I am by nature a skeptic. I doubt a lot of what people tell me. I think that advertisers are liars just trying to make a buck. I spent a good portion of my teen age years bucking the system and testing things out for myself. I tend to learn best by my own knowledge. This is not always the best way to learn. I was kicked out of my parents house at 17 when they just couldn't take it anymore. I have a lot of regrets about choices I've made and hopefully I have grown up a lot since then. And I really try to learn from other people's mistakes. How does this relate to running? Well after the traditional ways of running led to injury after injury for me, I found myself on the barefoot and minimalist path. It's been a really great thing and while I'm still learning all the time, I find that even in this community I am still a skeptic and roll my eyes a lot.
For instance: In Michael Sandler's barefoot running book he talks about being in sync with the earth's frequency, or heartbeat. Did you know that the earth has a heartbeat? Apparently it does. It's called the Schumann Resonance. Google it. Our brains use the same frequency to survive and thrive. We are in sync with the earth's heartbeat. And our cell phones and other electronic devices and shoes interfere with our ability to connect with the earth. And it's not just weirdos that believe it either. Nasa created a machine to help the astronauts stay in sync when they leave the earth's resonance behind. Lance Armstrong's crew slept on these blankets that plugged them into the earth to help them recover faster and have decreased inflammation. So while my eye rolling had started, I wasn't sure what to believe or not.
He also talks briefly about running with meditation beads. He uses them to be present during the run. He rubs his fingers over them and repeats a mantra. He also watches to see how much they are bouncing and tries to be smooth and run softly. He also says it reminds him to have his arms relaxed. Running his fingers over those beads helps him be in a meditative state while being aware of what his body is doing. Truthfully, when I first read this I thought to myself that maybe I was reading the wrong book. This was just kind of weird. I am one of those people who at the end of a yoga class, when everyone else is quietly relaxing in corpse pose, am fidgeting and wondering how much longer we have to lie there in silence. Don't get me wrong, I like silence. I just can't lay there with a bunch of other people when I know class is over and there are things to be done next. It's a problem, I admit. I have trouble completely relaxing my mind and body.
But lately, while running, things have been different. I am able to relax and think clearly. This thinking clearly thing is not new. I often get my best ideas while running and solve problems that are weighing on my mind. But I really like the idea of relaxing while doing something as physically demanding as running. That's more my style of relaxation.
One day, after seeing an episode of the Office, I got an idea. Kind of Pavlov's Dog Conditioning Theory for Runners. Check out this clip and then I'll explain my new combination of meditation conditioning.
"http://www.spike.com/video-clips/0jnov0/the-office-the-jim-trains-dwight">The Office - The Jim Trains Dwight
Tags: The Office - The Jim Trains Dwight
I starting thinking about the mantra that I use to remind myself of correct form during a run and wondered if I could trick my brain into doing a sort of self correction. It's kind of like combining the meditation bead theory and the Pavlov theory. So for the past month I've been using it for a certain period of time during each and every run. I really used it during my long run last Saturday and it came in very useful, especially towards the end.
Instead of beads I just lightly rub my fingers together. I have five words that I use as cues. They are: soft, relaxed, smooth, fast, strong. I picked a point low on my pointer finger that I rub the tip of my thumb on for "soft". While I rub the side of my pointer finger with my thumb, I think of things that remind me of the word soft. Like big snowflakes lightly falling on the ground. I try to make my footfalls as light as snow. I try to run as quietly as possible.
Then I rub the tip of my thumb and pointer finger together. This is the cue for "relaxed". I think of my legs and arms as spaghetti noodles. I focus on my breathing being relaxed and when I exhale all the tension flows out of me. I make sure that I'm not tensing any part of my body. My shoulders are relaxed and loose. Think Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
The tip of the bird finger and thumb are the cue for "smooth". I think of my feet being clipped into the bike and they're moving smooth. Like the wheels on a train or the road runner. I pick a sign or something in the distance and see if I can get it to not bounce in front of me.
Then I move to my ring finger and the tip of my thumb for "fast". I think of running on hot coals and having my feet move quickly. The turnover is fast. It helps me pick up my cadence.
My pinky finger is the cue for "strong". I check to see that my abs are engaged. I lift my head up by the base in the back to allow my chest to inflate and let in the maximum amount of oxygen needed. I feel confident and strong. I see myself being strong at the finish line.
So while this may sound like it will take a lot of time and is kind of goofy, yeah, I admit, it might be. But my hope and theory is that before long, after practice, I should be able to touch the tip of my pointer finger with my thumb and have my body automatically relax. I should be able to make my movements smooth by simply touching my birdy finger. And while it might take time for my brain to do it automatically, I have got lots of time and roads ahead of me. I even practiced the relaxing one in the dentist's chair and it worked. In fact, I was so surprised at how much tension I was holding until I touched the tip of my pointer finger and everything relaxed.
Call me crazy, but I'll pretty much do anything that will help me with my running.
What do you think? Am I off my rocker and out in the deep end?
Wanna try it?
Tell me your mantras and physical cues that you want to try and lets see if it works!