Running On Empty? How Running Can Help You Recharge

“There are a million different campaigns. There is always another campaign, but there is only one of you.”

Buffy Wicks, founder and principal of Rise Strategies, knows all to well that campaigns never stop, but unlike a lot of others in politics, she also knows how important her health is to the success of her work.

For Buffy, me, and a lot of others in organizing and politics, running is the best way to take care of our bodies while working incredibly hard. Running is an incredibly simple, cheap (at first), and addictive way to get active, to relieve tension and stress and to improve your whole body.

Not only will running boost your immune system and keep you healthier through intense bouts of organizing, it will give you stamina to get through incredibly long days and will help clear your mind of the anxiety that distracts every organizer from their work.

I know just how hard you work each day and I know just how bad I was at taking care of myself on my first campaign. It’s so easy to put your personal needs last, but in doing so, you’re actually jeopardizing all of your work.

As an organizer, you have got to take care of yourself. Not only is it important to keep yourself sane, it helps you do your job better. So much of being a successful organizer is personal. You need to take care of yourself to be the best organizer possible.

Running is an easy way to invest in your health and well-being. Here is some advice for you on ways to make running (or any sort of physical activity) a possibility and a priority while organizing.

Start slowly.

You’re an organizer, so now might not be the best time for you to train for a marathon. (But, hey, if anyone could work 16 hours a day and also train for a marathon, it would be an organizer.) You don’t need to go crazy with running to benefit from it.

Just take the first step and start running. Each time you go will get easier and more fun and eventually you’ll be so addicted to what it does to your body and your mind, you’ll be able to challenge yourself in new ways.

Find a regular time that works for you and put it in your calendar.

“I would run from 5PM- 6PM, rinse quickly, and go back to work for another three or four hours depending on the day. It actually made me more energized for the remainder of the day because I got my blood flowing and it helped my mental sharpness as well. For me that time worked; for some people maybe it’s noon, maybe it’s 7AM, maybe it’s 11PM at night. Finding your time, setting it aside, and being really intentional about keeping it is really important.”

By scheduling in time, Buffy was able to find time to run—time committed to her health that helped her be better at her job. Like all things on a campaign, if you don’t schedule running in, it won’t happen.

Experiment to find out what time works best for you. It might work best to run right when you wake up or in that late morning time before voter contact really begins and after you’ve dealt with the morning crises. Whenever the time is, lock it in, put it on your calendar, and commit to spending the time improving yourself.

“Make running a habit. Make running a way for you to be good to yourself. You don’t need to run a marathon (but if so, that’s great), but set a goal, make a plan, and stick with it. Before I started running, I could think of every excuse not to run. It’s easy to grab a drink or sleep in, but once I started, running became my special obligation to myself. Running gives me  order from the hours of 6AM-7:30AM. Running gives me new ways of spending time with people I care about, people I wanted to spend time with, and friends I wouldn’t see often. Running gives me a sense of routine. Running’s also helped me meet a ton of interesting, new people—an organizer’s dream!”

Chris Choi, head of global digital strategy at 100 Resilient Cities

Download an app that tracks your distance and time. You’re a metrics-driven person!

Organizers love metrics, so take advantage of the built-in metrics of running. Set goals for yourself (probably small ones if you’re working nonstop) and track how you’re doing.

Listen to podcasts, books, music—anything to take a mental break from the work.  

“I like that mental disconnection from the work so that it kind of gives you a little bit of a break, and that’s also helpful to the work itself.”

Buffy’s right: sometimes, you really just need a break. When you’re an organizer, you almost never get a break; the work is always on your mind. It’s natural that your brain will run in circles each time you’re not doing something, but it will drive you bonkers and eventually, make you less able to actually execute the work.

It’s super hard to quiet your mind, so try to distract it while you’re running. Listen to something that’s not immediately related to the work you’re doing every second. It will help your mind relax for a bit and that short break will help you to focus more effectively when you come back to the tasks in front of you.

Looking for a podcast to listen to? We suggest The Riveters Podcast! Hosted by Buffy Wicks and Sally Smith, The Riveters Podcast is an unfiltered ode to the good, bad, and hilarious that is #ladylife in 2016! It constantly gives props to organizing and is funny, smart, and uplifting—you’ll love it.

Continue to prioritize your health throughout the whole campaign.

There are always crazy times throughout campaigns—they never stop. If you say to yourself, “I’m just going to quit running through this busy week,” you will never start again.

Your health is absolutely vital to your success, now and in the future. Everywhere you look, people are going to tell you to give everything you have to the campaign. That’s all good, but if you aren’t healthy, you can’t give nearly as much.

Do not feel guilty for prioritizing your health at any moment. You can hit your goals and work hard while still taking a few hours a week to invest in your mental and physical well-being.

“Don’t underestimate the power a run can have on your attitude and outlook on life. Even if the only time you have is the 30 minutes between your last meeting and the start of a debate, lace up your shoes and get out there. I saw a great t-shirt during my last race: “running is cheaper than therapy.” I swear to you, my commitment to running has gotten me through this campaign. Even with my phone buzzing constantly in my hand, getting in a few miles and a few minutes to admire this incredible city [NYC] gives me just the perspective I need to sit back down and deal with my inbox.”

Emily Samsel, surrogates for Hillary for America

Don’t beat yourself up on the bad days.

Even if you prioritize your health, there are going to be days you just can’t make a run happen and sometimes those days might turn into a week. That’s okay. Cut yourself some slack—you have an insanely intense job!

A couple misses on your part do not make a failure. Sometimes your body needs rest more than it needs a run, and that’s what you should give it. Don’t waste any energy feeling guilty about missed runs. You run and you exercise to make yourself feel better, not the other way around.

Just run. It’s that easy.

Running is great for an organizer because you can do it anywhere at anytime. At the end of the day, running is really simple. You don’t need a ton of advice to step outside and start moving.

Don’t overcomplicate it. Running will keep you healthy, boost your immune system, make you feel more energized, and even make you a better organizer! Invest the time into it now and thank yourself later.