Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running: 2 things that help, 2 things that don't

I'm trying to describe how running feels in my head. Is it falling forward with legs catching you, is it bouncing from foot to foot, is it struggling to keep moving while lazy and grumpy thoughts tempt me to immediately stop and head home? Most of the time these days it's much more pleasant than that last one, although I've been there for sure.

On my best days it feels a more like a great energizing walk. I rarely hit a wall and mostly kind of drift along. I've been given a lot of advice from trainers, runners, ultra-athletes, even some of my clients. I had a client who sat down with me before we ever started training in a consultation, a bit over weight, clearly out of shape and told me he just wanted to get back into shape, lose a little of that weight. He seemed to me to be like many other middle aged guys who hadn't worked out since college until I asked him about his exercise history.

It went something like this: Oh well, I guess um, I've worked out a bit. Well, once I swam across the English channel, then I did it again, then I ran some marathons and did a couple of iron men races. I stopped after this Badwater thing. For those of you that don't know, that's 135 miles through Death Valley while climbing a bit over 8,000ft. I told him he had the wrong trainer as I wasn't nearly equipped to handle that. We ended up working together for a year or so. It was a great time, he was an excellent client, and we inspired each other in the realms of exercise and fatherhood. Hey Steve!

When I asked him for advice on such things he said: You just have to be stubborn enough to outlast the lazy. To me that works really well on a longer timeline. You really have to be stubborn enough to get into good enough shape that what you're doing becomes easy. Your body is really good at making things easy if you give it enough time and are consistent. That is fundamentally your body's primary job. Adjusting to any stress so that the stress requires less energy expenditure to cope with. The stress here is running and your body will align muscles, metabolic processes and just about everything but your thoughts. You'll have to manage those yourself.

Things that work for me:
1. Be stubborn or patient, whichever feels like the right descriptor for you
2. Observe debilitating thoughts with humor.
-My mom used to describe self doubt and self defeating thoughts as the inner
protector trying to save you from suffering through failure. The only effective
way I have found for coping with that devil is through humor. Quitting doesn't
make for a very effective moral booster after all. Misguided, fearful, inner
quitter, will you ever learn?

Things that don't:
1. Find a landmark and run to it. Repeat in your head: If I can make it to that landmark I can make it to the next one.
-This kind of goal setting is so short term it makes your run a series of
struggles rather than building a larger more inspiring context. I'm big on
context and always try to build one for any project, whether it's a new whiskey,
a new business, a new poem, or a new fitness goal. Doing this gives you
something to refer back to when you are contemplating stopping or sleeping in.
Many people do this by signing up for races to challenge themselves, and/or
raising money for charities through these races. The larger goal and the benefit
to others will inspire you.
2. Just fight it out
-That is just not me. I can dog through some tough stuff, but I'd much rather
find a small pleasure in the moment. Even when you're in pain there's something
to love nearby. It might be a tree, give it a hug. It might be a beautiful day,
or someone near you. I always look for a pleasure rather than fighting a pain.

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