The Pleasure of Sacrifice

So lately, I’ve taken to running while listening to podcasts, as opposed to running with music. A lot of runners know that while it’s a personal thrill to take to the pavement, pounding it one foot at a time (of course avoiding the frowned-upon heel strike), it can get pretty boring. Let’s face it: running is, at the most basic level, just putting one foot in front of the other for miles on end.

That’s not to say it’s not challenging, though (it’s simple, but not easy). It’s extremely punishing work, and it takes a special kind of competitive masochism to subject oneself to it, all for the personal satisfaction of doing it a little faster next time. It’s a never-ending goal for runners: “a new PR”. For elite runners, it’s simply “a new R”. And for that, they sweat, they ache, the push their limits, and scrape for that little, tiny edge that will make them a little better than yesterday. Law of diminishing marginal returns be damned: even if the effort is disproportionately large compared to the payoff in improved performance, great runners still train their asses off.

No Sacrice, No Victory

Of course, it’s not always for a PR. Maybe there’s something else they’re aiming for. Maybe they want that sexy beach body. Maybe they want to feel that, in even one section of their life, they have some measure of control. Maybe they want something measurable, something numerical they can hold on to so that they can say “I have outdone myself again”.

I and some other runner acquaintances from last year, just before we outdid ourselves in the Brooks Run Happy 3 Trail Run event in Tanay, Rizal.
I and some other runner acquaintances from last year, just before we outdid ourselves in the Brooks Run Happy 3 Trail Run event in Tanay, Rizal.

That’s the spirit behind the podcast I was listening to this past Friday as I went on a 10-km run. The podcast was from The Art of Manliness, and the specific episode discussed the history and cultural background of Crossfit. Basically, you’ve got a motley crew of gym freaks, doing exercises designed to improve your functional strength and kill you, but not quite. And every time this group not-quite-dies, they get satisfaction. They bring honor to their group (Crossfit is a very competitive club, where people are divided into teams), they see improvement in themselves (performance of Crossfit activities and routines are recorded), and they feel personal development (some transcend their former self-paradigm of “I’m no gym rat, so I can’t lift more than half my weight in inanimate matter”; others become fulfilled from having a group to bond with outside of work). Members of the culture can even engage in what others would see as a perverse game of “I’ve got it worse than you” by detailing how brutal their WOTD (workout of the day) was.

Hurts So Good

As a runner, I can relate. When I can steal some time alone to run, I run hard, far, and long. And it’s typical for my baser physical instincts to scream at me and say “What the hell are you doing? There’s a jeep RIGHT THERE!… What do you mean we’re not going anywhere in particular!?” And at the end of it, I’m spent, sore, winded… but satisfied.

So yeah. Exercise is not a walk in the park, nor is it conventionally rewarding. It’s a sacrifice. You’re sacrificing your body, breaking it down to make it better. You’re giving up immediate pleasure for long-term, physical gain. You’re spending time that you could otherwise use to watch a fun movie, meet with friends, or eat delicious food. From a basic, primal point of view, which is concerned mainly with feeding and mating, it makes zero sense. But from a human point of view, which transcends the baser needs, it’s a glorious victory.

Apple’s MyStations: Almost Just What I Wanted

So, I was downloading the most recent episodes of the podcasts I’ve subscribed to, and a notification pops up telling me that there’s a new version of iTunes available. Among the updates it includes was something called “MyStations”. Apparently, it’s a more convenient way of organizing your podcasts.

Now, I like the idea of creating playlists of songs based on theme and mood, so the prospect of being able to sort podcasts into similar lists was intriguing to me. So I downloaded and installed the latest version of iTunes (took around an hour, I think), and went straight to the Podcasts section. Sure enough, there it was.

The idea of being able to group podcasts together is so cool (to me, at least). If you want spend your commute listening to generally interesting podcasts like Freakonomics or The Cave, you can just create a station called “Interesting Podcasts” and put them in that station. Let’s say you want to be an upstanding citizen and listen to news podcasts (yes, your collective snoring and yawning is about to put me to sleep too). Then you can create a station called “News Podcasts” and put all your news podcasts there. Each station can also be customized in terms of play order (do you want to hear the oldest or the newest episodes first?) and number of episodes (how many unplayed episodes from each podcast do you want to include in the station?).

I tinkered around with the settings on the iTunes interface, and it seemed great. I was getting giddier by the moment; the possibilities for managing the content I listen to on the go were quickly expanding, like the Big Bang that exploded the universe from a dense coagulation of stardust and nothingness.

Then it all came crashing down.

It turns out that while I can create the stations for podcasts on my laptop’s iTunes interface, I could not sync the stations with my iPod (maybe it was because it’s just an iPod Shuffle, but I don’t want to believe that). The interface for syncing podcast content with the iPod remained the same; unchanged, uncooperative, and seemingly gleeful at my disappointment.

So here I go again, syncing podcasts to my Shuffle the same-old-same-old way. I will be waiting for Apple to upgrade iTunes so that podcast stations can be synced to the Shuffle. Till then, I wait with bated breath.