As I mentioned last week, in an effort to loosen up my muscles and tendons before and after a run, I go through a simple yoga flow concentrating on my legs. Yesterday, it occurred to me, while this routine is very helpful to my body, it may be even more beneficial to my mind. Pre-run, it provides me with some quiet, stillness. I think this is essential for me... it's like pumping myself up to get work done. Given this blog is meant to link the physical and the mental processes taking place for athletes, it seems appropriate to discuss, right?
I brought the subject up to P, recalling a conversation about the term "psyched out." When it was originally mentioned in casual conversation, we were using it in a way holding a negative connotation. I think it is much more helpful to use to mean preparation for greatness, to make accomplishments, like I said above, to get work done. When I mentioned the concept of psyching myself out before running, Patrick said without hesitation, "Oh yeah, before Friday's run I had a lot on my mind, I was tired, I was stressed, and I got to the park, put my shoes on and just ran without any kind of ritual beforehand... and it did not turn out well." Then he told me, yesterday before a great run, he took the time to prepare, to get in the right mindset, and doing so left him with a feeling of excitement before putting his feet to the ground.
Although, "great" isn't exactly the word I would use to describe my run yesterday, I think he is right. There is a noticeable difference in a run which is mentally prepared for. Of course there are other factors, physical preparedness obviously being an important one, but I have found failing to center my mind before taking on the road, results in doubt, distraction, and boredom.
For me, the process of centering my mind is like meditation. While I am stretching, I imagine my run. I visualize the first step I will take onto the pavement. I concentrate on my breathing. I pay attention to the way my body is feeling. I notice aches, and tightness from the inside out. Again, I breathe deeply. When other thoughts creep into my consciousness, I acknowledge them and then let them float on by like clouds. I keep breathing. I listen to the music (which I have already begun playing through my headphones). I find a song that feels right, and then I go. I am still taking deep breaths. Usually, I can maintain focus on my surroundings for at least the first mile.
Here is my 3 mile run on Friday:
...and here is 6 miles, yesterday:
Currently, my average pace for all runs is 8:56 per mile. It was slightly faster before the slow death I was trying to pass off as a run yesterday. I didn't show you the splits, because they were the worst yet I believe. It was a rough one. Despite my meditation beforehand, I knew I was in for an hour of hell when I vomited before I even left my apartment (sorry for that). It may have been due to the Picky Bar I ate which unbeknownst to me (until it was all but gone), contained the one food item I am allergic to, walnuts. It could have also been the large intake of liquids in the several hours prior, as I spent sometime lounging on the beach and was attempting to maintain proper hydration (ha!) Anyway, along the way my stomach nor my right knee were very happy with me. When I got home I wrapped the knee tightly, and while relaxing to Mad Men (new obsession), I indulged my poor feet in an ice bath. Things are feeling much better today, but I am taking it very easy (aka I haven't left my apartment, and barely my couch).
Okay, this a been a negative rant. I am sorry. I am still on board with this whole thing... I swear. I truly believe mind centering will be of much help if all other conditions line up... which they clearly did not yesterday! In fact, the truth of the matter is despite my attempts to find stillness, there was too much chaos for me to achieve the mental state I truly needed to have a strong run. Unfortunately, sometimes that's the way it goes. It does not hinder my resolve in this method and process. On the contrary, it strengthens my belief in it. Had the time been available to me, I think my mentality could have pulled my physical ailments through. Oh, and by the way, I have the excuse of being another year older, so I am gonna play that card too ;)
3 miles on Friday (not-so-centered run described above):
6 miles on Saturday (centered, "great" run described above):
The third week of training was kind of a blur. With two birthdays and the usual routine it seemed to pass by rapidly. Either that or I've tried to put it out of my mind because most of my runs involved dragging myself to finish. The first runs this week were rough. And I'm noticing more and more of what I eat throughout the day, and how I prepare otherwise is having a greater effect. This week I made the mistake of eating something too close to starting my five mile run and oh did I pay for it. I won't get too graphic, but it was bad. But, as in the past three weeks, my last (and longest) run was the best. It seems like my body is playing some weird game where it beats me down and then gives me a sliver of confidence to keep going. Anyway, I received some running gear from my partner as a birthday gift which truly made a difference, and I am looking forward to using it all next week!