Today I ran without headphones for the first time ever. And it was actually really enjoyable.
I recently wrote about moving from listening to music to preferring podcasts on my runs, which in itself was a big shift for me initially as I always thought that I needed the beat and something blaring in my ears to keep me motivated and moving forward. Moving to podcasts was great as I could multitask by listening to something informative and important to me whilst running, ticking two things off in one go. Every to-do list writer’s dream scenario!
I am certainly a Type A personality. Highly strung, extremely well organised and always thinking about the to-do list, what’s next, things still left undone, tomorrow’s tasks, writing more lists, updating calendars. And so it goes on. I am the person who always makes sure the bed is made before I leave the house, otherwise it would be on my mind all day. I am very conscious of the fact that I am always thinking of something and am very rarely in the present, especially when running, and this in itself is a bit of a worry to me, which then becomes something else to think about.
This became more apparent after moving to podcasts when I noticed that I sometimes have to rewind them and listen again as my mind is so busy and moves on to thinking about a million other things and when I zone back in to what I am listening to, I notice that I have missed something and also that often my running posture is quite tense, especially in my upper body with my shoulders up by my ears and my face tensed into probably some scary and unattractive position! I then have to calibrate, relax my posture and tell myself to listen. Then I run a bit further and repeat the process. I’m not in the present, enjoying being out there and running with the wind in my hair, I am worrying and thinking too much about things that should take a backseat in that moment. There’s nothing I can do about anything else there and then, I am running, doing my hobby, and I should be focused on getting the most out of that, however I can.
Yoga and Me
A little while ago I started practicing yoga alongside my marathon training schedule, for two reasons. The first one is for the benefits of flexibility and suppleness and for the stretches and core work which yoga gives to distance runners. Being so unbelievably inflexible, it has been a bit of a challenge but one I really enjoy. The second reason for starting yoga is that I was hoping to be able to address some of the absent-ness I struggle with and focus more on being mindful and aware and appreciative of the present.
I’ve found this part of it just as challenging as contorting my inflexible body into various positions and not falling over or rupturing something. When told to scan the body and think about how you are feeling and get in touch with the sensations, my thoughts go something like;
“OK, scan your body. Right. Well, my stomach is rumbling. Was that really loud? I bet it was. I am hungry, I wonder what to make for dinner? Oh, there are some courgettes in the fridge, what could I make with them? Is there tinned tomatoes, too, because I could make something with courgette pasta and sauce. I’ll get some mushrooms on the way home. No, maybe not, we’re having that at weekend. Weekend – did I get the tickets…oh, right yeah, scanning the body. Right. OK. Well, my back is a bit uncomfortable, why can’t I lie flat on the floor? Should I be able to do that?”
You get the idea. I just find it really hard to block out all the other things going on in my head. And I worry that by always thinking, planning, worrying, I am missing out on the doing and, more importantly, the enjoying parts. Was it John Lennon who said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? I know what he meant.
Today I was up early for a 10 mile run which I started before the sun was up. Running on the Heath at sunrise with the bunnies and birds was glorious and it took me be surprise that I chose to turn off the podcast I was listening to – not because it wasn’t interesting, it really was (hey, it was Rich Roll so of course it was!) – but because I found myself quite focused on the present, my surroundings, the sunrise, the animals, the way I was feeling (pretty limber and loose even after a 21 mile run this weekend!) so I took the opportunity to make the most of it. It wasn’t the fastest of runs but, dare I say, it was pretty enjoyable. Perhaps the yoga is helping me make some inroads into this already..?
There is certainly a place for every type of run in a schedule – long runs, fast runs, recovery runs, runs aiming for a certain distance or time, runs without GPS at all, HIIT, hills, intervals and tempo runs and I think now that, for me, there may also be certain runs to allocate to listening to podcasts, music or nothing at all.
Perhaps there is a time for mindfulness and awareness and a time for letting your mind race away, do what it needs to and put things in order? Perhaps the thing I should be striving for is balance across all runs and not one extreme or the other? Maybe the ideal is to be in a place where each run will be different depending what I need at the time? I don’t know. I’m sure I’m not going to be running unplugged all the time, but I will try and do it a bit more often if it is helping me to be in the present and enjoy the actual act of running. Which I did this morning.