Zen and the art of self-care

By Stephen Kersh

February 28, 2017

Lately when I’ve been driving around Flagstaff, I conjure up my most subtle southern drawl to impersonate my good friend Tim, and I babble on and on about “self-care.” What exactly is self-care? I do not know. However, when I’m zoning in my Volvo, I shout about self-care being a “pre-run, cold-coffee enema,” or “waking up at 5 a.m. to pound out my morning 10-miler around the Lower East Side” and “strictly eating pie and drinking fine bourbon cocktails on Saturdays.”

Is this true self-care? Is funneling your bowels with caffeine and then slamming pavement for 70-minutes a healthy alternative to a more conventional self-care routine?

No. It is not.

Idyllic self-care rests its laurels upon the importance of relaxation, baths, Sarah McLachlan, throwing your iPhone into a nearby abyss and magazines. It’s pure and mindless. It does not hurt and it is beautiful. Do not be fooled, though! This is an ignorant form of self-care and comes from subscribing to some sort of apocryphal “Dummie’s Guide to Self-Care.”

This is not the self-care you want; this is not the self-care you need. The self-care you need is called self-initiated self-care.

My aforementioned buddy Timmy enlightened me to this type of self-care. He sent me an iMessage tale about how “rewarding yourself is important” and the “need to be self-soothing”, and to remember “not to be too hard on yourself. That’s kind of reverse self-care.” REVERSE SELF-CARE. You came into this article without an elementary understanding of self-care and now I just taught you about reverse self-care. This is all so important. I also asked Timmy if I could use his quotes in this likely lightly-circulated article, he came back with “Bro. I’m ALWAYS on the record.”

I imagine one day this will come back to bite Timmy, but who can think about the future when you’re up to your ears in a post-8-mile-tempo-chorizo egg-sandwich and have an epsom-salt-foot-bath waiting for you at the office.

Self-care for runners is different than self-care for a normal, non-self-loathing person. A runner might find their chakra while 90-minutes into a three-hour run, or discover their third-eye as they risk imploding their spleen to kick down a teammate on the homestretch and maybe, just maybe, in a brief moment of true enlightenment they find themselves babbling an ancient tongue in the midst of ranting about severe thigh chafing to a close friend.

These are not beautiful moments, but they are the moments a runner craves to experience. A brand of self-care deeply rooted in masochism and yet gives way to the pastoral mental landscape we yearn to paint ourselves.

I made something for you. It is a visual description of the confluence of self-care and running. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey to find true self-care and please remember to be self-soothing.


Stephen Kersh

Former collegiate runner for University of Portland and Georgetown, currently a professional runner weighing sponsorship offers from no one. Enjoys using the internet to message Scott Olberding and Paul Snyder about bad story ideas. Does not assume he will work at Citius much longer due to the bad story ideas. He once gave a TED Talk titled "Twitter: How We Are All Just Shouting into a Vacuum" to his best friend and his girlfriend on the beaches of Connecticut.