“I think about my form. I scan my body for things that are out of whack. And I try to correct those as I go.”
Thinking about it now, it makes sense, but at the time I was speechless. If I had had to answer that question, it would have been easy. I think about everything. I write articles as I go. I create new characters for stories I would like to write. I think about what’s for dinner, what’s on the to-do list and who I will be running where after school. I think about anything except for my running.
But have you ever noticed that when you buy a new red car, every other car on the street seems to be red? If you are reading a book that mentions molecular science, the subject of molecular science will come up over and over again in the days after. This is the exact phenomena that began to happen to me.
Suddenly everything I did physically called on my focusing on my running/cycling/swimming. First, Coach Jeff at PRSFit started giving me interval workouts through iTunes in which he and Coach Diane would remind me to relax my shoulders, not give up when I started to tire, run through the very end of an interval, or my favorite, “light, fast feet.”
As I began Project API/PRSFit, Dan Riser at The Club at API started talking to me about rotation, opening up, focusing on sports specific exercises as well as specific muscles throughout a workout.
Finally, out of the clear blue, swimming coach, David Wendkos approached me while I was swimming one day and told me he was going to coach me for the day. During our hour together he pointed out a few areas of my swim I could improve but the thing that really stuck with me was to corkscrew my way through the water.
Suddenly, in every aspect of my training, I went from being absent mentally from each workout to being fully present. I began paying attention to the details and without realizing what I was doing, I developed a habit of repeating certain phrases over and over again throughout a workout.
When I run I chant to myself, “light, fast feet” interspersed with “relax your shoulders, relax your hips, relax your feet.” When I am swimming, whether in the open water like we did in Maine or in the pool which I do more often than I would like, I chant “corkscrew, corkscrew, corkscrew.” And when I am working on the wonderful new exercises that Coach Dan has been torturing me with, I literally talk my way through each exercise, telling myself where to put my focus, what to think about and what to avoid.
Each time I fail to do these things I quickly realize what I was missing when I was mentally absent from my workouts. In the lake two weeks ago I noticed myself slowing down as I thought about the fish that were swimming under me, but as soon as I began chanting, “corkscrew,” my body responded by rotating the way it should and I cut through the water with far less effort.
The core exercises Coach Dan has given me are working better than anything I have ever done before because I am not mindlessly doing crunches hoping they will work. Instead I am focusing on my form and seeing the results.
The most evident result I have found that being present in my workouts is working happened just yesterday as I was completing the Rosaryville 25k. The race was my first trail race since falling five times in one ten months ago. I was very nervous about falling and getting injured again but Coach Jeff assured me that if I focused on light, fast feet, I wouldn’t fall.
I would love to tell you I didn’t fall but the fact is I did. The entire race I chanted, “light, fast feet” and I stayed on my feet, until once, for just a second, I broke my train of thought, lost my focus and did a big, beautiful belly flop in front of God and everybody. The good news is, though I came up covered in mud, I wasn’t injured and I left the incident with the knowledge that focus is much more important than I have ever given it credit for.
I am sure there will still be runs in which I enjoy the scenery or write a chapter of my novel. I am sure there will be runs where I completely lose myself in thought. But I hope now that I have found the gift of focus, I will continue to stay present and accounted for in my workouts.
If you like Ann’s Running Commentary – check out my cool new YouTube Channel. Do people still say that? Cool?