Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Listening to my body with my mind

Tempo Tuesday is here again!

Today I ran my tempo and it was my longest ever, 50 minutes! It felt good, great even, and I think it was mostly because I decided to take yesterday off. I was very tired yesterday and upon arriving home from work I decided to have a nap instead of running. I did not feel like running yesterday and was dreading even a short easy run, so I did not run. It is the wisdom of years of training to know when to take a day off to protect the body and more importantly the mind. If I do not want to run, I do not run.

Today I ran the first 30 minutes of my tempo in Stanley Park and the last 20 minutes on the Sea Wall. My mind was focused and engaged throughout the duration of the tempo. I did not feel like quitting and I was motivated to run hard. I was in the zone, nothing distracting me although I did notice Ryan MacKenzie running his tempo on the Sea Wall too. He even nodded at me. And the weather was nice enough to be able to run without a shirt on, too good! With a good track workout, great long run and a great longest ever tempo I feel like I am back to baseline and ready to race fast this weekend. Well maybe not too fast as the course is supposed to be hilly, and I have run a high number of miles this week, even with the extra day off.

There is new research into the 'zone' and the idea of mastery. It is believed by some researchers that the generation of children that are being raised to be rewarded for merely showing up and doing their 'best' rather then being the best are missing out on the opportunity for mastery of skills. Practicing a skill leads to mastery. The skill can be in most any activity though research suggests individuals benefit most from learning skills that have both a cognitive and physical component. The cognitive aspect can be either learning the meaning of notes on a page and how this corresponds to the placement of fingers and the tone of the note or figuring pace times or positive self talk when running. When a person practices a skill the motor program involved in the skill gets imprinted in the brain so that a once difficult and exhausting activity becomes automatic. Once we have our motor program we are able to focus on fine tuning the activity. For example with running, which is a very natural activity, once a person has the fitness and base ability to run with ease they can then focus on relaxing their shoulders or lengthen their stride. Learning an activity then practicing the skills involved in the activity leads to mastery then the ability to enter 'the zone'.

We are in the zone when completing an activity when we lose sense of time, we are totally consumed by the activity, we lose touch with our environment, and we lose our sense of self consciousness. Today I was in the zone. For the past few weeks I have been practicing running, working on my fitness with long runs, working on my cardiac output with intervals and working on my form with drills and strengthening. Today it all came together and I was (to quote a sport cliche) 'in the zone'. I am very lucky to have this almost every time I run. The final piece of good news. Research also suggests that those individuals who participate in meaningful activities that enable achieving the 'zone' have lower rates of depression, improved blood pressure, better cognition and better health outcomes then sample groups.

I am looking forward to my next journey to the zone!

Happy Training!

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