How each step is received makes a difference

As I prepare to run in the Chilly 1/2 marathon tomorrow, I have been enjoying a period of a bit more rest to ensure I am fully ready for the race. The weather could not be better for this time of year with the forecast expected to be a high of 9’C and sunny tomorrow. During this week of maintenance running, I was thinking about how my mood has a big impact on the way I experience a run.

If I am in a bad mood, the running typically seems more laboured and requires additional focus and energy to maintain a set pace. Conversely, if I am in a good mood, the running is usually relatively easy and often feels effortless. Part of the reasoning for such a discrepancy seems to be how a particular mood filters how the experience is received. In simple terms it is like having many different shades of sunglasses, each with its own ability to colour the experience in a negative or positive light.

When I start out for a run on a cold day, sometimes I find that the feeling of the cold is not welcomed. When this happens, the cold is seen as a negative stimulus. Conversely, if the same cold is embraced and welcomed then it can be quite a positive experience. It is becoming clear how predisposed we really are to seeing the world though our filters. When the experience is not welcomed, which often happens when one is in a bad mood, it make the experience less likely to be one which is positive. If the experience is embraced fully, it can become quite positive.

The same seems to go for running. The more the actual flow and experience of running is appreciated and embraced, the easier it seems to become. How each step is interpreted as positive or negative really does seem to make a big difference in how an overall run is experienced. To this point, I find when being mindful of this process I often have a choice to guide my mind in such a way that makes the experience more positive and enjoyable.

In addition to our mood of the moment, memory clearly also plays a big part in setting the stage for how we value a certain experience. If cold weather is often received as something to be avoided at all costs, we tend to be predisposed to see it as something negative. This can come in the form of certain anchors formed from past experiences of a negative and positive nature. The anchor acts as a memory retrieval system in the mind based on sensory experience in the moment. They can often most easily be found in commercial advertisements in the form of sounds to try to attach a certain feeling to a sound and use that in the future for attempting to allow the individual to relieve the experience in an attempt to associate their products with the emotional feeling. Once I became aware of this situation, I no longer wished to be programmed in such a manner and to this day shun commercials and other forms of media who adeptly use this to push more products. Also, I have found being mindful of the process which takes place helps in part to break its influence and certainly makes me better able interrupt this process.

Fortunately, anchors in part can be used in a positive manner to aid in the overall mind state while running. Music can be one means in which use this process in a positive manner while running to help aid in overall performance. I have used this process successfully during my training to anchor good experiences to certain songs and use these in future runs to help when energy ebbs, to get into a good running rhythm and I have even had some success during a very challenging part of a run.

I have been told by fellow long time runners that the mind plays a very key element in running long distances successfully. I hope to have the opportunity to investigate how the mind, memory and mood shape the experience I have during my long runs. It’s time to rest and get my gear prepared for the race tomorrow.

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