Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kind Neighbors and Focus

It has been over three weeks into my Couch To 5K running program and things are still going well.  I have been doing some new runner reading in my spare time and came across an article early on that has been an inspiration.  This morning I rolled out of bed and put my running clothes on.  I knew it was going to be a "nice" day and that it might be one of my last our door runs until spring.  The little voice in my head kept telling me that I was going to be miserable, it was going to be cold, and that I was not going to enjoy my run.  And then this article popped into my head just like it does whenever that little voice gets too loud. 

How to Focus Your Mind 

"By Danny Dreyer

Whether it's a 5K or an ultramarathon, focusing your mind is the surest way to feel great throughout your race, especially as you cross that finish line. With ChiRunning, you can learn to focus your mind, moment-by-moment, and use your mind to listen to and support your body to run in a way that is both relaxing and efficient. The practice of focusing your mind can then be transferred to focusing on long term or more significant goals in your life. The key is to practice.
When you focus, you create a stronger connection between you and the object of your focus. When cooking a meal, if you think about what you want your food to taste like (instead of allowing your mind to wander), you'll end up with a more delicious meal. If you focus on the few extra pounds you may have gained this winter, you might just become more "connected" to them. If instead you focus on eating well and running consistently, that is what will happen, and those pounds will melt away.
When successful people were studied to understand how they achieve their goals, being able to focus their mind was one of the common and key skills.

To amplify the power of your mind, chose a very specific goal for your race: it could be to win your age group, to finish without pain, to enjoy yourself fully, to use your pelvic rotation, to run a specific time or to bring in $1,000 for your favorite charity. The connection that is created by focusing your mind adds something very tangible to you as a person, so it is best to focus on qualities that are truly meaningful to you. For instance, feeling strong, centered, flexible, energetic are all positive focuses that can enhance your whole life.

When you focus your mind, you set your mind and intention in a specific direction. Not letting your mind wander to the many other options that might distract you from your goal. If there is one thing we have a lot of in this life, it's options. Have you noticed the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store? I focus on finding one that is least harmful to the environment and that does not leave a perfumed odor on my clothes which quickly narrows my options.

Let's say your goal is to run your first marathon. You can then get more specific with your original goal and chose to complete your marathon injury-free. Then you can refine that goal and decide, "I don't only want to be injury-free, I want to feel great when I'm done. I want to complete a marathon pain-free and injury-free." The key to success is to get a clear goal in mind, and stick with it.
In the movie "A Beautiful Mind," John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia. He explains that to overcome his very intense delusions, he has to go on a "diet of the mind." He focuses his mind on what is real and chooses not to allow his mind to wander toward his delusional world. That concept of a diet of the mind is an important one when you are practicing how to stay focused on a goal for your event. Staying focused means that you don't allow your mind to entertain other negative thoughts, like not running the marathon, not finishing the marathon, finishing the event but feeling like hell afterward, finishing but never running another step because of an injury.
This doesn't mean that you can't ever change your plans or your goal. Focusing does not mean that you block out important messages or warnings coming your way. That's not being focused, it's being stubborn, or worse. In ChiRunning, we encourage you to listen to your body and make necessary adjustments if your body is clearly telling you that running a marathon is just too long a distance with your level of training. You then adjust, and can run a half marathon instead.

When practicing ChiRunning, you focus your mind on listening to and feeling your body. It might sound simple, but it's harder to do than you think, and more rewarding than you can imagine. Your mind will want to wander, as everyone's does. You have to repeatedly stick to your "diet" and bring your mind back to engaging your core muscles, to gently leaning from your ankles, to swinging your arms to the rear. By doing this you are actually creating a stronger neuro-link between your brain and the nerves and muscles in your body. In the beginning there may be little connection, but over time, as the connection grows stronger, you will have more control over your body, and your mind. Additionally, the body and mind begin to act as one whole -- YOU -- rather than the two separate entities of your body and your mind.
Focus is a very powerful skill and one of the keys to running a successful, injury-free event. As we say on our shirts:
Focus Your Mind
Strengthen Your Core
Run Like the Wind
Choose from our four ChiRunning Training Programs to help you Get and Keep Focused."

It turned out to be a great run once I got warmed up.  There is this small gradual hill that is on my regular route, and no matter how fast or slow I move I always am going up the hill during the hardest point.  Today it was at the end of my run, and as I am pushing up and over the top the little voice was suggesting that I just walk the rest of the way to the top.  I pushed through with the positive thoughts, and just as I am cresting the hill an older gentleman is walking over the top towards me.  He smiled at me and said "Great job!"  That was all I needed to boost my confidence and float my way home.  Two kind words to support the kind words in my head.  Thanks neighbor, I hope that you read this!

Enjoy ~SJ