I am a non-competitive runner. I run because it is simple, inexpensive, and sweat-inducing. Over some years of running, I have learned a few things. You can learn lots more about diet and weights and training regimens and races and more by reading around, especially Runner's World magazine.
I have learned as a pastor that the space created by running is perhaps the single best incubator for sermons. Many of the sermons I preach Sunday morning emerge fully formed and outlined while on a run late in the week.
I imagine the creative space cultivated in the running moment might be transferable to other professions. Go on a run with an intentional creative work in mind, and you might end up back at the house frantically scribbling some notes onto paper quickly moistened by the sweat of your forearm. It has happened to me.
So here are 10 "#protips" for enhanced creativity through running. Please allow "preaching" to become a synecdoche for whatever creativity you anticipate running assisting.
Run at whim: Most of the time, when you run, just go run. It doesn't matter how far you go, how fast you run, whether you ran the day before or not. Heck, it can even be a second run on the same day. Just go out and run. Running at whim keeps the joy in running.
Sometimes do fartleks: Yes, that's a real word, one of my favorites in the English language, even though it is borrowed from the Swedes. Basically, it means change the pace of your run while you are running. Spring, then mosey. Run at a race pace, then slow to a crawl. It has the same kind of whimsicality to it as the first pro tip, but benefits the aerobic as well as anaerobic. It also jars the brain into new ways of thinking.
Right before you run, review what you are going to meditate on while you run: I read the Scripture I'll be preaching on Sunday multiple times during the week. Right before I head on a run, I read it again. It then becomes the focus meditation of the run. It's amazing what increased endorphins can do for the brain. If the text is there in the mix, you have an amazing faith and brain cocktail mixing.
Sometimes, go all out: Maybe once a week, go on such a strenuous run that you can't think about anything else other than your breath and the lactic acid building up in your muscles. To get into your brain sometimes you have to get out of it.
After the run, write down some notes, maybe: The endorphin boost really assists creativity, but sometimes a run will convince you of how amazing your idea is. Come down off the high, then review the idea. Not all run ideas should make their way to the Sunday sermon. Use your post-run filter.
Run in the heat: This one won't be for everybody, but for my money, running when you can also take a sauna is fantastic. The bigger point here, though, is to figure out when running is fun for you. Do you like the rain? Cool weather? Mornings? Evenings? Figure out what you like, then get out in it.
Leave the headphones at home: I know, people really like to listen to music when they run, so I'm not a legalist on this. However, I have two reasons for leaving headphones at home. First, I like to hear the world around me, like the tree frogs. Second, the music keeps me from the deep focus I need for creative thinking.
Flow in and out of focus: It's okay if you don't think about your creative project the whole time you are running. It's better, actually. Part of creativity is allowing your mind to float off away for a while. Runs allow this, enhance it.
Weave life together: One of the most important steps in this creative zone is to allow other experiences to impinge on the text that is the focus of the meditation. What have people said to you the past week? What have you read? What are you feeling? Allow these things to become part of the hermeneutical work.
Run at whim: Then return to this basic insight, that the point is to get out and have the time and the space. Do it because you love it. Sometimes, this means "Just Do It!" Not every day is a perfect run day. Most aren't. But the routine matters, and it will transform both your body and your mind, and your sermons.