Over the past few years, running has served as a catalyst to further progress my creativity. I’ve always staked the claim that running is what makes me creative, but the typical response is a rolling of the eyes and a not so reassuring “Yeah, right.”
On the surface, running isn’t very appealing, and you may conjure images of grossly sweaty shirts and people half bent over with their hands clasped to their knees as they gasp for air. “How in the world can running yield creative results?” you ask. “Isn’t running some form of self-punishment?” Running is less about what’s on the surface, and more about intrinsic value.
Find someone who consistently runs and ask them why they do it. I can guarantee their answer will never be based on physical, on-the-surface value. Instead their answer will likely be some type of spiritual or psychological gain because running for those who make it a part of their daily routine has become a mental state experience. So how does all of this relate to creativity? The act of running enables you to transcend the linear thought process put in place by the left side of your brain. The left side of your brain is focused on the more logical and mechanical processes of your mind, while the right side of your brain deals with situations much more metaphorically. While the left side can recognize the pieces, the right side sees the pieces together to recognize a whole. During a run the left side of your brain is occupied ensuring that your body goes through the proper motion of running and keeps you alert of your surroundings, leaving the right side to take over your conscious thought processes.
Creativity largely revolves around unexpected connections which is why we have “A-HA!” or even “I wish I had thought of that!” moments. So while you’re on a run and the left side of your brain is preoccupied, the right is free to connect the dots however it feels fit without the fear of the left side trying to appeal those connections. Running for me has become an opportunity to get away from my computer and just think. When you aren’t in front of a computer or without a sketchbook, you’re forced to visualize concepts in your head, and so you’re without the pressure of creating something perfect. Being away from your resources allots you more time to actually plan rather than jumping straight in. This becomes an opportunity to strengthen your process.
Not only can running and exercise benefit you creatively, but nowadays it’s becoming easier and easier to simply forget about it all together which takes a negative toll on your life. It has become common practice to become swept up in your work for long periods of time because there is a misconception which leads us to believe that we must bunker down to complete our work. This idea of sitting motionless at our desk as we crank out work is in fact taking away from the quality of our work. In order for our brains to be engaged we must also engage our bodies. I used to have to stand up every so often when I was working because sitting was driving me mad. Most people are alright with sitting for long periods at a time because they are conditioned into it, but since I run every morning I know what it feels like to entirely engage my brain in the creative process. I can’t easily convert my desk into a standing desk so I opted for a different solution: I replace my desk chair with an exercise ball. Now that my body is always engaged so is my mind. As the left side of my brain focuses on staying balanced and upright on the ball the right side takes control for creative exploration.
Running isn’t for everyone, but exercise is. Keeping your body active will make you happier, more creative, and will help you live longer. Today it becomes increasingly easier to not exercise, and it becomes more and more difficult to introduce it into your daily routine. Many people dismiss exercise because they don’t view it as being productive, but I will continue to argue that without running I would not be in the creative state that I’m in now, and I would not be the person I am today. Running has become a crucial part of my life just as design has, and I’ve come to learn how the two compliment one another. If you find yourself interested in running, but feel discouraged to start then you can go here to read some advice that I have to share.