Inner enlightenment isn’t improving my pace

Today’s run (street): 4.25 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.2 miles

Those of you who know me personally will likely agree that I’m a pretty chill guy. Make that chilly. I get cold a lot. In terms of being calm and centered, I have a way to go. I recently read an article in Men’s Journal called the “The Distracted Man’s Guide to Meditation” and have embraced what the author refers to as “focused attention” meditation. It’s a very simple breathing exercise that reminds me of the primary karate form (Uechi-ryu sanchin) that I would often practice prior to a stressful meeting or presentation.

This focused meditation exercise takes 19 seconds, although it can be repeated as often as needed. Breath in for four seconds, hold for seven and breath out for eight. That’s it. In a very short time, you will shift your focus solely to breathing and will release anxieties in the process. It works anywhere and doesn’t require mantras, sitting in a lotus position or burning incense.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve moved one inch toward self actualization by doing this, but it’s a good in-the-moment tactic when things get stressful. The combination of this exercise and a significant reduction of sugar have both made a positive impact for me. Unfortunately, none of this has translated to an improvement in my running performance except in terms of much better stamina. And that’s probably due mostly to weight loss.

Yesterday morning I went out for my Friday pre workday run. I got out extra early because I had to bring my car to the dealership before my meetings started. It was a typical workout, the early hour shielded me from the hot sun but the humidity was clear and present.

This morning started early, but circumstances prevented me from getting out until 8:30 AM. Although they were touting low humidity, I found plenty. My running has reached a new equilibrium point. I can run longer and more comfortably, but I’m not going any faster. When I think about things like stride length and cadence I’ll see some short term gains. By and large, I’m still where I was a month ago.

Shortly after starting  my morning run, a car drove up beside me and the driver asked me if Stillwell Park was close by. I told him I wished it was (imagine if Stillwell’s trail head started in my neighborhood) but that he’d need to drive a couple of miles to get there. I gave him directions that he didn’t write down so I hope he was a good listener.

Since my Garmin FR210’s strap disintegrated, I’ve been carrying it on my SPIbelt. It works, but it’s difficult to read the display while running. Having it on my hip rather than my wrist seems to affect accuracy as well. Today it measured my run 4.2% shorter than actual (per Gmaps). I’m going to have to break down and get a new GPS watch. Any suggestions are appreciated.

An unwanted source of running energy

 

Today’s run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

When people talk about sources of energy for running, it’s usually framed in terms of nutrition or rest. Supplements like gels can give you incremental energy while on a run. A good night’s sleep can take away built up fatigue and tension. A far less considered (but equally effective) source of energy is anger and frustration. Case in point, today.

Although it’s Martin Luther King day and my kids are off from school, not every business observes this holiday. This is especially true for those based outside of the US. Because of this, I needed to field a few calls, one of which generated a lot of frustration at my end. As I worked to address and resolve the issue, the level of stress built to a point where I needed to take a break.

Today is my usual rest day, but I have a big day tomorrow that starts very early. So early in fact, that I won’t have an opportunity to run in the morning. Swapping my rest day made sense and the timing seemed right. Although the skies were clear and the temperatures weren’t too bad, I didn’t want to deal with gearing up for an outside run. Instead, I quickly changed into indoor workout clothes and hopped on the treadmill.

I had just come off two hard running days so my plan was to run at a more moderate pace today. Just hard enough to get my heart rate up, but not to the point where I could further stress my body. I found myself thinking about my last call and the result was faster stepping. This caused my foot to land frequently on the kick plate in front of the tread. In response to that, I incremented the treadmill’s speed until this stopped happening.

The good news was that my frustration got channeled into a quick source of energy. The bad news was that all the hard running quickly drained this energy. The faster pace became increasingly difficult to sustain. I ended up backing down to my original speed but returned to the faster pace for the last quarter mile.

It turned out to be a harder workout than I would have tried under normal circumstances. The residual effect was a significant reduction in my level of stress. I returned to my business problem and satisfied the issue, at least for now. The frustration fueled a higher intensity run and the workout took the edge off my frustration. I don’t want to depend on (or even invite) stress as a source of energy. But when frustration happens, I’m glad to have running to to manage that stress.

Tension busting run

Where ya goin’ mister?

Today’s run (street): 3.2 miles

I was dealing with some business intensities this morning, but somehow I managed to get outside. It was unseasonably cold today – about 48 degrees – but sunny. I haven’t been feeling 100%, but I knew a run would help alleviate some of the tension I was feeling. I decided to go out very easy and cover my distance at whatever pace I felt.

I was concerned that I’d put on too many layers, but I started off feeling comfortable and figured that I’d stay that way as long as I kept my my speed in check. As I was coming through my first mile, a pickup with a Town of Oyster Bay logo on the door pulled up next to me. The driver called out, “Need a ride?” I laughed as I ran along, and he then asked if I lived around here. I’m not sure what he was getting at, but in my vivid yellow running shoes and neon orange shirt, I would have been the world’s most conspicuous burglar.

The rest of the run was uneventful and I was almost shocked to see that I covered my route 10 seconds per mile faster than I felt I was running. Maybe I should always run when I’m stressed. Tonight we’re going to a Long Island Ducks game. It’s a fun activity, even if it’s on a school night. Sometimes you have to do this kind of thing to beat the tension of the day.

The trick to beating stress is remembering the obvious

Happy Monday. My morning started with water pouring through the kitchen light that came from an overflow from an upstairs shower. Despite that annoyance, I feel great today and glad to rest after yesterday’s hilly run.

Monday rest days are perfectly timed for easing my way back into the work week. Although I’m the first to say that running reduces stress, I don’t always see it as a way to blow off anxiety or tension. In fact, it’s often the opposite. On mornings when I am particularly stressed, I’ll think about skipping my workout. Part of that relates to getting extra rest, but some of it has to do with avoiding anything difficult.

The trick is to remember that the end of almost any run produces an endorphin response that leaves you feeling better. When I am able to overcome my reluctance to run on stressful morning, I always appreciate how my mental state improves after the workout. There are studies that show established runners sometimes achieve their “runner’s high” while they are still running, because they can anticipate the rewards that follow. On those stressful mornings it would be great to start with the endorphins and go from there.

Hard on the body, easy on the mind

Yesterday’s run was really therapeutic, yet I almost missed out on it because I was so exhausted from the weekend. We’d had a special event for our daughter that involved many visitors from out of town and much entertaining around the house and pool. My stamina for running far exceeds that of talking (and worse, listening) so, after the last of our guests headed home, I debated whether to run or rest.

Since I didn’t have time to run on Saturday I felt a little guilty about resting, yet again. Guilt won out and I made my way out the door with a target of covering about 3 miles in the hot and humid late afternoon air. The difference in temperature between sections of tree covered road versus areas without shade was noticeable. I tried to pick roads where the shade was predominant on the left side and had no illusions that I’d have a high performance run.

By the time I made it home I felt energized and the stress of the weekend and the upcoming week was far offset by a feeling of relaxation and accomplishment. It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to force yourself to do something taxing when you are already feeling stressed. However, when you do it, the end result is almost always positive.