Running Intuitively

I fucking love running.

Sorry Ma, sometimes you need an F bomb for emphasis.

Really though, I love to run. So much so that when I got injured a few years ago and couldn’t do it for three months, I kind of fell apart. Well meaning people would tell me to jump on the elliptical or try cycling. I didn’t want to hear it. No matter how hard I work on those fancy machines it’s not hard enough. And I feel cramped on a bike–it’s just not how I prefer to move.

Since being back from that injury and learning how to better maintain my body, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to run a few half marathons, one full, and several 5 and 10ks. I like racing, but I’m not obsessed with it. At times this fact has made me feel like an outsider in the blogosphere and on Instagram. (But I’ve gotten over that ;)) A lot of the runners I follow post their stats of one accomplishment and in the next breath reveal their training plan for a subsequent feat. It’s inspiring. I actually really enjoy it. I think I love running just as much as they do. I just also love a lot of other things that I wouldn’t have space for if I always put mileage at the forefront.

As a lot of you know, I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on living in the present lately. Pretty early on I realized that this more mindful way of living needed to be applied to every aspect of my life if I truly wanted the effects of it to take hold. It wasn’t enough to just use it at work where I compartmentalize tasks and work on the next most important thing to avoid getting overwhelmed. I couldn’t only apply it to not obsessing over future problems–ones that get manufactured between my two ears but may never exist in real life. No, if I really wanted mindfulness to penetrate my life, it would have to touch everything–including my fitness.

I’ve got a 10k in October. It’s the same course as the 10k I ran in June where I very narrowly missed my goal. Instinctively the planner in me thought, why not try a 10k training plan for the first time? Something specifically designed to shave some time off.

Yes, that’s what I would do. I’d print it out, post it up on the fridge, mark off the days. (Old school girl here). I’d tell myself and you guys it was okay (but secretly be upset) when I fell short on a workout. I’d wake up every morning knowing (and sometimes dreading) exactly what mileage was in store for that day. It would grand.

Here’s the thing–diving into a training plan right now feels grossly antithetical to the lifestyle I’m trying to develop. This is not me trying to be a free spirit. It’s an attempt to really capture and experience a full awareness of my existence. There are holes in my memory. Little chunks of my timeline that escape me for only one reason: I was preoccupied with what was coming next. I was so blinded by the anticipation of my future that I barely glanced at whatever was right in front of me. That’s not what I want anymore.

All this is not to say that I don’t or won’t have goals. It’s more daring to question the assumption that every goal needs a carefully constructed and well thought out plan. What if I could just run and develop my fitness intuitively?

I want to average under a 9 minute mile for this 10k. My aim is to ask myself each night what I want to do for a workout in the morning. Do I want to lift and run? Just lift? Just run? What type of run? Go to yoga? Stretch and rest? Upon waking in the morning, I’ll ask myself again if what I felt the night before still feels like the best plan. If it does, I go ahead with it. If it doesn’t, I make a change. I’ve done this for the past two weeks. These are some of the things that have happened:

  • I’ve cross trained on the stair climber instead of doing my interval run. It was hard. I liked it. All day at work afterward I could tell I had woken up some new muscles. Ten minutes on this machine after lifting was tough. I’m now motivated to build up to fifteen.
  • I’ve rested two days in a row. I never do that. The neurotic voice in my head kept telling me something really bad might happen if I did. This time I decided to listen to the calm rational voice that told me that my body had not fully recovered from the five hard days in a row I worked out, and that I would be best served and bounce back stronger if I took an additional rest day. I felt rejuvenated and ready to go after. And also, I didn’t die–or gain ten pounds.
  • I’ve made a point of spending quality time every day on stretching and foam rolling–even extra minutes on days I am resting. The results have felt dramatic. How had I never thought to stretch (like really stretch, not just for two seconds) on my rest days? It makes a huge difference in how I feel throughout the entire day. Bonus: with the consistent foam rolling, my plantar fasciitis hasn’t bothered me in weeks.

Here’s my thought process (I am fully aware this would not work for everyone) : I work hard. I always do. I push myself. A training plan isn’t what makes me disciplined. I am what makes me disciplined. The most confusing sight I witness semi-regularly is a human walking so slowly on a treadmill or riding so nonchalantly on a bike that they can browse their social media at the same time. I don’t understand that. I push myself when I run and when I lift and when I do yoga because I get something out of it. I get physical relief and mental clarity. My attitude and outlook upon life becomes more positive. I believe in things. I believe in myself.

I don’t get any of that if I don’t stretch myself beyond what’s comfortable. So that’s what I do, and what I have been doing for years and years.

That’s why it didn’t seem too far out there to me to think that I might be able to set an intention (my 10k goal) and trust that my body, working intuitively with my mind, could get me there.

I know all the workouts–tempos, intervals, hill repeats, the long slow run. I know the science (science, logic?) behind all of them and why the experts generally believe you need a combination of them to improve your performance. I’ll be mixing it up and using all these, and everything I’ve learned from other training blocks. I know that my body has a feeling for what the goal is. I can feel it changing gears, pushing through routine, and reaching for a new level of discomfort.

What I’ve realized is that my body is talking all the time–it’s telling me what it needs and wants. The more often I can be patient and listen, and give it what it’s asking for, the more it trusts me. We start to build a bond and it rides in tune with my heart; it understands my goals and the path I want to be on and it shows me the best way that we can get there. I don’t need to force it into submission. And it doesn’t need to break down to stop me from taking it too far. Day by day, we are building more trust, more care, and more synchronicity.

Or maybe we’re not and this is all bullshit and I’ll “fail” or get injured and go back to rigorous training plans. We shall see.

In the meantime, I’m gonna keep basking in the glow of having not dreaded a workout in two weeks. I haven’t done anything I haven’t wanted to do. And I’ve busted my ass and had some of the most amazing runs and yoga classes. Something feels right here. So I’m gonna keep on following it, one day at a time.

 

What do you think? Have you ever tried to run or work out intuitively? How did it go?

Come on speak up out there–I know some of you think I am crazy–that this is kooky talk. I wanna hear from you regimented guys and gals as well! 

What is your relationship like with your body right now? Has it changed over the years? Do you feel like you are on the same page with it, or is there a lot of pushing and pulling? If you could, is there something you would change about the relationship you have with your body now?

 

 

 

I’m so glad we’ve found each other here, let’s connect on Instagram  as well! I blog once or twice a week but I’m up and “running” 😉 there daily. Please come find me! x

 

header image: joao ferreira