I recently ran my second 5k in the Around the Bay Road Race. I didn’t train much and only started back into running regularly about 3 weeks prior to the day. I knew I culled easily run 5k but didn’t care how fast – I just wanted to take part and raise money for a wonderful Hamilton cause.
You can imagine my surprise when I ended up beating my time by a full minute, finishing the race in 26 min 28 sec (which is an impressive time by 5k standards).
How did I improve?
Two days before the race I learned from my osteopath that no head phones are allowed when you race (something to do with the safety of 10,000 people running at one. In my opinion, if you aren’t paying attention and trip and fall, that’s your fault, not the fault of headphones).
Anyway, it turns out that this rule is more of a courtesy but I thought, why not try it? I have always exercised to really strong beats to pump me up. But, on the morning of the race, I chose to leave my headphones at home.
When the gun went off I was at the front of the pack and everyone was passing me. I started thinking “Man, I’m sooooo slow!” I noticed how heavy my legs felt, how it burned to breath. I started doubting my abilities and began feeling insecure. Then I remembered my meditation practice and brought my mind in, unaware of the external influences.
I repeated, “Perfect stride. Perfect breath.” I visualized my blood flowing through my body, fueling each and every cell. I felt gratitude that I had such a strong and powerful body, thankful that I was able to participate in today’s race. Suddenly, running became effortless. I was happy and enjoying myself.
Then I saw a dog and got distracted. I looked at the people on the sidelines waving and smiled back. Then I noticed more people passing me. I took a moment to re-focus.
Perfect stride. Perfect breath. Gratitude. Repeat. This is how I ran so fast. I was able to focus on what I was doing and nothing else.
Meditation isn’t just for hippies and Buddhist monks.
In today’s hyper-conneted world, we need to learn to focus more than ever. Yes, multitasking is a handy skill, but it’s overpowering the way we run our lives and our relationships and we’re suffering from it. This article in the WSJ explains how meditation is useful to overcome that and is now being used to help train executives:
Business schools have been adopting meditation techniques to help MBA students gain skills that “are crucial for those hoping to succeed in an increasingly frenetic environment where distractions from an always-buzzing phone to pressure for strong quarterly profit reports constantly impinge decisions.”
Mediation is exercise for your brain – the more you do it the easier it will be and the better you’ll become at it. I use this meditation podcast. Each podcast is about 20 min – the first 10 min is a bit of a pep talk or story telling by the host, the second half is a guided meditation. I try to do this at least 3 times a week.
If you feel that you don’t have the time to dedicate then you can easily incorporate mediation into your daily tasks. Try it with something simple. The next time you are doing a simple task (i.e. washing the dishes, making your bed, going for a walk), try to think ONLY about the task you are doing. Don’t look at your phone, don’t think about what you are going to do when you are done, don’t think about what your day was like earlier. Just focus on what you are doing in the moment. And if you lose focus, don’t freak out or feel bad, just bring your mind back to where it’s supposed to be.
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