I became addicted to listening to podcasts while working out. To the point that I skipped the gym when I could not find my earphones or my phone was not charged. Downloading a bunch of podcasts frantically on my way to the gym was a ritual. In case I did not like one, I should have enough to choose from. My gym does not have wifi and the idea of running out of podcasts to listen to in the middle of a workout was chilling. One day unable to find the earphones yet again, I mustered the courage to still go to the gym. It was hell. The podcasts had been a welcome distraction from the physical pain and boredom of running on the treadmill for 20 mins. The distraction was no longer there. The pain and boredom were staring at me point-blank. But I stuck it out. After 20 mins my mind calmed down and I felt a familiar mental clarity that comes after running. It reminded me of a quote by Murakami.[1]

“I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.”

I realized I had been robbing myself of the void by evading the very necessary boredom and pain that preceded it. The evidence that exercise is the best investment you can make for your health is so irrefutable that it feels stupid to say it. But the reason why I got hooked was the stillness and clarity that followed after pushing myself deliberately. The health part was a cherry on top.

Ever since I had started distracting myself with podcasts, I just went through the motions and hardly noticed that I was working out. My mind was so far away - discovering the nuances that lead to the French Revolution, projecting how the rising interest rates will drive the stock market - that it did not register that I was physically exerting myself. I am someone who lives in his head most of the time, so this is actually very easy for my mind to do.

I am trying to wean myself off this diet of podcasts in the gym to reclaim what I have lost. But on days when it’s raining and I haven’t had good sleep, I might have a listen to incentivize myself to show up.

[1] What I talk about when I talk about running