Sunday, August 3, 2014

Running Free-ish

I just finished reading Running Free by Richard Askwith. The author references the ages of running repeatedly throughout the book. Essentially these ages are tied to your motivation to run or exercise. Are you in it to stay healthy, shrink your butt, become faster or to enjoy the sheer joy of running and the connection with nature (the one outside the door as well as human nature). As I was reading the book I had to ask myself what motivates me and I have to say it has to be a combination of the above mentioned factors. There are usually a couple of races a year that I really train for in earnest. I like to pick a target race in spring, because it keeps me honest and focused through the rainy and dark month when hibernating seems oh so tempting. These are the times when training principles like specificity (tailor your training to the demands of the event you are training for) or the 10% rule (don't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% over the previous week) are somewhere in the back of my head. I might not have a written training schedule, but I do try to follow some cycles of progressively increasing mileage week over week with easier weeks roughly every four weeks. I also want to believe that I have a chance of bettering some of my past race results before focusing entirely on other sources of motivation.

Through much of the summer my focus shifts. Between work, the kids being home from school and holidays I am happy to keep some kind of weekly regimen going. Often times the majority of my workouts will consist of running or biking to and from work. Whenever I do have more than just the odd hour for playing outside I will try and bag some peaks or have some adventures. I love these activities as they motivate me to go out and explore places that I otherwise might not try to get to. These outings offer a welcome change from my regular running routine. The terrain usually requires me to hop, pull, bushwhack, scramble my way to my destination. Split times and pace are pretty useless indicators of performance on those occasions and more often than not I end up with my upper body being sore the next day rather than my legs. The change of scenery and general spirit of adventure of these outing help to keep things fresh and interesting. I am signed up for my third consecutive Frosty Mountain Ultramarathon this September and I intend to keep up that streak. For me it's a great indicator of what kind of fitness my random long run adventure summer routine has left me with.

Another big motivator for me is to meet and share the trails with like-minded people. Especially those long and wet workouts seem to go by a lot faster if you have someone to share them with. If you are in the Vancouver area like me, here is a great list of running clubs and events around town.

Coming back to the book, the author seems to have the ability to find beauty and joy in each and any of his runs and rambles around his home regardless how grey, cold or wet the conditions. This is one of the things I aim to get better at myself. I'd like to tell you that my regular weekday runs involve gliding along in a meditative state while being totally present and alert to my surroundings. More often than not I start my workout -which I have been looking forward to- just to then be preoccupied with chores, blogging, my next workout or a million other things that pop into my head.

Maybe the dog is the secret to being in the moment

I really want to work on being more in the moment on and off the trail. How so? For starters I will ditch my GPS watch whenever I can (unless I am training of course). I will also incorporate some conscious breathing into my day (you can call it meditation if you like, but for now that's too big of a word for me). Whenever I notice my attention wandering to all the wrong places during a workout I will acknowledge the thought and try to let it go. Now that sounds relatively easy. I don't know if you ever tried though. It sure doesn't come easy to me. The best starting point I can think of is actively focusing on my surroundings rather than the incessant stream of thoughts in my head.

What motivates you and how do you manage to stay present or get in the flow as they say?

Now if you would excuse me, I shall attempt to bag a peak before going to work.
Have fun out there,

Marc