Taper Week: Thought Training

I sat down, got myself in a comfortable position, closed my eyes and pressed play on my iPod. It had been some time since I sat quietly and did a guided meditation, but my mind clearly needed a little bit of assistance. I picked a meditation on patience and focused on my breathing, on noticing my thoughts, before going out for my 4-mile easy run.

It is taper week. On Sunday I’ll be running the Buffalo half marathon. That meant this past weekend was my last hard run. And for the first time, in a long time, my run did not go well. The workout called for a progression run — 3 miles easy, 3 miles at my steady pace and 3 miles at my half marathon race pace. I started to believe I was in trouble when my steady pace felt difficult. Then came my race pace. I couldn’t hold it. I stopped, literally stopped running and stopped my watch, at least twice. Maybe three times. I can’t recall exactly. It was pretty much a blur. I was so upset and disappointed with myself. I couldn’t hold my race pace for 3 miles. How would I hold it for 13.1? What did this mean for race day?

Thankfully I have some awesome running friends who offered perspective. My struggle of a run came in training, not on race day. Everyone has a bad day. I’ve had two months worth of amazing runs. One clunker still gives me a pretty good average. And the number of things which went right on the run far outweighed the negative I was obsessing about.

I let myself whine for the better part of the day. Then I moved on. And to help me move on, I turned to my favorite podcasts from Meditation Oasis.

Coming back to meditation, I was reminded of the practice of noticing. With my eyes closed in a quiet space, I’m given the opportunity to notice what’s going on in my body, what’s going on around me and what thoughts are going through my head. If I wander off during the meditation and start making my grocery list? That’s OK. I’m gently reminded by the podcast host to come back to the meditation. When I notice what’s going on, there is no judgement. I don’t have to follow any train of thought. I just notice the thoughts that are going on.

And so to bring this back to my run. If I practice noticing while I’m running, I don’t have to follow any thought. Gee, this is getting challenging. What if I blow up my race day because I ran too hard on my easy day? Huh. That’s an interesting thought. Gosh it’s warm out. Holy crap, what if it’s like this on race day? Hmm. I notice that I’m starting to generate thoughts of fear. Wow. This feels pretty good. Maybe one of my mantras can be “believe.” All right. See, there? That’s a thought of confidence.

When I notice my thoughts it means I don’t have to follow them down a deep, dark, winding path which inevitably leads me to strange places and more often than not to a gremlin-filled place with all of my greatest “you’re not worthy” hits. I become an observer of my thoughts and eventually, should I chose to, I can pick which thought I do follow, one that builds me up instead of one that plays into my fears and insecurities.

While my body rests this week, I’ll work on my mind. On noticing without judgement. On picking mantras that inspire me. On realizing that everything, every single thing, in life only has the meaning I choose to give it. That is my starting point. And I’m confident everything will flow from there.

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