Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meditation in Motion: Zone Mind, Zone Body

On my run yesterday I got to thinking about results versus process. Posting the picture from the Brooklyn Half the other day had me thinking back to my rant about how much I hated worrying about my times. Yet, at the same time I really like obsessing about form. It comes down my suspicion that if your main goal is winning or at least setting your personal best time you will cut any corner you have to and miss out on the pleasure of getting there. This means pushing through tension, pain, and feeling generally miserable. It also means losing a sense of flow, gracefulness and efficient breathing that comes with proper running technique.

Now, I am not saying running is supposed to be easy and that you should always run at a pace that is comfortable. I just think that the most important skill to acquire is the ability to be aware; to constantly check in with what your body is doing and where everything is in the moment. It is important to keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits is going to be uncomfortable at first. So, in those moments of discomfort rather than thinking, "I've just got to push through this toward the finish," you are thinking: "How can I adjust my breathing? Are my feet hitting the road too hard? Is my head still up? Can I relax my shoulders more?" As you work on these tiny adjustments you learn a lot more about what you can do. Then, when you find yourself on top of the challenges you get a real sense of freedom. Speed becomes the by-product.

Actually, when I was thinking about this yesterday it seemed like a semi original thought. Now that I have written it down I realize that it's essentially the main point of a book I read earlier this summer called, "Zone Mind, Zone Body: How to break through to new levels of fitness and performance - by doing less!" by Roy Palmer. Palmer is a runner, martial artist and teacher of the Alexander Technique. As some one interested in running and the zone, it definitely piqued my interest. It was a pretty easy read and I found it enjoyable. He gives a few Alexander-type exercises to help you recognize some of your bad movement habits. For example, putting tension in your neck in order to stand up, think about it, the neck muscles are not going to do much for you in this situation. The main thing that the book drives at is that if you can really focus, be in the moment and not put in unnecessary effort you can reach your optimum ability level and be in the zone. He breaks it down to make it easier for people to reach the zone more often.

This is why I love running and how it crosses over into a way to live and understand life. The same goes for music. So much of it is about listening. When things get muddy and difficult it means you must listen more deeply and start working on the things you can fix. It means practicing, tweaking the techniques and waiting until it come out right. There is a lot of patience involved. This all applies to running, music and life. Experiencing the improvements in running and music make the struggles of life feel more bearable. That is why I choose to love the process and the journey of trying to do things the right way rather than focusing only on the quantifiable results. I will work as long as it takes to get something right because the pursuit is the reward.


PunkRockRunner said...

Great post!

I run with music all the time and I find that sometimes it gets in the way of me listening to my breathing & body. This being the case, I make an effort to get in one "non-music" run each week.

As someone who was obsessed with getting faster (to the point of injury) I find that running for the pure pleasure of running works for me now. Some days are fast and some days are slow but it's always an adventure.

All the best!


Lady Southpaw said...

Hey Thanks Ron!

Yea it's a fair point, how can you listen to music and your body at the same time? That's why I think music written specifically for running is the ideal because it can enhance your focus rather than distract it. It's definitely possible to keep it low enough to still hear things like feet and breath. All you need is a taste so you have a beat to hold onto, if it's the right beat it will sync your feet and breath so they are correct anyway.

That said, I absolutely agree in the importance of training without the music regularly. You don't want it to become a crutch.

Keep running, I always enjoy your blog :)


Sara said...

You are using running and music as a way to get at something way more universal here. Don't think I can add to it, just wanted to note that your writing process and results also seem to be highly aware.

Lady Southpaw said...

Hey Sara :) Yeah, it's hard to articulate that sometimes when I'm pitching the general idea of running music. So it's nice to have the blog to expand a bit. The motivation behind it is deeper than you might initially think.