Tag Archives: focus

The Benefits of Running With– and Living Like– an Empty Cup

You probably know the feeling. It’s race day and it’s hot. Not as hot as it could have been this late into the summer, but hot enough that you feel sticky and gross the second you step into the sunlight, and almost the entire length of the race is in wide-open sun.

You’re in the final few miles of your run, and you’re starting to fade, huffing and puffing and looking for relief. Luckily, there up ahead some hundred meters or so is the watering station.

You’re relieved. But just as you pick up the cup from that friendly race volunteer you realize why G-d invented the closed cap water bottle and the sippy cup. Sure you might manage to get a few drops down into your parched, gaping gullet, but most of it likely never touches your lips, deciding instead to do its own 100-meter sprint from cup to the area between your chin and chest.

You press on, you finish, but yea, you will always remember: it’s near impossible to run with  a full cup of water.

Likewise, it’s hard to learn anything when our minds are like a full cup: full of our own ideas will no space for anything else.

If the idea of living with an empty cup causes you to think “how very buddhist of you,” then you’re right. I first learned of this concept from the book Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo, which looks at guitar technique and style from the perspective of the Zen Buddhists.

Not only has this lesson been beneficial to me as a musician, but, as you might expect, it’s also been helpful when applied to other aspects of life, including how I’ve gone about keeping up my running regimen since last week’s race. Continue reading The Benefits of Running With– and Living Like– an Empty Cup

Crunch Time

It’s been nearly a week since my last run and almost another week since the run before that one. I’d blame it on lack of time due to a busy schedule or other that bad weather deterred me, but the truth is that I’ve  kept myself off the roads due to fear of further aches and pains.

As I’ve been training and building up endurance, I’ve dealt with the aches and pains that I’d heard came with it. What I’ll refer to as “the usual stuff”: a stitch in the side, a twinge in the ankle or shin, a wobbly knee. With proper training and care these issues can be managed and lessened.

Although I’ve kept an eye on these things I haven’t treated them, allowing them to continue and even grow in frequency. And lately in additional issues, most notably a very sore hip during my last 5 mile run two weeks ago.

Obviously I need to take steps to fix the problem  by adding stretches to my post-run regimen that focus on easing the sore spots. However, each day I put this task on my to do list and each night I have to carry it over to the next day’s list. I’ve got lots of things that  I want to do when I get home from work. I want to read some, write some, play some music, take a run, not to mention make dinner and catch up with the girlfriend, and I get discouraged when I can’t get to it all, or give appropriate time to each thing.

The good news is that I did run today and that it went very well. Post-run observations alone show that I haven’t lost any ability to simply go out and complete a distance or time goal (the fact that it was all around more agreeable weather didn’t hurt either). I just need to get to the next step of the conditioning. And to get there I need to make the time for planning.

I can’t expect that I’m going to get to everything on my list every day. If I’m really looking to devote the right amount of thought and care to them, I need to look into how much time it takes me to do any given item and then pick two or three to focus on per night.

And I need to be okay with rolling things over from day to day. And give myself some credit. After all, I am still running more distance and more often than I ever would have dreamed I could have just 5 months ago. And that’s something to be proud of.

Making Adjustments

I’ve done it. I’ve passed the six mile point two threshold and have thus run far enough to finish a 10K race. Excellent. Now the task becomes getting comfortable with maintaining that distance.

Recently I’ve felt myself begin to drag or get discouraged for one reason or another. Maybe it’s the realization of aches and pains in certain areas, maybe it’s the fact that even though there’s over 100 songs on my running mix I always seem to hear the same 10 songs when I go out, maybe it’s this weather and the increased humidity that comes with entering the thick of summer– most likely it’s a little of all three.

And that’s okay. There are going to be challenges. There’ll be days like this. Etcetera. The key is to not allow myself to let these difficulties become setbacks as the setbacks will become disinterest, disinterest becomes despair… etc.

It’s not news to me that I’m a recovering perfectionist: even when I try to do better, I’m often dissatisfied by my efforts, feeling that I haven’t properly resolved the issue straight away.

The thing is that it’s the small adjustments and gradual progress that are the keys to improving. Add a base of healthy, positive perspective and this progress has found its fuel.

Specifically it’s been good to keep the following things in mind:
1) These issues aren’t going to be around forever
2) I have the last say over my destiny.

From here, I begin to make resolutions for how to remedy the issues.

1) Aches and Pains
The discomfort is felt in shins and just below my right knee. I imagine it probably has to do with the fact that I haven’t been giving enough attention to those areas during my post-workout cooldown, so I’ll be looking into what sorts of exercises might best support them.

2) Broken Record Syndrome
Music has been a driving force in keeping me inspired and focused while running, but I have to keep the list fresh and current to keep the energy up. This means updating the playlist, either by swapping out overplayed tunes and penciling in new ones, or simply changing how the playlists are arranged and run.

3) Oppressive Weather
Obviously this  factor I have the least control over. Sun’s gonna shine, humidity’s gonna stick, and a hard rain’s a-gonna fall. What I can do though is prepare appropriately for the uncooperative climes. Right shoes, right clothing, well-rested, and being properly hydrated at all times can ensure I’m ready to go the distance.

Allowing for minor adjustments along the way.

In the end it really is about the making small adjustments that will keep me getting out and trying for more time or distance, and ultimately allow me to feel comfortable out in the environs. It’s slow but steady progress, but that’s much better than no progress at all.

Off to a Running Start

Three months ago I didn’t think I could run 3 miles much less 1 mile without a huge stop-and-go, huffing-and-puffing type mess. Others would look at me with the keen, appraising eye of a car buyer, and tell me I had the right frame to be a runner. Maybe, I said, but I hadn’t the pep. Or maybe not the right engine. Something lacked. At best I could run a mile and a half or so at a time, but that would require sporadic, sometimes lengthy breaks for walking, and worry over every little discomfort.

Fast-forward, and now I’m running an average of 12 miles a week taking no walking breaks, feeling less aches and pains due to the training routine, and I’m looking to increase that average mileage this weekend. It’s a thrill to see what this mortal coil can really do.

But whence cometh this seemingly sudden transformation? First of all, remove the term “sudden” from the picture. Though it’s not much time in the grand scheme of life, three months is not a finger’s snap either. As with learning to play a musical instrument, speaking a foreign language, or even learning your multiplication tables it has been a gradual process. It started with a little inspiration (a race in which my company was participating), which caused an epiphany (why not?), which developed into a little planning (deciding on a simple training plan), which was encouraged by incremental progress (1 mile sans breaks, then, 2 and 3 miles), all of which has been sustained and carried along by good music, good footwear, a positive mindset, and focus. When one goal is reached, a new one is established.

Now I’m training for my first 10K in July, and, as visions of longer distance races beginning to dance in my head,  I find a giddy sort of excitement at the prospect of these opportunities.

And I’m running for fun. Sure there are the health benefits of daily and weekly cardio exercise, not to mention the increased production of endorphins and other positive side and after effects, and those things are great and extremely beneficial, but if I’m to say I’m running for anything it’s for the fun of it and for the opportunity to challenge myself every time I go out.

Oh there have been obstacles and stumbling blocks along the way. Erratic weather, some aches and pains, a lot of pollen, physical roadblocks, and days when it just isn’t working– running has a way of reminding you that those stumbling blocks are as tangible and painful as they can be figurative and demonstrative.

All the same, you press on. You get up and you keep going, because the positives far outweigh the negatives. And because you love the song that’s just come on from your workout playlist.

In the three months since I’ve started running, I’ve discovered other benefits- personal discoveries and fresh perspective. Running begets challenges which begets excitement which at some point around the bend I reckon must beget these discoveries. So I look forward to that next turn in the road for what comes next.