Is Running a Kind of Meditation? (Part I)

“I’m a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”

Byron Katie.

A good portion of my previous post dealt with my current relationship with running. Although I’m devoting less of my time to this particular hobby lately, I don’t see it as taking a back seat or being put on hold. Rather, running is converging into a bigger picture of health and balance that is more in-the-moment but maybe also more sustainable. This picture has been heavily anchored by mindfulness practices, which are beginning to permeate many areas of my life including running.

Both running and mindfulness meditation could be described as repetitive in nature, solitary in practice, and often challenging to perform and maintain. Running Meditators (and Meditating Runners) acknowledge the overlapping qualities of these activities to amplify the benefits inherent in both. It’s also possible (but not always the case, as you’ll read below) to meditate on the run.

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“While there’s much to gain from performing the physical activity, there’s a lot we’re missing out on when we slip into a semi-conscious state when doing the exercise. It’s pretty normal for the mind to wander when you’re running, regardless of whether the thoughts are related to the running itself, or something quite separate. But the only way to ensure that you’re performing to the very best of your ability, is to leave the thinking behind and allow the body and mind to work together with a combined physical and mental focus.”

Via The Huffington Post / Headspace App

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“Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone…”

A study published in April 2016 found that depressed subjects who practiced meditation followed by a 30 minute run, showed a significant change in brain activity and a 40 percent reduction in symptoms after just 8 weeks.

Via The New York Times

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“Running and meditation are very personal activities. Therefore they are lonely. This loneliness is one of their best qualities because it strengthens our incentive to motivate ourselves.”

“If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.”

From Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham

So we notice that running and meditation have lots of similarities and further, a symbiotic relationship. Meditation can help a runner’s performance, and physical activity can also have substantial benefit for a meditator. BUT – Is running meditation?

On a recent episode of the wonderful podcast “10% Happier with Dan Harris,” Dan and ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll discuss the difference between seated meditation and sports or other recreation:

Rich: “For many years as an ultra endurance athlete, like, I spent a lot of time in solitude training … and there’s certainly an active meditation component to that … and for many years I sort of said, well, that’s my meditation… but…

‘…There is something to a structured, formalized meditation practice that is qualitatively different from what you’re experiencing when you’re training.”

Dan: “One [of the reasons people give for not meditating] is: “‘Blank‘ is my meditation…. Running is my meditation. Gardening is my meditation. Petting my dog is my meditation.’ .. And my answer to that is: maybe. Depends on how you’re doing it. Like, if you run the way I run, which is that you’re rehearsing all the stuff you’re going to stay to your boss, or you’re listening to a podcast or listening to music, that is not meditation. If you are running and your headphones are out and you’re feeling your footfalls, you’re feeling the wind on your face, you’re feeling the motion of your body, and then every time you get distracted you start again – well then you’re meditating.”

How and why should we meditate while running? In part Part II of this post we’ll explore running meditation in practice and also look at the question “Should I meditate while running?”

 

 

 

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“Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.”

Pablo Neruda.

What’s going on? Not much blogging, it seems. So, if you will, bear with me for a post about the blog.

Although the name and “About” section of the WAWT blog suggests a more wide-ranging exploration of wellness in general, it’s obvious that the main focus up to now has been running. When my interest in the sport led me to races and wanting to discover more sophisticated training methods, run-centric blogs fulfilled a desire to learn and engage with athletes of all levels. And reading these blogs inspired me to share my own experience and insights not least because, as I’m sure many of you have learned, while family and friends are generally supportive, not everyone wants to hear the daily details of your marathon nutrition plan or splits from your morning tempo run. 🙂 In addition to serving as an outlet for my health pursuits, this blog began as a way for me reconnect with the joy of writing, which has always been a passion.

I began 2017 excited about some longer-term, lofty-but-probably-doable goals. But throughout the year, these ambitions have naturally fallen by the wayside and I haven’t forced myself back on the track because, honestly, they just feel too narrow. Running seems to be settling into my life in a way that is more integrated, balanced, and deeper. I’m less focused on quantitative goals, like running a particular race or making sure I get in a certain amount of miles so that I don’t “lose fitness.” Less concerned about what I “should” do and less fearful of what will “happen” if I don’t. Now, running is just THERE. I just trust it so much more… so generous and available whenever I need it!

So how am I filling all of this spare time now that I’m not eating, sleeping and exercising like a marathoner? Well, lots of yoga, vipassana meditation, reading, moisturizing my dry hands, discovering podcasts, cooking vegetables, finishing rounds of golf with IPAs, buying jigsaw puzzles, listening to music and I mean like REALLY trying to LISTEN. I’ve also gone on some beautiful, soul-nourishing runs. Basically, I am trying to, as much as I can, live with some fucking ease here, guys.

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So all of this preamble just to lock in an intention to use this platform to share, expand, and deepen my passion for physical and mental wellness, using this term as broadly as possible.

Finally, as you might know, “Well and Warm Together” is a line pulled from one of my favorite books, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:

“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” 

I chose to name the blog after this quote because it reminds me about the small things that make living life more bearable, sometimes even exquisite and joyful. This is sort of the thesis of what I want this blog to be about, so I hope that some of you will continue to join me in this conversation!

Ok. That’s it. Oh jeez – I really didn’t mean to make this sound like some kind of eulogy for my running career… it’s not! ANYWAY I hope you’ll forgive some of the earnestness in this post too. I promise to try to infuse my natural proclivity for dry wit and sarcasm in to my future blog posts as I’ve attempted in the past. But goddamn all of this oneness with the universe is making me soft! 😛 Ok I’m really going to stop writing now.

xo

 

 

“Mellow as the Month of May.” (Half Marathon Training, week 4)

Carole King.

The first week of May coincided nicely with the very center of this training cycle. I find this month to be a particularly optimistic one with summer on the horizon and such. And optimistic would also be the perfect word for how I’m feeling about running lately. Although my Saturday long run was a bit draggy, all in all I came away very encouraged with the total mileage (first to creep near 30) and my Thursday interval session.

Monday 5/1: 3.4 miles easy (9’19” avg pace)

Tuesday 5/2: rest  Normally this is my strength training day. But I had a late night and poor sleep so my trainer was kind enough to move my appointment to Friday. This was both a blessing and a curse, as you’ll read below.

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rest day inspo courtesy of Darwin le Dog.

Wednesday 5/3: 4 miles easy (9’26” avg pace)

Thursday 5/4: 6 miles w/ 3x 1 mile at half marathon pace + 10-20 sec (8:30-8:40) w/ 1-2 min rest between sets (9’02” avg pace)  I ran my splits at 8’22”, 8’14”, and 8’22” all the while feeling extremely cruisey and controlled. So I was absolutely thrilled with this workout, especially coming off of a ho-hum weekend 5k.

Friday 5/5: Strength training

Saturday 5/6: 10 miles LSD (10’05” avg pace)  The first 7 miles were pretty rough, and I’m chalking this up to the previous Friday’s strength session. While I wasn’t particularly sore, still, David’s current plan includes this lower body triple punch: abductor, leg curl, followed by leg press. Then, just to completely knock out the hamstrings and glutes, we finish the workout on the lower back machine. Anyway, it was a good reminder why I should continue to schedule easy runs after strength days.

Sunday 5/7: 5 miles easy (9’33” avg pace)  If it hadn’t been for my boyfriend, I probably would have only done about 3 miles. John has been running a lot lately (he completed a 70 mile month in April!) but this was our first one together! It’s super motivating to have another runner in the house. And one of the best parts of this run was that he picked the route, so I could just follow along and not think too much. 🙂  

Total Weekly Mileage: 28.4

I’m pleased to have hit my target of 28 miles, and to find that on Monday I felt only a little tired and still fairly strong and uninjured. On the horizon: a 12 miler, more mile repeats, and a 5k part deux!

training diary: half marathon prep – week 1

As I mentioned in my last post, if all goes to plan then I will be busy training for a half marathon PR this spring/summer. First up is See Jane Run on June 4 in Alameda, followed by Santa Rosa in late August. I ran the Santa Rosa half back in 2014 and have done the 5k distance at See Jane Run twice.

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Bubbles @ SJR last year.

For this impending race, I have developed an 8-week training plan that’s fairly conservative and loose, targeting consistency while building up a comfortable base with 5 runs per week: 3 easy, a Thursday speed workout (low key-ish like fartleks or pace runs), and a weekend long run. As for tune up races, I’ve got a 5k race to close out April and then Bay to Breakers as usual on May 21.

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Breakers! 2017 will be my 5th consecutive year running. BTB is infamous for their back of the pack shenanigans, but I think that the actual race course is awesome and it’s definitely a contender for my favorite local race. It’s also hell of historic – the event began in 1912 as a way to lift the city’s spirits after the devastating 1906 earthquake.

So here’s how last week, April 10-16, played out:

Monday 4/10: Rest My intention had been a 4 mile run commute after work, but I was so exhausted from a fun-filled weekend that I decided that I might be better served by an early bedtime.

Tuesday 4/11: Superslow strength training Also – a brisk walk with Darwin to/from the studio.

Wednesday 4/12: 5 miles easy (9’20 avg pace)

Thursday 4/13: 3.6 miles fartleks @ 8x 1 min on 1 min off.  (9’14” avg pace) I was supposed to do 10 repeats but I didn’t have time! This was my first speed workout in a while so it’s just as well to get back into it probably.

Friday 4/14: 5.3 miles easy (9’10” avg pace) A very invigorating run. I really enjoy this loop that takes me through Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and Mission Bay, passing AT&T Park right in the middle. Highlight of the week!

Saturday 4/15: 9.8 LSD (9’54” avg pace) My plan called for 9 miles, but I found one of those magical hidden trails in Golden Gate park, and so my halfway point went a little long. I was mildly annoyed because somehow my apple watch cut the run short while I was paused at a stoplight 6.5 miles in. Ugh.

Sunday 4/16: Rest After a lousy sleep, this recovery day was a bit rough. I felt draggy all day, but I did manage to take it really easy and spend a lot of time off my feet I capped off the week by cooking a lovely almost-vegan Easter dinner and eating a piece of cake. 🙂

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Spring vegetable cous cous with spicy pesto. Yemm.

Total Weekly Mileage: 23.7

All in all it was a great kick off to half marathon training. After a good night’s sleep on Monday, my energy levels were solid and I had a lot of fun on these runs. I’d say 75% of my meals and snacks were healthy, and except for Saturday night, I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. These peripheral things become so important as mileage increases, and I often don’t pay enough attention in favor of just trying adhere to my daily run calendar. But I really feel it when I eat junk or don’t get enough rest, and I keep reminding myself to prioritize this aspect of training. 

So this week, in addition to just putting down the mileage of course, I have a few goals for making sure I’m in good form to get it done:

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Eat intuitively and limit alcohol
  • Put in a little time for stretching and foam rolling (even if it’s just 5 minutes)

 

“These are a few of my favorite things.”

Maria von Trapp aka Julie Andrews.

Happy Holidays! Are you running? Resting? Gearing up for big things in the new year?

My days and weeks have been consumed by preparation for the LA Marathon. With race day on February 14, my schedule is starting to reach the apex. These are the big important runs, folks. I’ve completed my 18 and 19 milers, and continue to grind out the mid-week pace runs best I can. This week is a step back in mileage (which will hopefully include a 10k race on New Years Day) before digging into the two 20 milers scheduled, the first one with a MGP finish. I can’t believe it’s only one more month until taper time.

 

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nailed goal pace in golden gate park last week!

In other news I am pleased to announce some new ambassadorships!

Earlier this year I was selected as a “Branch” for the Oakland Running Festival! I am thrilled to help spread the word about this fabulous race that I’m sure will only continue to grow due to its fabulousness.

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Here are a couple of things that I think make the event special:

Courses

I’ve run the half course twice now. In 2014, I smashed my sub-2 hour goal with a 1:55, and this year landed a one-minute PR, besting my Santa Rosa time after a three month running sabbatical due to a bout of ITBS. So in my experience, this is a PR-friendly half girls and boys. With a hilly start, the full course boasts an elevation profile worth major badass points. Feeling social? Run the relay. Feeling greedy? Run two races in the “We Run the Town” challenge, taking on a 5k before lining up for the half marathon.

Oakland Pride!

Oakland spirit is fierce! Highlights include Raider Nation, the impressive art installations by Crucible and American Steel, Brown Sugar Kitchen cheer station and the massive crowd support around the final stretch of Lake Merritt. I love finishing at Snow Park and chilling out with a beer post-race.

And what’s better is that you no longer have to pay full price because I have a discount code for you! Enter “bodle” at checkout for 15% off any distance.

This year, I’m also an ambassador for NuunLook, we all know that hydration is complicated and personal. I don’t like sports drinks, and for whatever reason sometimes water – whether filtered, bottled or tap –tastes sort of plastic-like or metallic to me. Enter Nuun: a variety of flavors for every palette, no added sugar and under 10 calories per tab, and electrolyte enhanced. This combo works well for me, and I’m happy to support the brand as an ambassador because I believe it offers a unique option where sports hydration, nutrition, and recovery is concerned.

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Happy New Year!

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

Well here is the post in which I introduce my prospective strategy for training for the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers International Half Marathon in 5 stinkin’ weeks!

Between determining details of the mileage and rest and cross training in the weeks ahead, through my research I’ve come across some global notes which may prove to be just as important for making it to and through the BIG DAY:

**Let go of expectations**

At least with respect to time. 2015 was supposed to be the year of the big PRs — but this ship has long since sailed. No matter. New goals include:

In Training

  • barring injury or illness, complete the planned training runs (i mean for god’s sake it’s just 5 weeks…).
  • that said, don’t take things so seriously.
  • that also said, every run has a purpose.

During the Race

  • enjoy the tour of the city and crossing the Canadian border.
  • overall: just have fun.

After the Race

  • after the race: eat pizza and beer (preferably a local one)
  • be grateful to spend time with my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, and others.

**Long runs are the foundation**

A repeated mantra in many half-marathon and marathon plans regardless of the length: laser focus on diligently hammering out that Saturday LSD. Of course, every run should mean something, but they’re the gravy.

**Practice finishing EVERY SINGLE RUN strong**

Failure to do this was, in my assessment, the single biggest contributor to my mini-meltdown at the San Francisco half marathon in July. It’s not that a positive mental attitude would have led to a better performance necessarily, but perhaps the last 3 miles would have been less grueling and mentally exhausting. Too often I allowed myself to wallow in tiredness and waning enthusiasm — during workouts but especially in last miles. But — I thought, at least I’m completing the prescribed mileage. At least I’m getting it DONE. It’s no mystery why on race day my brain just hit a moment where it was like — STOP. NOW. The ensuing internal bargaining and self-pity made the experience mildly excruciating and I am not interested in a repeat. Which brings me to…

**Stay positive — or at least, recognize negative patterns in thinking**

One thing that they stress in mindfulness meditation is that when thoughts arise, to make a soft mental note like: thinking. Or even more specific like: judging. These labels are simply a recognition of the occurrence, without trying to change or analyze anything. I think that my recent indifference to running and training has centered on, quite simply, a negative attitude towards it. Trying to think positive thoughts is one way to do this, but in other ways trying to force it can almost feed the negativity in a perverse way.  So if I can’t be positive, I can at least recognize negative thinking, laziness, excuses… without judging them … and then go out and complete the exercise anyway.

Onto the goods, now. Completed on scratch paper in highlighter and ballpoint pen over lunch at the office — here is my custom, handy-dandy, 5-weeks-out, shit-kickin’ half marathon training plan:

5 week half marathon training planWell for now that’s the best I got. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain. Or snow. Or Tornado.
Question time! Have you ever run a race with minimal preparation? What was your experience? Any advice?

“Don’t follow the feeling, follow the plan.”

Dr. Barry Rovner A few weeks ago NPR broadcast a story about elderly people suffering from age-related macular degeneration, a condition that impairs the ability to see fine detail. Reading, driving, watching television, and cooking may become impossible. Worse, those … Continue reading

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” (Bad Bass Loch Chabot 10k Race Recap)

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Plagued by car trouble and a faulty alarm, my friend Ari and I were nearly no-shows at Brazen Racing’s Bad Bass Lake Chabot in Castro Valley last weekend. Luckily, the event was small enough that even arriving … Continue reading

Training Diary 6.22.14 — Speed Phase Week Four & See Jane Run Race Week!

Kathryn and the Bad Luck Mondays. A good band name, right? Like Iggy’s Stooges, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Richard Hell’s Voidoids, the Mondays surround me with their music: the cold cough of a struggling Volkswagen against a midnight ocean drone. The 8-inch blade of a Wustof slipping off a new sponge like a record player needle. Is it Mercury’s retrograde? Or maybe a the result of a summer workday, the worst one of all.

Anyway, poetry aside, I have 3 loose stitches and a mess of gauze interfering with the use of my right hand. So blogging was a little delayed this week. This also means that this coming Saturday I will need to bow out of Jason Crandell’s yoga workshop at Yoga Flow that I registered for ages ago. Sad times. But downward facing dog is a no-go until these fuckers come out on July 3.

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At least last week (minus the car issue) was productive (spoiler — I PR’ed the 5k! BOOM!)

Monday — Vinyasa Yoga / 60 minutes

Tuesday — Strength Training  It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned how much I hate doing this. Thank god it’s only 20 minutes and that I get a shoulder massage right after. Gaaahhh why does strength training have to be so important?

Wednesday — Tempo Run / 5 miles / 8’43” pace  After last week’s debacle, I made sure to come up with a decent plan. I needed a good workout, and I needed to finish encouraged. No more sad sack tempo face. Mile 1 warmup (8’26” – a bit fast obviously), mile 2 -3 tempo pace (8’29”/8’22”), mile 4 cooldown (9’38”), mile 5 strides/fartleks (8’32”). Challenging but not over the top, although I think as I become more comfortable with these kinds of runs the top speeds need to increase and/or roll out more progressively. But look at this steady pacing! A major improvement from last week, I’m ashamed to say that I even had a little bit of fun. I’ll crack you yet, devil run!

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Thursday — Rest

Friday — Easy Run / 3.7 miles / 9’00” pace

Saturday — Yoga from Hell / 90 minutes  Well not really yoga from Hell, but class was more intense than expected, and left me slightly worried that lingering soreness would impact Sunday’s race. BUT I had that great buzzy post-shavasana glow as I left the studio — always the sign of a great class.

Sunday — Race! See Jane Run San Francisco / 3.1 miles / 7’27” pace  Crushed my sub-25 goal with a 23:07 finish time! Yay for speedwork! Hell, yay for tempo runs! Yay for beginner-friendly women’s races that allow me to place first in my age group! Stay tuned for the recap in a few days…

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Despite a dull lingering hum from the hammond organ and salty dogs at the Royal Cuckoo, last Saturday morning I emerged from my front door at a quarter-to-eight to take a very dirty dog for a very necessary haircut. A strawberry smoothie, a stroll around Precita Park, a trek up and down the hill to the Noe Valley farmer’s market (bounty: kale, parsley, summer squash, rapini, lavender, sunflowers), and a very strong cup of Philz later (Greater Alarm blend) — I felt it. Summer. Arrived.

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Here are a few to-dos for my summer vacation (note: summer is always a vacation, even if we’re still nine-to-fiving):

Finish FIVE Books Since purchasing an iPad, reading has become a rare event. When I do select from the bookshelf or Kindle, it’s usually nutrition, running, or cooking-related, so I’m focusing on fiction. Novels and short stories kind of exercise the brain creatively in a way that nonfiction doesn’t, as corroborated by this article from the Boston Globe:

“The emerging science of story suggests that fiction is good for more than kicks. By enhancing empathy, fiction reduces social friction. At the same time, story exerts a kind of magnetic force, drawing us together around common values. In other words, most fiction, even the trashy stuff, appears to be in the public interest after all.”

Hoping the “magnetic forces” not only feed my soul but also improve my sleep (by doing away with the evil blue light of the device screen). I’m only almost finished with book #1 (The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham), so I need to get cracking. What can I say? I was derailed by OITNB.

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Write 3x/week “Writing” is a common excerpt from my Gratitude Journal. I’m attempting two blog posts and one free-writing or exercise. Maybe a few creative nonfiction prompts from Poets and Writers?

One getaway / month (June-August) With Tahoe in June, and a planned vacation mid-August, that leaves a July excursion. I’m itching for a campout, but if it must be an overnight at a B&B in Marin, well then, I guess that’s life. 😉

Foam roll & Yoga Forming healthy habits for increased speed sessions and mileage building later this summer/fall by developing a short home yoga practice (once/week in addition to my twice weekly classes), using my “Stick” after every run, and epsom salt bath and foam rolling sessions on Monday nights.

Meditation Just 15 minutes several times a week. Psychology Today discourages meditation before bedtime, which would actually be my preferred window. But after work or running sound nice too. This goal also involves exploring various mindfulness and meditation apps.

Practice happiness Continue writing in my gratitude journal. Take deep breaths. Smile. Don’t hold onto things too tightly. Take myself less seriously. Wake up early and enjoy the quiet times.

Happy Summer 2014!

(Photo by Max Wanger)