The 6-Mile Creative Session

By Michele Kelly, Senior Content Specialist


Hold on . . . I’ve . . . got to catch . . . breath. Sprinted . . . last mile . . . Lana Del Rey and Beyoncé . . . yeah, they with me . . . and all those ideas.

The ideas are the reason I tie the pink laces on my black Nike shoes, luxuriate in music nirvana and run as far as possible without looking like I’m going to keel over from exhaustion. Lord knows the number on the scale hasn’t budged even though I’ve logged more than 500 miles over the past year. I’m slow as I pad down the Fox River Trail along the river in downtown Aurora to the Illinois bridge, and back up the other side to home. While I’ll never be marathon-worthy, some of the creative ideas I’m most proud of have come while my feet have been in motion.

Outdoor exercise is like having a creative session with yourself. It’s like pressing a button with the word “problem-solving” emblazoned on it and having solutions flow like water from a spigot.

Getting your nature fix expands your mind. Devotees of Henry David Thoreau are probably saying: Who wouldn’t feel this way? Life, though, gets in the way. I’ve sacrificed many beautiful days in the name of the “b” word (busy – very, very bad concept). What a waste. Every minute of my run is experiential and emotional – sunshine filtering through leafy trees, glints of light dancing along the river like sparkly diamonds tossed about by an invisible hand, the strength of strong oaks, and birds floating effortlessly against a blue sky. For me, it’s the perfect setting to dream and untie creative knots.

There are no to-do lists when you hit the pavement. You’re moving, focusing on nothing, yet breathing in everything. Music becomes a backdrop for this world apart from the worries and demands left on my desk. And I think this is why creativity triumphs. Physical activity offers the white space to think unencumbered from your daily interruptions. You create space for your mind to wander.

Lastly, you move past the obvious when you’re in constant motion. It’s fairly common knowledge that the first few ideas a person has are the ones easiest to come by. Creative jewels, however, go deeper. Outdoor exercise helps make connections. So whether I’m writing tag lines for a company or working on a story arc, creative thinking while running lets me leaf through dozens of if-this-then-that scenarios with the strongest ideas racing to the top.

From there, I click my “notes” app and use the microphone to dictate thoughts. If I throw half away later, it doesn’t matter. The remaining ideas – even if it’s just one – are usually good enough to stamp “worth it” on the exercise, literally and figuratively.

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