Like the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake is a singer and songwriter who has a knack for creating successful songs. In fact, Timberlake was prominently featured in “Love Never Felt So Good” (2014) with Jackson, the lead single from Xscape, Michael’s second posthumous album. I have no doubt that Timberlake was excited to be part of the project. In his words, “Any artist, I don’t care what genre you do, you should always aspire to be like Michael Jackson.” As for his own career, Timberlake has turned out major hits, including “My Love” (2006), “Mirrors” (2013), and the recent “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (2016).
Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club describes “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” as a “hot-weather jam.” As she puts it, “To me, a perfect summer song is one I can blast while driving in the car with the windows down, as I develop a killer sunburn on my left arm. The tune doesn’t have to be meaningful – in fact, the more lightweight, the better – and it should offer a few minutes of unadulterated escapism.” With summer on the horizon, and running as the perfect form of escape, why stop the feeling now?
I don’t know if I think of running as an escape as I do for a path towards clarity. But maybe stepping away for an hour or so – escaping – is the pathway towards clarity of mind. Jumbled thoughts are sorted out and sharpened as the miles pass. Confusion is cast to the wind. In a 2016 article for New York Magazine, author Melissa Dahl references a study that researches the connection between aerobic exercise and memory. “If you are exercising so that you sweat – about 30 to 40 minutes – new brain cells are being born. And it just happens to be in that memory area,” says Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Neuropsychology.
Dahl also notes studies that show how 30 to 40 minutes of vigorous exercise are associated with “planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, and time management.” Though I don’t consider my runs through the lens of time management skills, I never return home without my mood being lifted. Some days are better than others for sure, but I do feel more energized, more alert, and more alive.
Along with improved memory function, the feeling that runners tend to associate with their exercise is joy. In a 2012 NPR article, Christopher Joyce speaks with Christina Morganti, a surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland. As for this joy I alluded to, sometimes referred to as the “runner’s high,” Morganti had this to say: “Oh, it’s really like an empowerment. And zen at the same time. You feel strong and light, and you feel relaxed.”
Morganti closes the NPR article with one additional thought on the feeling that running yields. “It’s almost like a little tingle you get for several hours after, and then a calming you have the rest of the day, and then you sleep well that night, and then the next day you’re ready to go again.” Indeed. I concur with Dr. Morganti’s assessment. The effects of running linger in the body and in the mind like a fine fragrance that evaporates ever so slowly. Running is the song that I can’t get out of my head, and almost every day I press the repeat button and lace up my shoes again for a new journey around town.
“Got this feeling in my body.” For Justin Timberlake and the other people featured in the music video that accompany the song, it seems clear that dancing is the feeling that can’t be stopped. And why not? Dancing is an amazing skill. As Ted Shawn puts it, “Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made.” Watching the King of Pop dance on stage is simply magic, for he danced magnificently until the end.
Unlike Jackson, Timberlake, or even Usher, I possess no dancing prowess. At least not for a concert stage or the ballet. Yes, my rhythm is lacking, though I hope to get better with time. But running? I can hear the music. Running is my dance. I glide across the concrete and the asphalt in a smooth manner (like a smooth criminal). The legs fly forward like pistons in a car as power and grace and finesse converge at a high rate of speed as the scenery along my left and along my right fades from view in cinematic fashion. This feeling can’t be stopped. I can’t stop the feeling.