See this picture? It is one of my favorite running locations, the West Ridge trail in Santa Monica. I love the fire roads and single tracks with views of the Santa Monica mountains and the ocean. What you don't see is 5 min after I took this I was thinking about my grocery shopping list, then another 15 min later my mind wandered off to what I was going to eat for lunch (yes I think about food often) and for the record, all that time I was listening to a podcast.
A few weeks back I wrote about going through the motions of running vs getting out there and training. I wasn't making every run count and just finishing the miles to get that check mark on my running plan. Since then, I've found new trails, and bought new gear, in an effort to get that excitement for training going again. (which it has) Recently though I had an A-HA moment, it's not that I wasn't excited or motivated to train, is that I was missing a very important part of my training...incorporating mental training sessions into my plan.
I will be the first to admit I have fallen prey to the over-stimulated society we live in. I am in my happy place when I am multi-tasking and have at least 3 "to do" lists. For the past year or so I constantly find myself doing too many things at one time. This can be watching tv while scrolling through my Instagram account, or checking my email during a break in my workout. Funny though, this chaos was actually a motivating factor in moving to a new location. I was in a job that required long work hours, and was burning the candle at both ends with my personal commitments. Don't get me wrong, I had it under control, and got things done, but I wasn't truly experiencing the moments in my life. I moved to LA to take a step back, let go of a few self-imposed responsibilities and live in an area with beautiful running options.
But here I am 8 months later with the same need to be doing a million things at once. I am still the worst at relaxing. Yes, I now lounge by the pool on recovery days, but while there, I am working, updating one of my to-do lists, or trying to catch up on my news feed. I still crave the visual stimulation and the inspiration social media can bring. I find myself loving a recent podcast, but because I am doing something else while listening, I can't tell you a specific element of the episode. The side effect of this over stimulation and FOMO is my thoughts have become surface level, and I don't have the comprehensive learning I am capable of. If I am going to live the life I want, I must make some changes. Getting back to a more present state of being isn’t going to come naturally, as you can see, I definitely have some work to do.
This month I am going to try to tackle this situation, and focus on finding ways to build this type of mental strength.
I have worked through pretty challenging situations when running, like run up mountains, or in extreme heat, or worse.. extreme cold and high winds. I thought doing those tough workouts would make me mentally stronger. My mantra was, “if I can get through that I can do anything”. But there was a piece missing. After those tough workouts I wasn't doing anything to restore the mental beating I had just taken. As a runner I was taught to give my muscles a post run love. This includes, stretching, foam rolling, compression, etc all in an effort to restore the physical hard work I just accomplished. I work tirelessly to restore and strengthen my physical body, but haven't done nearly enough (which means practically nothing) to restore my mental state. This is why I feel I can’t relax, slow down or just stop and experience life. I have over developed my mental toughness and under developed my mental restorative state. I now realize you need both in order to have mental strength.
I have been researching this for a few weeks and now I am on a mission to find out what type of mental workout is right for me. Over the next month I will be trying quite as few options. This will be yoga (especially yin), meditation, even something as simple as making space and time to be alone, be present. (and that includes being without electronic devices) Heck, my coach is a yoga guru, and has definitely encouraged me to incorporate yoga into my weekly workouts. I know it's going to be hard, probably really hard..but I also used to think running a marathon was really hard and I've accomplished that 12 times.
My goal in this process is to restore the calm in my mind. I want to be able to be more present in every situation, especially when I am out on a 3 hour run. I don't want to go on auto pilot, tune out and not focus on my run. I want to experience the highs and lows of each run, deliberately control my pace, and find ways to improve and learn with each outing. I have goals for my race in October without being able to focus and learn to race, I won't meet them.
For those of you interested, I did have a good week of training.
Keep checking back, I'll share my experiences in new workouts and do an overall recap at the end of September. Do you have a favorite yoga routine, or a calming practice? Share it with me, I need all the tips I can get.