But that isn't to say that running works for me all the time. Case in point, this week. If you follow me on facebook, you know that I experienced a very stressful event and as is typical for me, I'm having trouble moving past it. Initially, talking about the trauma of finding a cyclist after he was hit by a car was helpful for me. A day and a half after the incident, I started to feel better and wanted to let it go. But this morning, there it was again. My mind started rolling the film. My speed work session was less than stellar as I fought with my mind to focus on the run and push those other thoughts out of my head. And then there was that other runner, the guy who said something to me as he passed me. I couldn't hear it because I had my headphones in and of course, I immediately thought he said something negative to me. Because that's how I roll. The more I ran, the more my mind dragged me down.
When I went to work out with Becky for my crossfit training, I started talking about this. She sternly lectured me about needing to push these events away. "Yes, it was terrible, what happened to the cyclist," she said. "but it's over and you have to move on. You have to let it go."
I know. How many times have I heard these words. I haven't even seen the movie Frozen, and I know there is a song with that very title.
But how do I do that? How do I shut off those thoughts that run through my head?
Over 2000 years ago, Buddha described my very issue as "monkey mind". Buddha described the mind as full of monkeys, all jumping around, clamoring for attention. Have you ever laid down to go to sleep and a million thoughts are running through your head? Or go out for a run and find your mind wandering? Do you have trouble focusing on your pace, your breathing? Sound familiar? How do I tame my monkey mind? And can we call it something else? Because I really don't like monkeys at all. Although they represent the perfect metaphor for how my mind feels when I can't settle it down.
There is meditation, yoga, breathing exercises; all calming activities for sure, but what if you can't shut off your mind to focus on these activities? I turned to my favorite resource for all things running: Runners World. And yes, they had an article on this very subject. The author takes some of the principles of meditation and applies them to running.
For example, by focusing on your breathing and your feet hitting the pavement, you can get yourself out of your head. I've actually done this before when I've worked on breathing through a side stitch. I count to 4, while inhaling and exhaling. Because I usually get side stitches on the right, that 4th breath is timed so I exhale on my left foot . I usually experience side stitches because my breathing is ragged. This breathing technique has helped me many times to get my run back on track. I have never thought about using breathing while running to calm my mind.
Another technique to calm down and get your head back in the run is to check in with your body. Are your fists clenched?When I notice this, I shake out my hands and arms. Is your jaw clamped shut? This always reminds me of my prenatal classes. The instructor was teaching us breathing techniques and she said that you can't clench your teeth and relax at the same time. This is advice that has stuck with me for all these years. Some runners hunch their shoulders. Sometimes your legs get stiff and you can feel your feet slapping the ground. It is ok to stop and stretch, by the way! Take a few deep breaths and get your heart rate under control. Sometimes that is all you need to do. I've done this and it really helps me to refocus. By consciously relaxing, you shift your focus to those areas that need attention and out of your head.
While I'm writing this, I keep thinking about my Rodney Yee yoga video and the words of wisdom he imparts throughout. "Consciously letting go" is something he says, and every time he does, I let out a sigh and relax. Maybe I need Rodney to go on a run with me! Another bit of yoga wisdom I've heard over and over is to "be present". What does it mean to be present?
To me, being present means being conscious and focused on the moment you are in. Being present means if you are running, you are focused on that activity. Breathing, pace, stride, and generally overall how you are feeling--that should be your focus. If you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge it, and focus back on the activity at hand. Try to shut those negative thoughts down.
Negative self talk does no one any good. We all know that. Yet the very nature of the runner is one of a type A, perfectionist personality. I don't know about you, but one bad run and I'm beating myself up. Just this morning, I started to berate myself for not being able to stay on pace. Seriously. I need to catch myself doing that and stop it! I have found that listening to music while I run, especially music with a positive message, can help me when my energy is flagging. I like to listen to music with a driving beat, and so I tend to listen to rock and rap. If I can lose myself in the music--hey, isn't that an Eminem song--yep, on my playlist--I tend to have really great runs.
Eminem does say it best:
"You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime"
"Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not"
"So here I go, it's my shot
Feet fail me not, this may be the only opportunity that I got"
"you can do anything you set your mind to, man"
-Eminem "Lose Yourself"
Staying positive and confident is tough. Life interferes with our ability to stay focused on the task at hand. This week taught me that I still have a lot work to do with letting go and moving on. Besides letting go of everyday nonsense, I have to let go of that bad 1st marathon. I have to trust my training. I have to trust my trainer. If I have a bad run, I need to move on to the next one. I've got it in me to do this and do it well. I just have to believe it.
Training for a marathon is so much more than the physical work. And I'm a work in progress.