During the first months of the pandemic, I began to incorporate being outside into my daily schedule for no other reason than to stop feeling trapped in my apartment. There was really nowhere else to go and I had to get out. I started to walk during my lunch breaks. After a few weeks, I added another walk after work in the evening.
As the weather got nicer, I found myself jumping at every opportunity to be outdoors. I had never been much of a runner, only going on a few runs here and there, but with all the time I had and not much else to do, I figured this was a good time to pick it up. The summer heat and humidity made running later in the day harder for me, so I decided to do something I never thought I would be able to do: I was going to attempt to become a “morning person.”
I had heard of these so-called “morning people” but was unaccustomed to their ways. During high school and college, I would stay up late studying — I’d rather go to bed at 3 a.m. than wake up early to finish an assignment. I don’t usually make an attempt to go to bed early, and I snooze my alarm more times than I’d like to admit.
I dreaded those first few days I set my alarm to 6 a.m. But strangely, as I started to get into the rhythm of my morning runs, I began to look forward to them. I would hear birds chirping as I woke up, and I couldn’t wait to get outside. I would catch the quiet sunrise over the lake just as life was waking up (I had only seen the sun rise a few times throughout my life — mostly when I was forced to wake up early for one of our family road trips).
After experiencing the fresh new day a few times, I started setting my alarm earlier and earlier to watch the whole sunrise as I ran. I began adding more miles each day so I could maximize my time outdoors. I had so much energy and motivation for the day when I got back to my apartment to start working. It was immensely helpful for my mental health.
I hated to admit it, but I grew to love mornings … and running.
Since that summer, being outside in the mornings has become the most treasured part of my day. It’s when I am the most at peace before the busyness of everyday life sets in. Sure, there are days where I still struggle to get up at my alarm, and days where it doesn’t work out to get up that early. I wouldn’t completely label myself as a “morning person” as it still takes me a while (and a cup of coffee … or two) to fully wake up. But even if I don’t get up during those early hours, I have made it a goal of mine to get outside every day, rain or shine, even when I don’t feel like it. As soon as I step out into the fresh air, it is all worth it.
My various outdoor runs and walks not only motivated me to register for and complete my first half marathon — something I never thought I would do (I even signed up for a second one in September) — but they also allowed me to explore so many new places. I did not only physically “get out” of my house every day, but I also challenged myself to “get out” of my normal routine in order to create a new one — and discovered along the way just how much I enjoyed it.
This is the spirit we’re trying to capture with this summer’s storytelling edition — some of our stories will be about physically getting outside, but even more will be about how to get out of our comfort zones and into the fresh air of a new way of living. We hope these stories inspire you to get out of whatever feels stale in your life, too.
— Tara Kelly