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Running Wild: Working Out with Your Imagination

July 06, 2013 4 min read

"What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality." -Plutarch

I don’t usually get embarrassed about what most people consider to be embarrassing. Zipper undone at an important meeting? Consider it a low-calorie treat. Choosing a Backstreet Boys song for your 2nd grade talent show dance routine? Lets win third place. Purchasing a forty pack of super plus tampons and a bottle of red wine? I call it necessary. However, if one were to enter my mind as I was sprinting on the treadmill or jogging through a forrest or flexing my abs in front of the mirror - I can’t lie. I think I would be a little embarrassed. So I am going to dive right into the humiliating details:
  • When sprinting on a treadmill, I often play dramatic movie soundtracks that feature the French horn and imagine that I am Trinity from The Matrix. Yes, I also imagine that I am wearing a black, vinyl trench coat. It is surprisingly lightweight in my mind.
  • Leaping over creeks and boulders on a forrest trail - I am Pocahontas. OR I am running from blood-soaked and crazed zombies.
  • Jumping jacks in the gym while wearing brightly colored spandex - I am Jane Fonda on a lunch break.
  I find that when I imagine myself in a scenario other than just a young woman trying to widdle down the extra “cake” on the bottom side of her behind, I have more fun and get better results. I work out longer. I smile. I laugh. I sometimes get carried away and start speaking like Jane Fonda while admiring my spandex, but oh well. No one knows me at the gym. One the world's favorite novelists, J.K. Rowling gave her commencement speech at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association about the importance of failure and imagination. In a powerful twenty minute speech, Rowling explained that even in the 'real world' imagination is a crucial tool for living.

J.K. Rowling Harvard 2008

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation ... Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.”
More importantly, Rowling claims that while the magic of imagination played a significant role in helping redevelop her life and create the Harry Potter series, the ability to empathize with others through imagination is one of the largest sources for social change. I spent a lot of my high school and college summers working with children at day care centers and camps. As these summer jobs started to accumulate on my resume and as I grew older and more of a genius, I started noticing that correcting children on their creative statements was an outstanding trend. Counselors, employees, adults in ugly seersucker shorts felt some sort of requirement to prepare the child's brain for reality.

“I just saw a golden ant walk across my my lunch!”

“Golden ants do not exist.”

“If I eat this apple in thirty seconds, all of my friends will turn into dinosaurs."

"That isn't how things work!"

"I am 756.5 years old."

"No. You are six."

  While that boy could have easily choked on the apple when attempting to eat it in thirty seconds (all for a very good cause - dinosaurs - duh), the desire and ability to imagine starts to vanish the more kids are told that they are wrong, confused, and silly. And what happens? We become boring adults who fear indulging in stories because it may seem sillyto that thirty-five year-old coworker who eats the same meatloaf every day. We stop singing out loud in the grocery store because someone at some point explained that was odd. We dread the exercise that used to be fun. We can learn from children. We can learn from creative souls, such as J.K. Rowling. I am not arguing that we should escape completely from reality - forget about our responsibilities as routine adults. I understand quite well that my graduate school loans will not turn into lifetime paychecks of pure gold if I clap my hands three times and twerk to a Beyonce song. I think I know that I am not actually Trinity from The Matrixwhen on a treadmill. Maybe zombies are not chasing me on an empty forrest trail during my morning run. Yea. I am just Whitney Rice trying to have a good time on a treadmill, trail, or workout routine. Turning a daily "must do" into a "want to do". J.K. Rowling put it out there: we have the power to imagine best. Lets focus on some positive. Take away from the feeling of "task". Trick our bodies into working a little harder. And give zombies a shot. But. You have to run fast. [caption id="attachment_6303" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]M. Lemmon Photography Photo taken by M. Lemmon. No one was hurt in the documentation of this imagination.[/caption]

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