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?
I'm sure its different for everyone, and even the standards for what even qualifies as a peak experience in running are likely different. I'm sure looking back, all sorts of factors could be identified that may have led to that experience- mood, fitness, rest, nutrition, and surrounding life events to name a few. But I believe its all quite simple.
We can have peak experiences on purpose. The crucial ingredients include mindfulness and vulnerability (both of which are separate articles of their own) but a simple method is paying attention to breathing, heart pulse or other biological oscillators. Biological oscillators are the natural rhythms within our body.
When any of these biological oscillators are focused upon, they tend to harmonize and bring other rhythms of the body into harmony as well. The table below, taken from Cardiac Coherence: A New, Noninvasive Measure of the Autonomic Nervous System provides a wonderful visual for the natural harmony that results from paying attention to the body's rhythms and internal signals.
The top level of baseline shows a pretty disorganized ECG reading of heart function mode. In the disordered mode, where the participants were told to think of things that made them angry, the graph became more regular in amplitude across time on the left but the amplitude spectra graph on the right shows the lack of harmony. Not surprisingly, getting angry doesn't really help us get into flow, although it does create its own special brand of order.
Entrainment is defined as fully experiencing positive emotions and internal coherence was created by Tiller's own Freeze-Frame technique (essentially focusing openly upon one's heart). As we can see from the table below, as the participants in the experiment moved into those states the amplitude spectra graph shows a beautiful shift into harmony.
Peak running experiences are about harmony. Harmony can be deliberately and consciously attained. Tiller's experimental data shows what happens when we do this. And this is just one of many measures of biological oscillators Tiller tracked to determine if that consistency holds.
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