Counting (not holding) my breath

My brain likes to take over things. Yep, it likes to think and ponder and make plans. It likes to evaluate yesterday and handicap the odds for tomorrow. It likes to look for subtle connections and occasionally suss out conspiracy theories. My brain is always scanning for potential danger. It’s making up stories. It’s, well, I think pretty clear now: My brain likes to work overtime. I may not be the poster child for over thinking, but I am definitely a top-10 finalist.

It’s not that my brain is bad. It has lots of great things rattling around in there. It’s just that sometimes it shouts out the other entities which have important things to offer. In the process, I sometimes lose the wisdom that my body has to offer. And in taper week leading up to the Wineglass Marathon, having my brain drown out my body is potential for disaster.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend the day with the girls at Immaculata Academy talking about the mind-body connection. It’s one of those topics that is so powerful, yet so difficult to define. Sure, I’d love my mind and my body to work together. But how do I make that happen? And how do I make that happen on race day, when I want to be at my very best?

I’ve started to work with a combination of methods. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, but now have committed myself to doing some yoga every day for a month. We’re talking five minutes in the morning or as my 10 minute cool down after a workout. Maybe I’ll throw in some classes in the near future. Yoga forces me to link my breath to my body movements. Actually, it forces me to think about linking my breath to my body movements. Hence, my mind is working with my body, not against it.

To take this principle to the run, I decided it was best to count. Yes count. Granted, my ability to do math has been question by those around me and I admit that if I start trying to convert kilometers to miles while running it is a sign that I am bonking and need some sugar immediately. But I can count. When I start to lose focus when running, when the negative thoughts start showing up and I think that it’s too hard, too long or too lonely, I count my breaths. I count each exhale and listen to the rhythm of my feat. One-step-step-Two-step-step-Three-step-step. Suddenly, I’m not thinking. I’m just running. And before I know it, I’m half a mile further along.

The past few months I’ve put in a lot of work in my marathon training. I’m talking three 20-mile runs. I’m talking longer mid-week runs. I’m talking running in heat and humidity and occasionally in rain. I’ve worked at the track and worked tempo pace runs. I am stronger than I’ve ever been. My body knows it’s ready for race day. It’s ready to celebrate and show off all the work it’s done. And my brain? Well, my brain has its moments of inflicting doubt. But for the most part, it’s starting to get excited, too. It just needed a chance to slow down and listen to the wisdom in my body.

Postscript

A big thank you to the wonderful, energetic young women of Immaculata Academy for the warm welcome yesterday! The young women and I learned other techniques about focusing, using the mind-body connection and talked about how to set goals. If you want to know more about my workshop and presentation on Lessons from My Inner Athlete contact me. Details coming soon to the website as well!

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