My favorite running song is The B-52’s 1979 classic “Rock Lobster.” Clocking in at an impressive six minutes and 49 seconds, its relentlessly cheerful beat pushes me forward one step after another, chasing another mile down.
It’s also completely ridiculous. I challenge anyone to worry about anything serious while listening to singer Fred Schneider chanting “Rock lobster! Rock lobster!” or Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson making nonsensical noises for the stingray, sea robin, piranha, “bikini whale” and other real and fictional marine creatures populating the lyrics.
This song is the perfect example of why I run. As a full-time high school teacher and part-time graduate student, I spend a lot of time in my head. Whether grading papers, preparing a lesson, contacting a parent or helping my student editors tackle a difficult story for the school newspaper, I’m often so consumed by the interior world of intellect that I lose sight of that exterior world of my body.
I’m a professional, after all — an intellectual who values critical thinking. A teacher who understands that education is serious business. I’m all for having fun in the classroom and using laughter to enhance learning, but I never lose sight of the importance of my work.
Teaching is a source of tremendous joy, but also tremendous stress, and figuring out how to deal with that stress has been one of the great challenges of my career.
Research about the benefits of exercise for mental and cognitive health is ubiquitous. “Every day, a new study is published heralding the benefits of physical fitness,” Christopher Bergland writes in a 2014 article in Psychology Today. The Mayo Clinic cites seven benefits of physical activity, including the “emotional lift” exercise brings. Exercise “stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed,” the article says. Further, a 2015 study published in Psychology and Health found not only that exercise promotes mental health, but a sedentary lifestyle may reduce positive emotions.
Before I discovered running, I was one of those stressed, sedentary creatures bent over a pile of papers. I kept meaning to exercise, but it always seemed more important to finish that last PowerPoint or re-read “Pride and Prejudice” before our class discussion. Plus, I’m not a fan of the gym — too many people after a full day dealing with people.
But running opened up a world where I can “ski-diddy-do-bop” my way down the street, moving literally and figuratively away from the pile of papers on my desk. I can still be a thoughtful professional who takes her job seriously and works hard from 7:30 – 4:00, but everything changes when I get home, put on my sneakers and crank up the B-52’s.
“Boys in bikinis / Girls in surfboards / Everybody’s rockin’ / Everybody’s fruggin’,” Schneider shouts. Why are the boys wearing bikinis? Why are the girls in the surfboards instead of on them? And what on earth is “fruggin’”? I have no idea, and I don’t care.
I’m “red snappers snappin' / clam shells clappin' / mussels flexin' / flippers flippin’” away from my stress into a world where dogfish chase catfish and everyone wants to go down, down with the rock lobster to a happier place.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream