Information overload. (And definitely not runner-friendly)

Digital devices deprive our brains of needed downtime, a recent New York Times headline announced. My first thought: duh. Second thought: Gee, Heather, you know this to be true, yet you’re just as guilty as the next guy in letting it happen … over and over again.

Perfect example: Saturday afternoon, a decidedly perfect beach day. High 80s, great breeze, hours of building sand castles, swimming, not to mention plenty of sitting and reading The Girl who Played with Fire. Why in the world I opted to check email at one point is beyond me. I’d missed a call from my dad and after listening to his voice mail, my finger automatically tapped the email icon. It’s amazing how habitual this has become, this “just checking real quickly” action that never really is all that quick. I was at the beach, for crying out loud. You can’t get much more of a downtime moment than that.

Still, check email I did. And on a wonderful lazy summer day with my family, I ended up stressing about a work email that had popped into my inbox. My husband, noticing my obvious distress, asked what was up. To which I took as an opportunity to unload. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him, and there I went, snatching some of his downtime, too, because of my $^%&%& digital device.

Thankfully, I have running to balance out my sometimes too-much web surfing, emailing, texting, facebooking and tweeting. I don’t consider myself being as addicted to my iPhone as I know others say they are. Still, it’s all subjective – what is too much for one person is no big deal to others. I just know that if I’m in my bikini soaking up the rays with my most favorite people, checking email shouldn’t even cross my mind.

Back to the work email for a sec. While my immediate response to it was anger and frustration, I also knew (thanks to having been here before) that I absolutely needed to put down the phone, not even think about responding until I cooled my head and get back to the joy I’d been experiencing – that is, having a ball splashing in the waves. Which is exactly what I did.

I also knew, as we all do, that a long run would help tremendously.

The next morning I’d planned to meet with two running friends for about six miles through downtown streets and some trails. I thought about dissecting my work email dilemma with the girls, but decided it wasn’t worth it. I knew it would be the fresh air and miles that would clear my head more than ruminating over the issue any further.

We set out at an easy pace to warm up, gradually speeding up some as we winded through alleyways and over to shady trails. Talking and laughing about anything and everything that popped into our heads, the time sped by. When Amy mentioned we’d been running for 40 minutes, I could hardly believe it. I felt relaxed and invigorated at the same time. As we began the return part of our loop, I felt like I wanted to keep going. This is the cool thing about great running partners: they stick with you when you need them to, but also encourage you to go ahead when you’re feeling it. “Run strong, girl!” Juliette shouted to me as I took off and she and Amy headed back toward our starting point.

I probably added only an extra mile or so to the run, but it felt good taking off on my own. I ran toward the water, running alongside the beach and later the marina and on a pathway that takes you beneath the road tunnel-like. I met J & A back at the parking lot and we walked to the nearby coffee shop, where we sat and laughed over iced vanilla lattes.

Much later, sitting at my computer, I felt ready to respond to the email. I knew exactly what to say and how to word it. Then I hit “send.”

Getting outside and exercising, whether biking, walking or running, apparently is the way to go, this New York Times article said. I think it’s safe to say you should leave the hand-held behind (this reminds me of a runner featured in Runner’s World not too long ago…she said she texts while running. What?!? But I digress.) Sure, this advice surely sparks a “duh” reply for many of us who rely on running and other outdoor activities to stay healthy both mentally and physically. But if you’re like me, and could use a gentle reminder to not mix downtime with your digital device, do yourself a favor and put down your hand-held and enjoy your relaxing. And, yeah, get out there for a run. It’s where I’m heading…

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