A Call to Mindfulness

If you’ve asked me this summer how I’m feeling, you probably got an answer that sounded something like this:

-I’m tired. I’ve had plans every work night for three solid weeks.

-I’m exhausted. I haven’t spent a single weekend in the city all month.

-I’m beat. I completed a swim drill, a bike ride and two runs in the last 24 hours alone.

-I’m spent. In addition to triathlon prep, I’m also three weeks into marathon training.

-I’m haggard. Using a thesaurus is hard work.

And I’m not the only one who’s spent the last month dogtired.

Just let me be.

Just let me be.

The truth is, it’s been a tiring few weeks for a whole host of reasons: heavy workouts, a jam-packed travel schedule, 90-degree running weather, a shortage of sleep. Throw into the mix the fact that my professional life is about to make a 180 as I’ve tendered my resignation at the wonderful publication that kickstarted my career, and it’s easy to find myself getting worn out as the summer’s dog days take hold.

Whomp whomp.

Whomp whomp.

Or at least, I’ve started to get worn out by the sheer pace of my daily routine.

But then I stop. Or at least, I’m getting better at stymieing those negative thoughts.

How, you ask? By making a concerted effort to focus on the positives every day when all I really want to do is complain louder than the next guy. For example, when I’m feeling down about logging less mileage this summer than at the same point last year, I reflect on the fact that all the swimming and biking I’m doing instead has undoubtedly helped keep me injury free. When I’m lamenting leaving behind my talented reporting staff to join a new company, I remember I’m going to be surrounded with and challenged by equally brilliant newshounds at my next employer. When I want to strangle the woman in front of me for talking on her cell phone in the quiet car, well … no positive spin there. Probably best you don’t read tomorrow’s Amtrak obituaries.

I mean it: forcing yourself to look for the positive when you’re feeling downright negative can be hard, but I think it’s a worthy exercise – and I mean exercise. Just like speed work and hill sprints and negative splitting, mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened if you’re willing to put in the miles.

The experts – of which I am not – will tell you there are a lot of ways to do it: keeping a journal, meditating, working up a sweat. What’s been key for me these past few weeks is jotting down three things I’m grateful for each night before bed. I got the idea here, and I think it’s a video worth watching:

Will being a more positive person make me a better runner? Maybe not. But if I can leave the office at 8 p.m. and – rather than bemoan the long workday – take pleasure in stumbling across Manhattanhenge at the most serendipitously perfect moment instead, well, then that can’t be bad for my health, now can it?

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How do you practice mindfulness? Not to be confused with wine-full-ness, which is scheduled for Saturday night to celebrate a certain defector’s East Coast homecoming. You know who you are.

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