The Power of Running: How It Taught Me to Live in the Moment
I’ve noticed something interesting over these last few years while training for endurance events.
It‘s that the mind is deciding how tough the workout will be.
Even if you’re used to doing long workouts, a short workout can feel longer/worse if your mind isn’t in the right place.
I’ve experienced this with running, cycling, and swimming — but I guess it applies to anything monotonous that you do alone for longer periods of time.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
When I was training for my first ultra trail running event, I had a week where my longest run was 50km, and another random easy run was 7km. It sounds unbelievable, but I’m not lying when I say that the 7km run felt longer.
Another example is every time I go swimming. It’s difficult, and I just want to stop. It takes me about 30 minutes to get into the rhythm and for my mind to accept what I’m doing.
The 7km run felt longer because I was constantly thinking about the distance. I just wanted to get back home. When you’re constantly thinking about the distance, checking your watch, even 1km is long.
I’ve also noticed that usually, like in the swimming example, I’m thinking that I don’t have time to do the workout. I keep thinking about all the work tasks and other chores I have to do.
While that might be true, and I have other things to do, I will always have 1–2 hours each day to exercise. That’s a priority for me. The funny thing is, I have the same thoughts on days when I have absolutely nothing planned. My mind is telling me that I have other things to do and that I should finish the exercise. When I feed into that and start checking myself, asking “really, what do you need to do?”, I can’t come up with anything. At least nothing that’s actually important. But I still have that feeling.
Accept that you’re going to be doing the activity for X hours. Embrace it.
- Enjoy your surroundings, the sun, the rain, whatever it might be.
- Use the time to check in with yourself. Go through all your thoughts and clear your head.
- Realize all the benefits the exercise provides.
It sounds obvious, but it took me a long time to get there. There are still times when I struggle with it.
Learning this skill has carried over to my “normal” life as well. Being present in whatever I’m doing.
Again, this is nothing new. You hear everyone say “be present”, but I think that if you actually can be present during a run where the body hurts and every part of you want just want to get home and lay on the couch, you get another perspective on being present.