Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zen Running

Tis the season of sickness...since November, DH and I have suffered 2 bouts of the flu each. The most recent one struck Wednesday night and has left me feeling weak, whiny and droopy. This time, trying to nip the vicious virus in the bud, I've been washing down antibiotics and Vitamin C with cup after steaming cup of green tea with honey, lemon and crushed ginger. My tongue feels numb and my taste buds have withered under the onslaught of gallons of scalding fluid.

Ironically, this is just what my body needed...a short break from running. Or so I told myself as I spent all of Saturday on the couch, reading the March issue of Runner's World* and watching 2 hours of...umm...Keeping up with the Kardashians. Hey, what do you expect? There's NOTHING worth watching on Cable TV on a Saturday!

* Did you read Kara Goucher's story on Runner's World? I've always marveled about the enormous mental pressure top athletes have to endure. Aside from their own dreams, peppered with doubts and uncertainties, they also carry the weight of their entire country's expectations.

Even for us 'recreational runners' (the rest of the crazy running community), except for a precious few who run solely for the fun of running or for the benefits they get out of it, running largely involves setting goals, measuring our performance against the goals and strategizing on how to accomplish these goals. The importance we attach to these goals varies from person to person. But at some point or the other, most of us have battled nerves...sleeplessness the night before an important race, nightmares that we might forget part of our gear, fantasies that we may not be able to complete.

I found this article, which I enjoyed and wanted to share with you.
The Zen of Running

Most of us practise zen running in some form or the other. For example, while I enjoy spinning to music, I never run to the accompaniment of music. The ipod DH gifted me a while ago has been collecting dust. I prefer listening to the sounds of birds and enjoying the changing scenery.

The author suggests alternating between concentration and contemplation. While contemplation is a normal activity during running, in my estimation I spend less than 10% of my run on concentration...paying attention to breathing, footfall, the fluid motion of the body. Concentration not only helps you understand your body better, it also helps center you and shut out the mental chatter. And if you can do it while running, you can definitely incorporate it into other areas of your life...for instance, the night before a race!

I decided I was well enough for a dreadmill run today. Normally, I find running on the treadmill intolerable and suffocating. A pang of regret hit me as I stepped outside and realized what a glorious day it was, but better senses prevailed. I don't feel well enough for outdoor running yet; the cold air induces a hacking cough. So, I churned out 3 miles on the 'mill, while trying to concentrate on my breathing (or the lack of it) in the stale, recycled gym air. I was sweating buckets and extremely uncomfortable during the entire run, but I did it...and finished off with 20 minutes on the bike.
The verdict: If you want to try zen running, start outdoors!

The week in review: 28 miles
Monday: 8 mile tempo (2 miles w/u, 8:09, 8:07, 8:10, 8:08, 8:00, 1 mile c/d); spinning - 1 hour
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 5 miles (42)
Thursday - 12 mile long run (1:43)
Friday & Saturday: rest
Sunday: 3 miles on 'mill, 20 minutes on bike


Abby said...

I really enjoyed that Kara Goucher article, too. It was cool to gain insight into the mind of an elite athlete and at the same time find application to us mere mortals.

Sending healing thoughts!

Ewa said...

I hope you are feeling better soon. I myself love fresh ginger tea with honey and lemon. I reserve this treat for when I am really sick.
I really liked the Zen of Running article. Thanks for the link.

Beth said...

I'm sorry that you have been sick. I love that you were watching that silly show. Too funny! Hey, you were sick so you are allowed. I hope you are back outside again soon.

Marlene said...

I'm so behind on RW... sounds like I should definitely check out that issue.

Hope you and hubs are both healthy again!

Erica said...

You poor lady with all the illness! I hope this means you will get months of months of healthy time! I never run with an ipod either- I just love listening to nature. I don't spend enough time in a zen state though- I will try to focus on this a bit more on my next outdoor run! Hope you're doing well and feeling much much better. Thank you for the sweet comments on my blog!

Laurel said...

Ha. I can imagine that Zen running on a treadmill would be incredibly difficult.

Nice job getting the miles in though.

ajh said...

Feel better. It is such a pain being sick. You can watch anything when you are sick with no guilt! It is not a time for any brain activity!

Ali said...

Good call on the treadmill, hope you are feeling better. I really like the Kara article.

lauren said...

hope you feel better soon! Great 12 miler though - you are speedy!

X-Country2 said...

Get well soon. The flu has been tough this year for sure.

lindsay said...

i really take advantage of my runners world subscription by reading the magazines 3-4 months behind schedule ;)

i was waiting for a race to start this weekend and i told my fiance "i don't know why i'm even nervous, it's not like i ever win". the pressure we put on ourselves!