Why running makes me a better upholsterer.

This August, I had the pleasure of participating in the Great River Ragnar Relay. For those of you who DON’T have a friend posting incessantly about their Ragnar experience, here’s a summary: A team of twelve runners climbs into two giant vans and spends two days covering two hundred miles, relay style. For fun.

First you run. Then you cheer. Then you eat. Maybe you sleep. Then you repeat12140775_10207024181996021_7833347364199851730_n

After a little hesitation, I posted a video of the finish line on my Instagram and Facebook.  It might seem off-topic for an upholstery page, but for me, running is never really off-topic, even in my upholstery life. It’s a metaphor for everything. So in case it pops up again (and it might) here are 8 ways that running has made me a better upholsterer.

1. STRESS MANAGEMENT.

There’s stress in upholstery???!! There are customers, and bills, and backorders and “the unexpected” so YES!!!!! When something stresses me out, one of the first things I do is go for a run. Usually by the end, I have my head clear and am ready to get back in the game. When my banker called this summer to tell me that my small business loan had been improved, I was halfway through a five mile loop. She probably wondered about all the huffing, puffing and traffic noise.  But  I just couldn’t handle the stress of sitting at home waiting for the phone call. Honestly, if I didn’t run, I’d probably spend half my time curled up under the cutting table with my head in a pillow case. I’d be a total mess.

2. ENDORPHINS.

I really don’t want to be a crabby person. Life is too short to waste time complaining about minutia. I want to look on the bright side. I want to greet clients and students with positive energy, patience and enthusiasm. But some days, that’s tough. Some days, you find yourself dragged down by demanding or difficult customers. Some days, you have to scrape the bottom of the energy barrel to patiently explain (yet again) why upholstery is “so expensive.” But I don’t want to get bitter. I want to take a deep breath, smile, and improve the mood. How could I do that without running?

3. “IMPOSSIBLE” JUST MEANS IT HASN’T BEEN DONE YET.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t run a mile. I KNEW I couldn’t EVER run a mile. I dreaded the annual “mile run” all through elementary school, knowing I’d come in wheezing and staggering at the very end of the pack. Then, one day in college, I started running. It just felt good (see #1) Then I ran 2 miles. Then I ran a 5k, a half marathon and a marathon. Every time I go running, I remember when a mile seemed impossible. It give me hope for the many, many things that seem “impossible” to me today.

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#4. JUST BECAUSE IT’S HARD DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO QUIT.

I may love running, but some days it doesn’t love me back. But  if we quit when things get tough, we just don’t get very far. I’ve recently started running with my 10 year old son, which has been a wonderful parenting experience He gets so frustrated on the tough days, and I love to remind him that tough days make us stronger. And it’s no kind of failure to struggle – In fact, it means that you’re pushing your limits. And if you push your limits, they’re going to MOVE.

#5. NOTICE THE LITTLE STUFF.

Another lesson from running with my son: on a particularly miserable day, when he just wanted to hurry home, we rounded a corner and discovered a dozen tiny baby snapping turtles scampering around the bike path. We paused long enough to help an older couple carry them off the path to safety. It was a lovely, tiny moment sandwiched between hectic hours and days. We never would have seen the turtles from a car, or even a bike. I know the furniture super highway is racing by at the speed of light, and some other upholsterer is doing the most amazing this, that or the other thing. And it’s AWESOME. But slow down. It’s okay, to savor the beauty in the perfect pleat you just folded. The first coil springs you ever tied. The zipper you finally sewed and didn’t run over. Notice and celebrate the little stuff.

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#6. IT TAKES A VILLAGE.

I never would have signed up for a 5k if my friends hadn’t encouraged me. There would have been no marathon without my older sister pushing me forward. I’ve needed so many people who were stronger or more experienced to believe in me when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. In most everything – running and upholstery, for example – we can do far more together than we can on our own.

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#7. CREATE MINI GOALS.

Isn’t life seriously overwhelming? Sometimes I wake up and look at all the stuff I don’t know how to do and I just want to go back to bed and hide from all the scary. Running can be like that, especially training for long distance. But you don’t start at the end. You start with one mile. Or you try to make it to the next mailbox. Or you go out for 20 minutes and resign yourself to lots of walking. Then you add a little on. . . and you add a little on. I think that philosophy is helpful in all aspects of life, upholstery included. All you can do is take a deep breath and choose one actionable goal for today. Look into a potential job lead. Learn how to purchase and set up one piece of equipment. Tackle a project you’ve been avoiding. Then add a little on . . . and add a little on

#8. GRATITUDE FOR TODAY.

I don’t know what happens tomorrow. I could get hit by a falling airplane, or choke on a circus peanut. My “tomorrow” is not guaranteed, not as an upholsterer or a runner or a human. So I’d better appreciate what I’ve got, where I’m at, and those I love. Life isn’t perfect, but I can’t so bunged up about the future that I fail to recognize the present. It’s a lot easier to remember this – in all aspects of my life – when I step away for a run.

No longer run

For a short while, I pursued a career in the fitness industry. I still teach weekly at the YMCA. And while my career is now firmly in the upholstery field, I still believe that fitness is super important. It keeps us healthy – in our bodies and our minds, in our careers and our relationships.

For me, running is therapy, pure and simple.

So I hope you’ll forgive the occasional running post on my upholstery page. It’s well intended. Because maybe, just sometimes, instead of reading about, “How to put in a zipper” what you really need to do is set the cushion down and take a yoga class or go for a walk. Don’t worry. That cushion will still be there when you get back. Take a deep breath. Clear your head. Count your blessings.

And THEN figure out how to put in a zipper.

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