Pulling your way along the road to the Chilly

Chilly Half Marathon 2010 PosterI have recently decided to add in some spinning to help increase my cardiovascular fitness level. My plan was to drop one training run a week to mark the 1 month before race day. So this means I am moving from 4 to 3 runs per week and I will add in an extra high intensity cross training class per week. The level of intensity in the spinning class after 40 minutes is quite remarkable. Additionally, I suspect the fast action will further the development of the ‘fast-twitch’ muscles in the legs which I started to work on with down hill running. I hope this is the case as it might aid in increased running efficiency and speed.

My thinking was to start lessening the impact of running on my body with the extra running “rest” day. This is to get my body fully rested and ready for the Chilly 1/2 marathon race. It would be a shame to push a little harder on the roads in the last month and risk injury. Incidentally, in a healthy state I am already able to reach my original race pace goal so the extra mileage on the road seems unnecessary.

I have been told that as a runner you need to figure out what works best for you.  There is certainly a real degree of truth to that statement and I would add that the process of trying different techniques help develop the runner’s mind. This is as important or probably more integral to develop then the body. I point out my descartian simplification of mind and body makes it easier to explain this process of being mindful of pulling while on a run but in reality they are one.

While I went out on a 8K loop a few days ago (Feb 4, 2010), I was thinking about the basic mechanics of running. Part of what makes this experience quite enjoyable is the investigation of what works best for my body. While running, I began focusing on the object of moving my body efficiently. Each step was mindfully taken in an attempt to make the most of the energy being expended to move forward. This progressed for a few kilometers and I was quite naturally starting to feel like I was pulling myself forward. Even my breath was used in the process of pulling. While running, I have never quite focused my mind in this way. It makes the running experience quite invigorating.

I continued the practice of pulling and expanded on this by also focusing on my leg stride. On a normal run, I am usually most aware of the experience of pushing my legs to keep moving. This time I purposefully focused my mind at the point near the end of the stride of each leg just before it started to kick forward. After practicing this for 10-15 minutes it started to feel as if my body was being pulled forward in quite an effortless manner. I really enjoyed this experience during my run and I was excited to explore this more in the coming days.  On Thursday, I went to an hour long spinning class and on Friday I rested for my long run the next day.

As I am almost 1 month away from the Chilly 1/2 Marathon in Burlington, I decided to run a bit faster on Saturday (Feb 6, 2010) during my 18K run to help simulate race pace. As part of this practice, I implemented the breathing exercise I practiced several days before. As I worked this into my run I found it to be a good way to quiet the mental distractions especially at the start of a long run. I focused visually on one point in the distance and with each breath I took it was used to pull my body forward.

I ran with two other running friends who are far more advanced then I am. Naturally, there were a few parts in the run where I decided to stop for a short period as I find this suits my running style the best. I usually like to have a few short breaks every 10-15 minutes to allow me to take a drink which lasts about 10-30 seconds. As it was -10’C outside the liquids were partially frozen impacting my ability to hydrate. After my short break, I would be naturally behind the other two runners when I resumed running. I successfully used the pulling technique to help propel my body forward in a more effortless manner to catch up. It did not seem such an extra exertion as it normally might mid run to add to the intensity. I found this to be the case even after running 10K. While this may be just one way to focus the mind, I was reminded that all elements involved in taking a step really seems a very important area of the mind to focus on to increase efficiency. This of course includes being mindful of any aches or pains which might signal a future problem.

It was a lot of fun today to practice this technique and at the same time I was able to be well connected with the full action of running. I started to see how this technique when properly developed could be a great way to practice mindful running. I hope this will be one way to realize a state of running samadhi. I look forward to exploring this part of the runner’s mind “games” as part of being actively aware of my body while running.

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