I get many questions about breathing in running. In response to one of those, I led some clients through the sequence below. Using the breath is one of the most accessible and effective skills in a runner's toolbox. Before continuing, I highly recommend taking a look at my earlier article on the art of the breath.
This Sunday* I will be running the Berkeley Half Marathon. With the race only several days away, its time to take a look back on my training and plan ahead for the race. Today I'll talk about key things to consider in the final week before the race. I also recommend you check out my articles on mental preparation and nutrition.
As my regular readers may know, visualization is a favorite topic of mine. In addition to general mental preparation for running and races, visualization has its own strong purpose. I've explored ways to meditate while running, including heart-based visualizing, a mental playground, and learning how to run from what lights you up.
Today I'm offering a sample visualization which is designed for the Golden State Half coming up in November. This can be redesigned to fit any race and is well worth doing and repeating in the week or two leading up to the race. The general principles followed in it are explained here.
A system called the structural differential, designed by Alfred Korzybski in the 1920s, is quite possibly the most powerful tool out there for those who wish to function effectively in our world. It provides a map of how we see the the world the way we do, and the errors we tend to make as we do so. It is relevant to running and can be used as a powerful peak performance tool, however, to do so only would be a gross underuse of its potential.
It's far too complex to adequately discuss in a short article, so all I can do here is give a quick sense that will nonetheless suffice as at least the beginning of a tool up to the task.
So without further ado, here is a quick look at Korzybski's model:
The art of breath is as crucial and as personal as it gets. While there is no "perfect" breath, it is crucial to understand the basic of breathing for any effective yoga, meditation, or peak performance practice.
In yoga, as with all classical yogic practice, one major purpose is to uncover and resolve blockages to improve function. It starts with focusing on the exhalation rather than the inhalation. As one master once said, yoga is really mostly waste removal. This starts with getting rid of the unwanted to make space for what is needed.
One of the most powerful ways to enjoy running is to put your attention on it. While this may be surprising to some, the only path to running that is worth doing is through learning how to put awareness into it.
To that end, I'd like to share a basic body awareness meditation. Over time, I will share many of these, and they connect with articles I have written before on peak performance, including one on using the heart to make running wonderful.
So without further ado, here are some instructions to try at home and then explore in running.
This week I'd like to comment more on life in general rather than just running. I've realized my life flows much better if I admit that there are far more outside influences that impact me than I at least would have thought. There are the obvious- such as the company we keep, the weather, the degree of nature and green around us, and so on- but I'd like to focus on how the seasons turn us all upon their great wheel.
Working with my running group today, we were really struck by important it is to accept how we are feeling in the moment. This means both emotionally and physically. Some days are just harder than others, while some are just great, and others start out one way and end another. It can be dangerous to make a judgment on a day's run in the first half based on how things are in that portion, even if that assumption ends up being correct.
When managing a run there are many possibilities- indeed as many as there are in life. The variety of states we will find ourselves in is pretty immense, and its important to remember that the states aren't really that important.
How we relate to the state is the key.
Running from the heart is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities I know. Imagine, if you will, a run powered by the heart. The most basic level of this, accessible to anyone, is a run characterized by feelings of compassion and love. The advanced heart based runners live in a world where physical effort is powered by mindful focus on the heart- a world in which opening the heart directly results in running with greater ease and often faster paces.
So, how do we do this?
Today is a quickie, with a few big ideas. My topic: fear of failure.
One night in the fall of 2009, I laid down in my bed for the night. Rather than falling asleep, I found myself thinking about my desire to run and race well. As I relaxed deeper into my bed in my darkened room, I began to daydream. I recalled all the factors that created a burning desire within to run. I imagined short and long-term goals that sent my heart soaring with joy and excitement.
And I imagined myself running. Not the way I was running at the time, or had in the past, but in a completely new way. I imagined vividly, feeling with every sense and deeply feeling myself actually running. I imagined flying effortlessly across the earth, my arms pumping fluidly at a rate that was shocking to me. I saw my heart open wide, like a lion's yawn, to encompass the universe around me in ecstatic joy.
I felt my body wanting to tense and slow down even in this imagined scenario, but chose to just go with it, imagining with all my heart and my senses the way i truly wished to run- flying effortlessly in ecstatic joy at speeds no human has any right to go.
And then I fell asleep, and six months passed.
That night receded into my memory, fondly remembered but dim. And then one day I realized I was running exactly as I had imagined six months before.
I've been thinking a lot about motivation lately, and where it can come from especially when the going gets tough. I've been wondering how such motivation could be used to turn runs into the type of fabulous experience most runners only dream of having on a regular basis.
And in working with this over the last ten years I think I can make the following claim: the feelings and sensations we have when truly glowing about running can be captured effectively and used when running. And as a hook for a future article, this is also the case for peak experiences when running, as well as for discovering that outstanding inner runner.
I think I can best explain this as an exercise you can explore for yourself. I have many versions of this exercise, but here is a generic one designed to find, capture and use what makes the heart sing when it comes to running.
One of the biggest claims I make as a running coach is that I can help others make running more enjoyable and more relaxed. But then, when I wasn't looking, something happened.
My running stopped being enjoyable. Shit, I thought. If I can't even do this for myself, what possible right or ability do I have to help others?
So today, I went for a run after a break for several days.
Today I thought I would share a helpful list on mental strategies around racing. These tips are some great ways to not only be well prepared for the race, but for after the race as well. Enjoy!
This week I have something a little different. Lisa Hamilton, a fellow blogger at consciousrunner.com, recently interviewed me for her weekly podcast episodes. We talked about running with the mind of mindfulness and meditation, knowing when to push and when to back off, being in the zone, and more!
Check it out at http://consciousrunner.com/cr013-running-with-the-mind-of-mindfulness-meditation/
The fabulous thing about the mental side of running is that it truly is a playground. I mean this is in two ways: its play and the games created are only limited by your imagination.
Let me give you an example.
Running can be an absolute joy. In rhythm, endorphins flowing, body and mind singing in concert as our surroundings rush by. Those are the peak experiences of running and likely a major motivation continue to run through the good, bad and ugly.
But how often does that really happen?
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