Curating the Minimalist’s Closet

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

Albert Einstein.

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The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II by Frank Stella, 1959.

While I don’t consider myself a minimalist in any profound sense of the word, at times I do aspire to certain qualities of the movement. One reason might just be the pure exposure to this lifestyle trend, which nowadays pervades social media, wellness blogs, and the New York Times Best Seller list.

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Twin by Robert Ryman, 1966.

But although minimalism is surely a passing fad for many internet bandwagoners, lesser cynics argue that the growing movement indicates a response to a changing world that is increasingly more excessive, expensive, and precarious to navigate. Literal interpretations that result in neutral palettes and trips to goodwill, while often worthy efforts, only scratch the surface. For those who immerse themselves in this way of life, minimalism represents the manifestation of a broader vision that focuses on allowing material possessions to hold less power over our lives.

“That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists

More than ever, what we choose to buy and own says more about how we live, what we care about, who we are and who we want to become.

One offshoots that I’ve somewhat successfully incorporated into my life is the minimalist closet.

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My capsule wardrobe from Spring 2016.

Advocates of the minimal wardrobes point to many BENEFITS that result from a smaller, more composed collection of clothing:

  • A smaller environmental footprint: Buying new stuff means making new stuff means more miles for transportation and shipping, manufacturing, and overall energy use. By consuming less you make less impact on the earth’s natural resources. Emphasizing quality over quantity helps us avoid fast-fashion pieces that can wear out quickly.
  • A healthier checking account: Because you’ve made such conscious choices concerning how to organize what you wear, you’re less likely to seek therapy through retail and purchase new items impulsively.
  • A better sense of personal style: Limiting your options and eliminating the noise from your closet helps cultivate and embrace what you like to wear and what looks and feels good.
  • More time: Minimalist dressers spend less energy worrying about what to wear and have more time to pursue, discover, and enjoy the things that are important to them.
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Yayoi Kusama.

A minimalist wardrobe can take many forms, and really, there are no hard and fast rules. But a few STRATEGIES have become particularly popular for those who want to mindfully pare down:

  • The “Capsule”: A seasonally curated collection of anywhere between 30-40 items rotated and updated 2 to 4 times per year. For inspiration try: Un-Fancy, Be More With Less
  • The “French Five Piece Wardrobe”: A collection of staples, kept fresh with the addition of 5 new items purchased bi-yearly. The idea here is to punch up a classic look by purchasing seasonal clothes that you love at the best quality you can afford. See it in action at: daarboven, WhoWhatWear
  • The “Uniform”: Iconic, ambitious, confident and bold. Steve Jobs in an Issey Miyake black mock turtleneck. Tom Wolfe’s head-turning white suit. Ironically, a surprising number of top fashion designers and editors, whose businesses depend on evolving trends, rely on wardrobes based in repetition (among these: Vogue’s Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, and Michael Kors). Call it the epitome of style for those fiercely independent and prone to decision fatigue. And you can, too: Writer Alice Gregory on her turtlenecks and matchstick jeans, Matilda Kahl, Art Director, on how she created an office uniform of white shirts and black pants
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Author Fran Lebowitz’s daily outfit consists of a jacket, men’s shirt with cufflinks, Levi’s jeans, cowboy boots, two gold rings, and tortoiseshell glasses.

Some of us enjoy playing with our style while others find it anxiety-inducing and/or tedious. But for both camps, minimalism can help improve the experience of getting dressed. A super important thing to note from The Blissful Mind:

“Decluttering your home and closet doesn’t make you a minimalist. After all, you could declutter everything only to replace it with new stuff.”

Ultimately, whether diving head first into a lifetime of basic black, or just experimenting with wearing and purchasing fewer items for a season, these exercises should inspire us to do more with what we have and think more carefully about the relationship we have with our material possessions.

 

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My Morning Routine

Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.

Yoko Ono.

My relationship with routine has been, paradoxically, unpredictable.

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But the older I get the more I crave the nourishment that comes along with having a reliable beginning and ending to each day. A good morning routine helps me deal with the stress, depression, moodiness, or boredom that may arise at home, on my commute, or at work.

With inspiration from blogs, articles, and my own intuition, here are the things that I’m trying in order to create a happy, positive morning!

+ 6:30-7:00: Wake up!

Step one: get out of bed, turn on the electric kettle, and head to the bathroom. I get back into bed for some extra cozy time while I wait for my water to boil, drink a glass of water and take a probiotic. I’ve recently committed to writing in my new Five Minute Journal before doing anything too complicated.

+ 7:30: Seated meditation

I make my coffee (lately that is Philz Philharmonic blend w/ Califia toasted coconut almondmilk) and head to the living room for morning meditation. I’ve begun incorporating Metta (also called Lovingkindness) in the final minutes of my usual 20-30 minute concentration practice, which is supposed to cultivate increased empathy and patience but for the moment hasn’t gone past the stage of just feeling a little goofy.

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+ 8:00: Exercise

This summer I’ve consciously been less regimented about my workouts. Anything from a good old fashioned 6 mile run to a half hour of intuitive, DIY living room yoga works. If I’m feeling especially low-energy or uninspired I might just do 15 minutes of simple, light stretching. I’m working on listening to what my body wants here! Sometimes it’s something more intense, and other times it’s enough to just get the blood moving a bit.

+ 8:45: Shower and breakfast

Almost nothing beats a post-run hot shower (in my opinion it’s like half of the reason to even do a morning run in the first place). To up the self-care ante I’ve been using a few drops of eucalyptus oil and a fun natural scrub (right now I’m using the delicious Fresh Cocoa Body Exfoliant) to give my morning shower a spa-like quality.

For breakfast at home I usually like to make toasted Ezekiel bread with avocado and a fried egg, or some similar version of this. But I have to admit that lately I’ve been grabbing a green juice or smoothie on my way to work (my current fave is a spirulina-spinach thing from Native Juice here in San Francisco) and sipping at my desk throughout the morning.

That’s it! These few small things are actually likely to put me in a better mood, if only temporarily. 🙂 There is so much advice out there on creating a “perfect” morning routine, and while a lot of these tips are helpful and inspiring, there is no one-size-fits-all. The best version of your morning is of course that one that allows you to feel strong and ready to go after the day. And for me, I feel more grounded when I start my day with some meditation, movement, a steamy shower and a little food! I’ve especially learned I need some extra chill time because I get really stressed and out of whack if I leap out of bed and start rushing around. However, I have a good friend who is completely the opposite. His body and brain just doesn’t work right before 10am and he needs way more stimulation to get going. So my morning routine would be totally counterproductive and leave him feeling sluggish for hours!

I’m interested to hear about your own morning routine. What things do you like to do to begin your day? And what about the self-described “non-morning” folks?

 

Is Running a Kind of Meditation? (Part I)

“I’m a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”

Byron Katie.

A good portion of my previous post dealt with my current relationship with running. Although I’m devoting less of my time to this particular hobby lately, I don’t see it as taking a back seat or being put on hold. Rather, running is converging into a bigger picture of health and balance that is more in-the-moment but maybe also more sustainable. This picture has been heavily anchored by mindfulness practices, which are beginning to permeate many areas of my life including running.

Both running and mindfulness meditation could be described as repetitive in nature, solitary in practice, and often challenging to perform and maintain. Running Meditators (and Meditating Runners) acknowledge the overlapping qualities of these activities to amplify the benefits inherent in both. It’s also possible (but not always the case, as you’ll read below) to meditate on the run.

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“While there’s much to gain from performing the physical activity, there’s a lot we’re missing out on when we slip into a semi-conscious state when doing the exercise. It’s pretty normal for the mind to wander when you’re running, regardless of whether the thoughts are related to the running itself, or something quite separate. But the only way to ensure that you’re performing to the very best of your ability, is to leave the thinking behind and allow the body and mind to work together with a combined physical and mental focus.”

Via The Huffington Post / Headspace App

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“Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone…”

A study published in April 2016 found that depressed subjects who practiced meditation followed by a 30 minute run, showed a significant change in brain activity and a 40 percent reduction in symptoms after just 8 weeks.

Via The New York Times

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“Running and meditation are very personal activities. Therefore they are lonely. This loneliness is one of their best qualities because it strengthens our incentive to motivate ourselves.”

“If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.”

From Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham

So we notice that running and meditation have lots of similarities and further, a symbiotic relationship. Meditation can help a runner’s performance, and physical activity can also have substantial benefit for a meditator. BUT – Is running meditation?

On a recent episode of the wonderful podcast “10% Happier with Dan Harris,” Dan and ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll discuss the difference between seated meditation and sports or other recreation:

Rich: “For many years as an ultra endurance athlete, like, I spent a lot of time in solitude training … and there’s certainly an active meditation component to that … and for many years I sort of said, well, that’s my meditation… but…

‘…There is something to a structured, formalized meditation practice that is qualitatively different from what you’re experiencing when you’re training.”

Dan: “One [of the reasons people give for not meditating] is: “‘Blank‘ is my meditation…. Running is my meditation. Gardening is my meditation. Petting my dog is my meditation.’ .. And my answer to that is: maybe. Depends on how you’re doing it. Like, if you run the way I run, which is that you’re rehearsing all the stuff you’re going to stay to your boss, or you’re listening to a podcast or listening to music, that is not meditation. If you are running and your headphones are out and you’re feeling your footfalls, you’re feeling the wind on your face, you’re feeling the motion of your body, and then every time you get distracted you start again – well then you’re meditating.”

How and why should we meditate while running? In part Part II of this post we’ll explore running meditation in practice and also look at the question “Should I meditate while running?”

 

 

 

“Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.”

Pablo Neruda.

What’s going on? Not much blogging, it seems. So, if you will, bear with me for a post about the blog.

Although the name and “About” section of the WAWT blog suggests a more wide-ranging exploration of wellness in general, it’s obvious that the main focus up to now has been running. When my interest in the sport led me to races and wanting to discover more sophisticated training methods, run-centric blogs fulfilled a desire to learn and engage with athletes of all levels. And reading these blogs inspired me to share my own experience and insights not least because, as I’m sure many of you have learned, while family and friends are generally supportive, not everyone wants to hear the daily details of your marathon nutrition plan or splits from your morning tempo run. 🙂 In addition to serving as an outlet for my health pursuits, this blog began as a way for me reconnect with the joy of writing, which has always been a passion.

I began 2017 excited about some longer-term, lofty-but-probably-doable goals. But throughout the year, these ambitions have naturally fallen by the wayside and I haven’t forced myself back on the track because, honestly, they just feel too narrow. Running seems to be settling into my life in a way that is more integrated, balanced, and deeper. I’m less focused on quantitative goals, like running a particular race or making sure I get in a certain amount of miles so that I don’t “lose fitness.” Less concerned about what I “should” do and less fearful of what will “happen” if I don’t. Now, running is just THERE. I just trust it so much more… so generous and available whenever I need it!

So how am I filling all of this spare time now that I’m not eating, sleeping and exercising like a marathoner? Well, lots of yoga, vipassana meditation, reading, moisturizing my dry hands, discovering podcasts, cooking vegetables, finishing rounds of golf with IPAs, buying jigsaw puzzles, listening to music and I mean like REALLY trying to LISTEN. I’ve also gone on some beautiful, soul-nourishing runs. Basically, I am trying to, as much as I can, live with some fucking ease here, guys.

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So all of this preamble just to lock in an intention to use this platform to share, expand, and deepen my passion for physical and mental wellness, using this term as broadly as possible.

Finally, as you might know, “Well and Warm Together” is a line pulled from one of my favorite books, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:

“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” 

I chose to name the blog after this quote because it reminds me about the small things that make living life more bearable, sometimes even exquisite and joyful. This is sort of the thesis of what I want this blog to be about, so I hope that some of you will continue to join me in this conversation!

Ok. That’s it. Oh jeez – I really didn’t mean to make this sound like some kind of eulogy for my running career… it’s not! ANYWAY I hope you’ll forgive some of the earnestness in this post too. I promise to try to infuse my natural proclivity for dry wit and sarcasm in to my future blog posts as I’ve attempted in the past. But goddamn all of this oneness with the universe is making me soft! 😛 Ok I’m really going to stop writing now.

xo

 

 

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

Albert Camus.

Big News! Summer is not yet over! Yet alas it’s true that time has passed and I’ve not been so interested in shouting from the blogtops since Spring. But besides that there is a sliver of August left for camping and running and drinking in the outside evening light.

So. The world relentlessly turns and we move forward, never backwards! In spite of it, allow me to reflect on the previous six months:

Running

Not ideal training, but at least relatively consistent. After setting my half PR at ORF In March, my plan was to shoot for a quick-turnaround near-or-sub 1:50 half followed by a strong fall marathon.

Golden Gate Bridge Warming Hut

if only every run could end with sandwiches at the warming hut.

I won’t bore anybody (most importantly myself) by droning over all the details, but suffice it to say that the execution of this plan has been a whirlwind of lottery denials and waning motivation and false starts. And the humidity, my god the humidity.

But more than that, I’m learning a tough yet valuable lesson about the role of stress in one’s personal life and how this can, actually, have a markedly negative impact on performance. I guess this seems pretty obvious, but I feel like we often look to running as our “therapy” – a deep tissue massage for the psyche to use as directed for problem solving, de-compression, and otherwise general monkey mind relief. In the past few months it’s proved frustratingly opposite for me, culminating in a not quite disastrous but certainly very unpleasant experience at the San Francisco Marathon 2nd half.

It wasn't all bad, thought. Any day that ends with Dungeness Crab is a worthy 24 hours.

It wasn’t all bad, tho. Any day that includes Dungeness Crab is a worthy 24 hours.

As such, I’ve downgraded from an October full to an October half, and steady but not wanting eyes towards CIM in December. Either way, I’m letting go of my previously tight grip on a 2015 marathon finish.

In addition to the half in SF I did Bay to Breakers, a Brazen 10k in Point Pinole, and a 4th of July 5k in Concord. Between now and Detroit (October 18) I may try to fit in a 10k. Maybe DSE Oyster Point, where I ran a surprisingly good time last September at what is still my only 10k road race.

Reading

My biggest success of the year has been reading more. Between kindle, paper, and audible, 2015 has been my most prolific stretch probably since high school. I initially wondered how I’d fit in the time to complete just 1 book a month, but I’ve been able to finish 18 and counting since March. And as such I’m smarter, richer, and more beautiful. The rumors are true, folks. Reading is sexy. And of course I’m tracking it all with a super sophisticated spreadsheet modeled closely after this one from Amanda Nelson at Book Riot. (Don’t ask me about goodreads. I don’t like it. I don’t know why…)

Meditating

After a million years of telling myself to do this, I have finally made major headway towards developing a consistent mindfulness meditation practice. Thanks to Andy Puddicombe and Headspace.

This light, friendly approach alleviates some of my previous anxiety and intimidation around seated meditation. And the structure of the “Foundation” series really makes sense to me and helps reinforce the daily habit.

Anyway, speaking of consistency, we shall see if training recaps resume on this here blog. The fantasy is to really do them in hopes of sparking some next-level shit in the Fall. But priority #1 is to keep it light, and this means refraining from putting undue pressure on myself. Because shit does indeed go down… why pile on more of the weight?

Namaste, bitches!

“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.”

Thich Nhat Hanh.

After several weeks of mostly consistent running, I’m looking forward to my first big race of the year — the half distance at Sunday’s Oakland Running Festival. As usual, it’s 6 days out and I’m trying to determine the line between stupid and lazy. How to keep one’s head on straight while making space for potential magic? Some days I imagine PR-smashing victories while other times a heaving 2 hour finish sounds massively lucky. Just your ordinary pre-race psycho-jitterbugging.

In the meantime I play and work, I read and eat. With regards to the last two, I’m taking inspiration from Thich Nhat Hanh’s “How to Eat,” purchased from Pilgrim’s Way Book Shop in lovely Carmel-by-the-Sea this weekend.

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— Do you delight in meditations on a string bean?

— Believe a cup of tea contains the universe?

— Invite space for mindfulness when table setting and/or dishwashing?

Well then this one’s for us, ladies and gents.

In fact Sunday loops around Lake Merced followed by a nap and house cleaning listening to audiobooks and preparing a butterflied trout with a roasted crispy-skinned sweet potato and pot de creme for dessert might be just everything…

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Petit Pot made in Oakland, found at Potrero Whole Foods, and consumed by me in my apartment. How adorable and delicious is this packaging?

…Not to mention that one-night-only Carmel vacationette, perfect and sweet as a little jar of chocolate.

Heartbreakingly gorgeous 4 miles this morning! #seenonmyrun

A post shared by Kathryn Bodle (@nochickens) on

Well, I guess it was a good weekend!

“Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

William Butler Yeats.

Well hello and Happy New Year!

So I took a blogging hiatus during the last half of 2014 when I came down with a bout of Iliotibial Band Syndrome. I completed my last race of 2014 in September (DSE Oyster Point 10k) and surprised myself by finishing in 49:07, running pretty even splits and averaging just under 8:00/mile.

DSE Oyster Point 10k Splits: September 21, 2014

DSE Oyster Point 10k Splits: September 21, 2014

It was a promising start to CIM training, but sadly the IT issue flared up soon after, forcing me to bow out of both Rock n Roll San Jose and the marathon. After a frustrating several months of trial and error, I have now been happily pain free since January 2. I attribute this recovery to diligent foam rolling, stretching and yoga practice, professional massage, rest, better shoes, and tiny miracles beyond human understanding.

Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of the latest haps:

1 — I’m upping my yoga game

In early January I attended a 3 week yoga “boot camp” series at my local studio — 75 minute classes / 6 am / Monday thru Friday. I would call it almost life changing. Although awkward at first, I became intoxicated by starting the days active and early, and made a lot of progress with my practice. I’ve definitely come away with a better understanding of the nuances of the poses and am improving the practice of mindfulness. I’m really just starting to scratch the surface and it super exciting. Hopefully the momentum will continue, but I know finding a balance will be somewhat tricky as I return to running more seriously. Anyway, it was a great way to kick off the year.

2  — I ran my first race of 2015 / first post-injury!

A Brazen Race was the perfect kickoff to a healthy, happy 2015. I was pleased to comfortably run an 8:15 / mile average – clocking in at 28:42 for the 3.5 mile race feeling fresh and in no more in pain than one would expect for a sunny 5k.

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photos courtesy of the Brazen photog crew. Love these guys!

3  — I’m noodling the hell out of my 2015 training schedule and narrowing down choices for a summer marathon

I’ve been slowly building mileage since the beginning of the year and I’ve got a solid plan to carry me to 3/22 when (if all goes well) I’ll run the half distance at Oakland Running Festival again this year. In the meantime I have 2 tasks: first, decide on type/amount of speedwork to take on during marathon training (among other details) and second, confirm the goal race. Right now the main contenders are San Francisco and Grandma’s.

This Sunday I will be volunteering with SFRRC at the Kaiser Half so to all of those running Good Luck and I look forward to cheering you on!!

“Don’t follow the feeling, follow the plan.”

Dr. Barry Rovner A few weeks ago NPR broadcast a story about elderly people suffering from age-related macular degeneration, a condition that impairs the ability to see fine detail. Reading, driving, watching television, and cooking may become impossible. Worse, those … Continue reading

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Despite a dull lingering hum from the hammond organ and salty dogs at the Royal Cuckoo, last Saturday morning I emerged from my front door at a quarter-to-eight to take a very dirty dog for a very necessary haircut. A strawberry smoothie, a stroll around Precita Park, a trek up and down the hill to the Noe Valley farmer’s market (bounty: kale, parsley, summer squash, rapini, lavender, sunflowers), and a very strong cup of Philz later (Greater Alarm blend) — I felt it. Summer. Arrived.

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Here are a few to-dos for my summer vacation (note: summer is always a vacation, even if we’re still nine-to-fiving):

Finish FIVE Books Since purchasing an iPad, reading has become a rare event. When I do select from the bookshelf or Kindle, it’s usually nutrition, running, or cooking-related, so I’m focusing on fiction. Novels and short stories kind of exercise the brain creatively in a way that nonfiction doesn’t, as corroborated by this article from the Boston Globe:

“The emerging science of story suggests that fiction is good for more than kicks. By enhancing empathy, fiction reduces social friction. At the same time, story exerts a kind of magnetic force, drawing us together around common values. In other words, most fiction, even the trashy stuff, appears to be in the public interest after all.”

Hoping the “magnetic forces” not only feed my soul but also improve my sleep (by doing away with the evil blue light of the device screen). I’m only almost finished with book #1 (The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham), so I need to get cracking. What can I say? I was derailed by OITNB.

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Write 3x/week “Writing” is a common excerpt from my Gratitude Journal. I’m attempting two blog posts and one free-writing or exercise. Maybe a few creative nonfiction prompts from Poets and Writers?

One getaway / month (June-August) With Tahoe in June, and a planned vacation mid-August, that leaves a July excursion. I’m itching for a campout, but if it must be an overnight at a B&B in Marin, well then, I guess that’s life. 😉

Foam roll & Yoga Forming healthy habits for increased speed sessions and mileage building later this summer/fall by developing a short home yoga practice (once/week in addition to my twice weekly classes), using my “Stick” after every run, and epsom salt bath and foam rolling sessions on Monday nights.

Meditation Just 15 minutes several times a week. Psychology Today discourages meditation before bedtime, which would actually be my preferred window. But after work or running sound nice too. This goal also involves exploring various mindfulness and meditation apps.

Practice happiness Continue writing in my gratitude journal. Take deep breaths. Smile. Don’t hold onto things too tightly. Take myself less seriously. Wake up early and enjoy the quiet times.

Happy Summer 2014!

(Photo by Max Wanger)

“I have a lot of fun doing this but I don’t necessarily think that it’s good for you.”

Josh Spector. Ultrarunner.

“The benefits of running decrease after a certain amount of time…I do it because I love it…”

Talking about exercise with a friend last week, he warned: “Don’t make me run and don’t make me do crossfit.”

I don’t know much about crossfit, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to anybody based on what I do know. At the same time, while you’d expect that my enthusiasm might make me an evangelist, I don’t recommend running either.

There’s no shortage of conflicting evidence concerning the benefits and dangers of running, but recent research suggests that those running more than 20 miles per week (or frequently run faster 8 min/mile) may have shorter life spans.

In other words, when “increasing mileage and pace, the benefits of running seem to disappear,” cardiologist Martin Matsumara told The Huffington Post over the phone this week.

Interestingly, this closely echoes some of Josh’s musings during his 135 miles in the above video and the quotes I’ve referenced. But:

Matsumara says that people should absolutely not stop running. “Runners in general enjoy longer and better health,” he said.

You can see in that little documentary that while Josh is clearly under physical and mental distress, these kinds of experiences are not only enjoyable, they practically define him. He describes running as an integral, non-negotiable part of his existence. The majority of us are less fanatical of course, but I think that many runners understand the kernel of this passion.

I’m learning that overall fitness is a holistic effort that is largely personal. For me this means strength training for the body, yoga for the mind, and running for the soul.

At the end of the day, it’s what works for your body, mind, and soul.