or even sixty minutes at a time with no other distraction (maybe some music?). Most of the time, I find myself completely zoned out, just thinking internally to myself. Sometimes reflecting on the day, sometimes planning out what I have to do. Today, for instance, I ran to work. On my way, I planned out a few things. I determined how I would tackle a miRNA project that I've been procrastinating working on. There are many steps to this analysis and I had to figure out where I was on the twenty-four samples that I'm working on. After about ten minutes, I found myself next planning out how I would like to design some new web content for 2FNs, as well as for our WoW guild. I have a lot of plans, but no real training in graphic design. I figured if I can get my fat self running down the street, I think I can learn how to use Photoshop well enough to generate some cool media content.
I'd argue that running unlocks the creativity, and its product, energy, lets you fulfill this creativity. Whether it is working on a tough program, deciding on what you will cook for dinner, whatever, it gives you the time to just think. There is no television, no phone calls, most often no person distracting you with conversation. It is time to think and plan, to dream up any number of things to do.
American lives are filled with constant action, constant connection, constant interaction. We are always plugged in to any number of outlets getting stimuli from all around. I listen to Pandora while reading a news article about the Bills, all the while working on a program for work. There is very little extra time in our daily lives to sit back and think, to really plan and contemplate. If I get stuck, I move on to the next thing I have to do or have to read. There is very little time to just evaluate a situation. Running has given me this time, this opportunity to sit back and just open my eyes, to tackle the challenges I wouldn't have taken the time to plan out and do.