Transformative Thinking

What’s my excuse? That’s the first thought in my head when I saw this picture and read the article about Cynthia Arnold. She just ran a marathon (3 hours, 11 minutes), pushing her three children in a stroller (a total weight of 185-lbs), and I don’t go outside for a short training run because I think it is too hot (or windy, or dark, or cold, or ???). My question to myself, was instantly answered by myself: “I have no excuse!” Next question to myself: “If you don’t have an excuse…get going!”

Really, I have no excuse for my lack of running these past six months (i.e. all of 2019)! All I have to do is put my shoes on, grab a bottle of water and a hat and shuffle myself out the door and down the street. Instead, most days I have to do mental gymnastics to entice myself to go outside (or onto the treadmill) to go for a run. I think my excuse is this: I believe every thought that comes into my head! And rather than wait for a change of season, I need to have a change of thinking. Clearly, this change needs a catalyst; and I am so grateful for the spark which ignited my motivation anew by Cynthia Arnold and her story which was recently published in Runner’s World.

When I consider how Cynthia runs and trains for her race events, all of a sudden I feel LIGHT, UN-ENCUMBERED, and UN-ATTACHED! Hello, I wake up to my life’s stage and remember that I have the privilege to run whenever or wherever I desire…day or night, hot or cold…summer or winter! True, my desire to run ebbs more than flows these days, but desire is not everything. What I think and believe about my desire or lack of desire is of primary importance. My lazy, weak thinking (and believing) becomes my very own cryptonite! As I think I am…I become. How can I transform my tired, lazy bread-crumb dragging thoughts into energenic, motivational running thoughts? Is transformational thinking a matter of choice? Or is something more mystical required?

deb-5k-heritage-park-e1563302834584.jpg

What alchemy may I invoke to jump start my lackluster motivation? Is it as simple as seeing someone like Cynthia doing an amazing thing and believing that the same is possible for myself? If I think those kinds of thoughts, and follow that trail of thinking like bread crumbs on the yellow brick running path, is it possible that I can transform my running, mind and body, in three months? or six months? Perhaps…and as you can see in the picture above, I am a runner striving to run her best…even with weak thinking! And yet, when I consider how important running is to me, and how much I want to better my running and enlarge my accomplishments, it is these kinds of thoughts which begin to make me feel like a runner again. These are the thoughts which make me feel empowered…motivated…energized. When I consider what I have accomplished in my running past, I am propelled to believe that any running goal which I desire strongly enough is indeed within the realm of possibility for me.

So I have to tell you, and I am certain you already know this truth: It is very hard, solitary work, to strive towards achieving something big for yourself! Living life to the full or overflowing is not for sissies or weaklings of spirit. And this is why I so appreciate the running community, near and far; because runners of every shape, size and ability engage the same challenges when aspiring to run their best, whether in training or racing. Clearly, what makes a runner successful, or anyone else for that matter, is the strength of one’s desire and the will to train one’s mind to master the doubts of doom or gloom.

I have worked hard, logged a lot of miles, and try every day to be grateful for my physical health. I always want to be faster, better, and place higher. I enjoy competing and even when I’ve met my arbitrary goal for a race, I always pick apart how I could have done it even better.  I’ve failed a lot in my races, but I don’t let the failures define me. Instead, I choose to be happy about what I can do.  Carissa Liebowitz

So in all of this writing to and for you, I hope to become a part of the alchemy which may energize each one of us towards transformative thinking and moving and acting. I hope thereby to encourage you, if you are at all struggling with soggy-bread-crumb thinking or lack-luster desire. I hope you will read the stories behind the lives of successful runners like Deena Kastor, Carissa Liebowitz, and Cynthia Arnold. Read their back stories and remember, they believed they could achieve great things for themselves…and they were not afraid to work hard and keep their focus steady.

When I see the pictures and read the stories of my running heroes, I think they suffer not as I do. I think my heroes, young or old, are immune to weak thinking and struggle not with lack of motivation, or strength or confidence. And then…they remind me; they tell their story and they remind me; they wake me up to myself and my life as only I may live it. They share their experiences and in doing so, they help transform me and my thinking. I take their thoughts, and add them to my warehouse, to my repertoire of running possibilities.

 

 


Let’s Run

It’s a blustery, winter weather kind of day today; and I’m glad for it. It’s December 2nd, and I’ve waited all summer long for this kind of day to give me an honest excuse for not going outside to run! So today I will honor the weather and this season. Today I will sit and stay…indoors…happily…with nowhere to run and nothing better to do than rest, read and rejuvenate. Funny thing is, while I sit, I am still thinking about running and of course…not running!

run clip art

So it seems appropriate that while I’ve been contemplating the benefits of my run life, and while resting my ever-ready-to-run legs, I should find refreshment for myself and my feet. What follows, is what has found me this morning…while I have been sitting. The quotes below, inspired by the run lives of others known and unknown to myself, will hopefully also inspire you, dear reader, to actively embrace your run life as a ‘moving-meditation’. May the thoughts which follow, give you reason, motivation, and inspiration to run the race of your life with heart and sole.

Now go forward in today and in today’s tomorrows. Go forward if you will and hold nothing of yourself in reserve! Live out loud, run out strong. Embrace your life in faithful answer to your calling…full of grace and strength and conviction!
Finish strong ~ Finish Well

run clip art

We were meant and designed to run long and hard. Training for that is not an imposition, not artificial, not unnatural. It is in the essence of our being.
Roger Robinson

Whatever you do, do it well; go at it hard; 100 percent. Tiger Holmes ~ 90 year old master’s swimming competitor

Running doesn’t get easier with age, but the payoffs grow greater.  Amby Burfoot – Run Forever

Growing old is one of the ways the soul nudges itself into attention to the spiritual aspect of life. The body’s changes teach us about fate, time, nature, mortality, and character. Aging forces us to decide what is important in life. Thomas Moore – Care of the Soul

In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say ‘I have finished.’ And there is a whole life’s worth of satisfaction in that. Author Unknown


Going All Out

I’m back! Back to running that is. I’m almost afraid to make such a public announcement, afraid I’ll jinx myself, because I’ve been away from my running self for well over a year. That my slump coincided with the passing of my mother is understandable, on an intellectual and emotional level, of course.

But on the physical and cognitive level, I could not accept that this once happy activity flat-lined without my permission. While I faithfully moved my legs on the treadmill, I could not muster the desire to go outside for runs around town. Something had changed for me and my running life. I do not know when or why or how I lost my happy running self. All I know was this: that girl was long gone! And she left me to run alone!

I eventually came to terms with the change, and I settled into a solitary routine which moved my body, but not my spirit. I accepted the fact that I was doing my body good even though I wasn’t experiencing the familiar endorphin rush. I entered 5K and 10K races here and there throughout the passing months, but more and more I felt like I was running in someone else’s body. I continued to run because I could, but I was lost, disconnected from by best self.

During those long months, I found solace by reading about running, or about famous runner athletes; I read about sports psychology and the power of the mind to enhance performance. All these things kept my head and heart in the sport. Most importantly, reading about running gave me hope…hope that I would eventually rediscover my focus, my muse, my love for happy running in the near future.

And then as providence would have it, this past January, an email appeared in my inbox. It’s subject line singularily suggestive and ultimately sinister:

Apply Today for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon

What sort of a joke was this? I don’t run marathons! Why did those people from New York send me this email. I almost deleted the email without opening it. And I’m not sure why I even felt compelled to open it. But I did. And before I could think the whole thing through, I actually found myself applying for the marathon entry raffle. It took me less than two minutes to complete my registration. With one final push of the SUBMIT button, I became a player. What did I have to lose? Nothing!

More importantly, what did I have to gain? First and foremost in my mind, I would have to schedule a trip to New York City for sure. A trip to the place of my birth, which of course I have always wanted to visit since I was raised on the west coast of southern California from the age of 2 onward.

But wait, if I won an entry, that meant I would need to TRAIN to complete a marathon: 26.2 miles of running in one day! I’ve heard myself say out loud, on many occations, and often in mixed company, that running a marathon is a crazy, over-rated amount of running to ask a body, especially MY BODY, to do! Good grief, what had I done? What was I thinking? I had potentially committed myself to run a marathon! 26.2 MILES! Oh my, that was and still is a frightening thought. But wait, what are the chances of my winning an entry? 1 in 16,000! HA! No worries…I am not that lucky. But what if I am?

If I am that lucky, then there is no time to lose! I can not waste a month, or any months, of unfocused running because 26.2 miles is a very long way! Wait a minute…I signed up to run a Marathon? Well, no… not just yet. That happens later. I would have a month of anxious waiting to do before I would know the outcome of the raffle.

You can probably predict the outcome of my raffle entry. However, I will not spoil that story in this post. In the meantime, though, you should know that during the days of waiting for the raffle announcment, I was pretending to be a runner again. I was running and pretending to train for a Marathon. And while I was pretending, a funny thing happened along the way…I met and found my happy running self again.

And I think I like this new, updated version of me. The reluctant marathon girl. I think I like what she has become; what she has done for me. She has given me a purpose for running. She has given me a goal to aim towards; she has renewed my focus which I thought I had lost for good. She has given me a reason to run (achieve) and a distance (fear) to overcome. Yippee! I have met my hero, and alas she is me!

Now all I need is a plan…but first, I will need to run…did I mention I’ve never run 26.2 miles at once…EVER?

Even though I may never know what propelled me to submit that fateful lottery entry, I am so very glad I did, because I’ve never felt so good, so alive since I’ve begun my training. I AM ALL IN! To be continued…

Nothing beats the inner peace of mind of knowing that you went all out with your best attitude and expended your full effort. Doing your best by discovering the borders of your physical limits is also your own true gauge of personal success.  Jim Afremow ~ The Champion’s Mind

 


Thoughts Well Chosen

Run the Mile You Are InI do not know who quipped these wise words, but they have been especially helpful to me in regards to my run training of late. In fact, when I consider how useful this mantra has been for my running, I realize that this idea easily transfers into my non-running life too.

Whether putting in the miles for long road races or technical trail races, I often find I need to avail myself of this wisdom. Run training cycles can wear on a runner’s mind as much as the miles wear on the body, and I find I am most tempted to quit a run when facing those tired, anxious thoughts during long solo runs. However, now that I have added this mantra to my runner’s tool box, I have discovered a powerful implement to beat off negative run-thinking.

As many runners will attest, the power of a well chosen mantra can allay and repurpose unproductive thinking during a hard run. This mantra has become my new best-friend and a powerful antidote for run-weary thoughts. When I focus my mind on these words, I  am firmly re-connected to my body as it moves in the present moment. From this present perspective I settle my breathing and my pace and I find it possible to relax my grip on the unknown, which is measured in miles to go until I finish.

Savor the quest, not the finish. The Cool Impossible ~ Eric Orton

Thoughts of the unknown are always projected onto the movie screen of the future. The minutes, hours, and days which we cannot physically inhabit, become the playground for bullies who taunt our imagination with fearful images of ourselves as incompetent, inadequate school yard failures.

This driving need of ours, to know what we cannot know, has the potential to strip us not only of physical energy but also of happiness and joy for the journey we are currently running; whether it’s the next 100 feet of uphill trail or the next blank page of a manuscript which needs to be filled with narrative, story and conviction.

Every race is a question, and I never know until the last yards what the answer will be. Long Run Solution ~ Joe Henderson

It’s funny how this one little mantra has taught me something about thoughts well chosen; about how thoughts have no power over me except to distract me into believing them as true. And I have become keenly aware of the importance of choosing quality thoughts, because quality thoughts produce quality running and quality living.

When I direct my thoughts to inhabit the moments of now, they clearly have their effect on me. When I run in the present mile, I have focus and strength and breath for each step I take in the present mile. I do not, I can not, and I will not worry about whether I’ll have breath or strength for the miles ahead. I am training myself to just keep moving…for now.

From this perspective I am able to focus my mind and body on the powerful physical movements I am making towards my finish line, rather than wasting precious energy entertaining ideas of what I may not be able to accomplish.

My run training has taught me that as my body responds to the training effects of physical repetition and practice, my mind likewise improves its ability to inhabit and reflect on the current moment rather projecting itself into the future.

I feel silly admitting that at 50+ years of age, I am still learning how to live positively in the reality of the present, fully inhabiting all the moments which make this time now.  But here’s the beauty of learning how to live in the land of now: with every step and stride I take, I grow in confidence that my breath and legs will be adequate for the journey…to carry me through the mile I am already in.


Why Do I Run?

Why do I run? I run because it makes me feel so fully alive…in my body and in my mind. It is a spiritual, mystical experience; it is not something I fully understand, this feeling, this need to move my legs and feet. Nor can I easily explain or define why running is so meaningful to me. But run I do, because it magically makes time slow down and with every breath I deeply breathe I exist and am firmly rooted in the presence of now.

And running gives me so many choices…I may propel myself forward in any given direction at any given speed or effort. I may run lightly as a leaf blown about on the morning’s gentle breeze. Flitting here and there…gliding, tumbling, or plodding…it doesn’t matter which way I go, up or down, my feet follow one after the other, traversing the hilly streets all around my little town…until they wish to run no more and then they walk me safely home again.

While running, we can use the body as another language in which to express our longing for God. Running artfully, our bodies become a beautiful liturgy of the physical. Running the Spiritual Path ~ Roger Joslin

I run to remember, to remind myself that I am alive; older with each passing day it’s true, but alive and awake enough to breathe deep so as to expel the staleness of the moments just past; I move toward each new moment with purpose; I chase it down with great anticipation for what will appear; for what will arrive and for what will depart. To run is to strive for all that I am and all that I may be.

Why do I run? Because I can; because I must; because I love to feel so fully, so painfully alive…in my body and in my mind. It is a spiritual, mystical experience.


Run Shared = Fun Shared

One year ago today I posted on my blog about my second running of the Cinco de Mayo 10K/5K event in Tucson. I’m not sure why I looked at my post from last year, but after reading it I knew I wanted to write about today’s experience, my third entry of this race venue on this first day of May, 2016.

Much like 2015, the New Year 2016 found me busily occupied with family caretaking duties until late March with little time to run except 1 or 2 days a week. During the month of April I was able to return to some regular training, but I knew it would be at least another month before I could be race ready for the summer season. However, it was during this time of refreshed training when I realized that several of my personal training clients desired to improve their aerobic conditioning. Wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to challenge them to enter the Cinco de Mayo 5K event and join me in walking the course?

Well, in short order we had a team of 7 individuals willing to put their best two feet forward for a race in which they would only have 3 weeks to train. While this is not how I usually prepare my clients to train for a race event, the urgency of the looming 5K certainly provided us all with an extra dose of focus and purpose for our aerobic training in the days leading up to today.

Now imagine my delight, and theirs too, when we discovered that two of our team members placed in their age groups this morning! Had I run today’s race, I would likely have placed too, but what I discovered was something even more valuable than another personal age group achievement: A joy shared, is a joy doubled.

What I cherish most about today’s event as it relates to all the days which have passed in this crazy busy Spring of 2016, is the tiny role I had in helping these fun-ready ladies reach and exceed their goals on race day today. Cheers and high-fives to all of Team Oracle!

 


Wind and Rain

I had to kick my butt out the door this afternoon for today’s run. Not having a race on my calendar to train for really makes it easy to stay indoors, especially when the weather is threatening rain with gusty winds. It’s not that I haven’t run in the rain before or that I’m afraid of getting wet. I ran earlier this week on a morning that looked less rain-ful than today and I ended up getting hailed on before I finished the 4-mile out and back. Rain is one thing, hail is much more hurtful.

Thankfully, the rain held back for me this afternoon, and the temperature was perfect (50 degrees +/-) even with the gusting wind. Today’s run put 30 miles on my legs this week, and they felt a little weary and my breath too came in heaves because I was running at mile high elevation this afternoon. But all in all, I am glad I got over myself, and got out the door and moved myself down the trail and back.


Running…How To Do It

“I told him I’d started running, and I wasn’t sure if I knew how to do it. He said there wasn’t all that much to it, aside from remembering to alternate feet.”
Step by Step ~ Lawrence Block

This quote made me laugh when I first read it and I knew I wanted to share it on my blog one day soon. I just finished reading this book and enjoyed Mr. Block’s memoir; running and walking was (and I hope still is) a prominent feature of his life’s story.

Tomorrow I’ll be running my first 10K of 2015 and I’ll probably be smiling while I think about this silly little quote about alternating my feet. The Dr. Gann’s Cinco de Mayo 10K is in it’s 35th year, but tomorrow will only be the second time I’ve run this race. It’s an out and back mixed, hilly route which thankfully ends with the last 2 miles downhill. Should be nice and warm too, around 70 degrees at 7am.

I’m not as trained this year as I was last year, my schedule was full of work and caretaking for a sick parent, so tomorrow’s race is for the pure pleasure of running, simply because I can and I have no where else to be at 7 o’clock in the morning. I hope to at least run the same pace as I did last year, but if I’m feeling fresh and strong you can count on me to push the pace up a bit too. So here’s to tomorrow’s race and to how to do it!

You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving. ~ Anatole France


Rituals, Routines and Religion

My morning ritual is one that I especially look forward to: rise, eat banana, make coffee; sip coffee; read my devotions; be quiet…listen…wonder…listen…pray…jot down the ideas or inspirations that have been piqued during my morning quiet time. I will write about these things; I will think about these things as I prepare  for the new day. So now you know my morning ritual…for waking up and for making a connection with the Divine One.

Now I’m ready for my morning exercise routine; I’ll have some toast or half a bagel and get ready to go for my morning run. On Monday, Wednesday and Fridays I head out the door for a 3 to 8 mile run, depending on the schedule for the day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I put on my Zumba fitness garb and lead an hour long group fitness class. Saturday or Sundays are reserved for long runs of 8 to 10 miles or a mountain bike ride with my husband. My exercise routine is so well entrenched in my body and on my calendar that I feel completely out of sync when I miss a morning run or class.

But that’s the value of having and using rituals and routines. They help us stay connected and in touch with those activities that are important for us to do every day. Do these things long enough and they become a part of you, of your subconscious.

However, rituals and routines do have their downsides. Rather than keeping us on track, they can become a source of  great boredom for us…in other words we can feel stuck in a rut by the very routine that once gave a us a firm sense of being or accomplishment. If I ever feel stuck or bored in my routines, then I know they have outlived their purpose. It’s time to recycle or reinvent a system that will continue to propel me in a positive, forward frame of mind and/or way of going.

We should not hold a ‘religious’ attachment to rituals and routines. Even though their very existence in our daily life provides a semblance of structure, this framework should not be allowed to solidify if it is no longer useful for its original purpose. If our rituals and routines fail to motivate us to engage in the desired behaviors or actions for which we initially employed them, then it’s likely that they have become a religion of tired belief rather than a reflex of purposeful action.

Are your rituals and routines working for you? If not, don’t be afraid to change things up for yourself. Your creativity, your fitness, your personal goals or spirituality can only improve when you reset your rituals and routines.

 


If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think what it might be. In running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with out feet and the swinging of our arms.
The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates

Running!