Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

A healthy mind in a healthy body.

Roman poet Juvenal wrote this in the last 1st century AD in one of his satires. Actually, he wrote, orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano (One should pray that the mind is sound in a sound body).

While ASICS may have a monopoly over the quote these days, I cannot emphasize enough how good of an idea it is. When I was in college, I did not run much. It was definitely an optional thing in my mind, and while I enjoyed it when I got out, it did not always seem to me like I had the time for it. Sleep wasn't really a priority either - work had to get done. I never pulled (and still have not) an all-nighter (and am very proud of that), but a full night's sleep only came on the weekend.

And then running came back into my life when I entered graduate school. I quickly learned that good runs only happen after good sleep. Generally, whenever I've really slogged through a run, it is because I did not get enough sleep the night before. Of course, there are times, like when I am at CTY (beloved summer job) that a lack of sleep is inevitable. But all in all, I've realize how much more I can thrive in both running and working when supported by good sleep.

Running has helped my mind as well as body. I think really well while I run; I plan out papers in my head or practice presentations on long runs. I come back with a better sense of what I need to do, and then I furiously write down everything that went through my head. I work out problems concerning work, school, and everything else.

Running gave me a confidence that I do not think I had before. After I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I realized "Wow, I just did something that most people cannot do." I guess I can do some things (which was I used to tell my Latin teach last year when he was surprised when I got a translation right). If I can go out and run 20 miles on any given Saturday, and have only been doing that for a year, surely I can be a good historian and writer. I tend to be very critical of my abilities as a medievalist, and often worry if I am talented enough for this field, for it is a tough one. I have to remind myself that I can do these things - write research papers, translate Latin, present my research - after all, I can run marathons! And when I think about that (and that my professors told me that they admire me for running - they admire me? They are the ones I look up to), I get the confidence I need to go out and be a medievalist.

Last year, when I went to the big medieval conference at Western Michigan University, I bought a button that had "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano" on it. I clipped it to the lanyard I had to wear while I worked at CTY, in order to remind me that that is the way to live. Juvenal was right, we all should pray for a sound mind in a sound body.

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