With racing cancelled for the foreseeable future (on Monday Chicago announced their cancellation) I have been in a weird spot. My running centers around racing and with them out of the picture I have not had the motivation to run. The last miles I ran were over a month ago.
The question over what I should be doing or even want to do as a runner is one that has been wrapped up in a yo-yoing back and forth between excitement and optimism about various projects and goals — the sort of focusing that this major disruption to life allows — and the fatigue and malaise that comes from the realization that this moment is anything but normal. I miss normal.
That said, I am putting this time off from running to good use. Absent the momentum and pressure of race training I am re-examining every aspect of my running practice. Much like one might begin the remodel of a room in a house by tearing it down to stud, I am tearing down my training methodology and starting to rebuild it one piece at a time. The various aches and pains I’ve carried since the late stages of my 2018 Columbus training speak to imbalances that I’ve tried to train through with mediocre results. So I am re-working my strength program. I know mobility is a crucial component for long-term health but I have always been good at finding reasons to avoid regular practice which then found me spending extra time trying to work through various aches and pains. So I am devising a regular, 10-minutes-a-day mobility program. I am regularly meditating. Slowly the foundation is settling.
This week’s newsletter is written in this spirit. Many of these links get back to basics in one form or another, whether it is looking at how keeping a detailed training journal (something I do, but not well) can help with motivation and detailing training breakthroughs and obstacles or providing an interesting look at how you can organize blocs of time during your day to make room for important work. Let’s dig in.
Sometimes you don’t realize how much you are mailing in certain practices until you take a long hard look at them. While I keep a training log, and have for years, too often I pass up updating it on a daily basis in favor of filling it in at a later date using the information stored in my Garmin app. Sure, the relevant information is transferred, but other important subjective information is lost when it is not automatically recorded. As I surfed my usual sites to find links for this week’s newsletter I found this helpful how-to on keeping a training log from Matt Fitzgerald. If you are new to running, it is a good tutorial on how to keep your own log. If you are a veteran runner like me, it may provide new ideas on what to keep in your own log. Despite my up and down consistency in filling mine out, I still do go back and mine my old logs for clues about what was helping me run well or what I was doing wrong when I was dealing with injuries. Logging my runs, workouts, and physiological information regularly is the best way to make sure I am building and maintaining the foundation I am seeking to build. Fitzgerald has some good ideas on what is worth tracking.
I love race day. I love being around other runners. I love the crowds. I love the buzzing anticipation at the start line. There is something about the in-person experience that just cannot be replaced. When Columbus Marathon race director Darris Blackford explained the decision to cancel this October’s race, one reason he gave for not conducting a virtual race was that the race experience simply cannot be duplicated when everyone cannot be together. Agreeing with that sentiment, I have been a skeptic of virtual racing.
I appreciated the new perspective this article from Amby Burfoot provides on virtual racing. He details the efforts made by bigger organizers such as Boston and New York to launch virtual races as a way to deflect the losses from cancelled events, as well as less heralded creations (a virtual run across Tennessee from Barkley Marathon creator Laz Lake expected to garner 200 entrants but instead grew to 19,000, helping to support the charities that Lake’s masochistic events support). Something I had not considered is that virtual racing has inspired a new group of runners who had previously avoided racing. Their reasons range from nerves about participating with so many other people to wanting to avoid the hassles of travel. Virtual racing is still probably not for me but it is good to see that in the middle of this disruptive time that so many runners, novices and veterans alike, are finding ways to enjoy the sport.
First, I will love any article that begins with an inside view of Steph Curry’s hurried late-game shot against Kevin Love from Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The story of that missed shot serves as the entry point for examining how Curry, and several other current and former NBA stars, prepare to handle the pressure of intense moments. Two points stand out from this lengthy read. First, the role of immersing one’s self in the moments that create discomfort. By envisioning those moments and practicing through them again and again one can build more efficient neurological wiring that is better able to handle the pressure. Second, the role of tuning out outside noise in order to calm the mind and create a deeper focus on why a pressure-filled moment is important to the competitor.
One of the insights from this article is the role of nature in recovery. Simply being able to look outside at a natural setting, or even having pictures of nature on your computer, can help reduce stress and enhance recovery. Beyond that, this article examines why humanity is attracted to water, an attraction that is likely tied to our prehistoric brains when the absence of readily available water meant that finding it signaled life and safety. Though we are past those days, we still have a craving for water and for the sense of calm it can provide. Plus, if you are anything like me, you could use a good vacation given everything that is going on. The beach and the lapping of the ocean does sound heavenly. I’ll be right back. I have to listen to a recoding of waves hitting the sand.
I’ve been using this space lately to create a conversation around the use of social media. This article from Cal Newport is interesting because it lays out crucial reasons why people should examine their social media use and details how social media companies engineer their platforms to compulsively suck users in. Capturing users is the name of the game for social media companies; it is the basis of their business model. The average user spends two hours a day surfing social media. Going back to my stated goal of rebuilding my running practice to include regular strength and mobility work, I have had to recognize that while I do not spend two hours a day on Twitter and Facebook, I spend more time on them than I should. I cannot say that I do not have the time to regularly mobilize and strengthen. I simply have prioritized other things, like compulsive social media use, over them. If you are in a similar boat, this article lays out ways you can better utilize your time while also enjoying the benefits of social media. You do not have to completely eliminate social media from your life, something I was considering several months ago. You simply have to better understand what you want out of your social media use and make a few small tweaks to create the experience you want and enjoy the benefits you want.
Another aspect of my running rebuild is planning how I utilize my time. During the stay at home order in Ohio it was easy to make time for my priorities because I had plenty of time at my disposal. Having gone back to work I have found that I need far more structure to make sure I fit everything in. The time management technique in this article, one of dividing your time into 25 minute chunks punctuated by quick breaks, may not be for you, but it raises excellent points about utilizing your time by focusing on the things that really matter to you and avoiding the pitfalls of trudging through lengthy “productivity” sessions that end in fatigue and mindless scrolling or binge watching shows. As the article’s author Dean Kissick asks after laying out his new practice of time management, “By changing my relationship with and appreciation of time, the technique has brought me to some profound existential questions about whether I’m wasting my life — my fragile, fleeting life — on activities I neither care about nor enjoy.”
This Week’s Quote
Post traumatic growth is when we change and evolve in good and healthy ways as a result of trauma.
It often involves finding meaning in our pain.
It can help to think of post-traumatic growth like kintsugi, a type of Japanese pottery made from broken ceramics. Artist use precious metals to put the pieces back together, and the repaired version is considered more beautiful and desirable than the original item—especially because the process takes quite a bit of time.
Some people tend to come out on the other side of trauma better off than they were before, while others don’t.
We don’t totally understand why this is, but one thing that crops up is that those who find meaning in suffering tend to be more resilient.
-From a post by Precision Nutrition
A Small Request
This newsletter is a labor of love and I would write it even if no one read it (as it is few people right now do). I do not write because I have all the answers but rather because the topics interest me and because writing about them allows me to further explore them, internally debate them, and work through them. I share these links because reading them and thinking about them helps me to be better in my running, in my coaching, in my relationships, and in life. If you read this newsletter and think it would benefit someone you know, I ask that you take the time to share it with them. If you have a question for me or a comment on how I can be better in this space, please take the time to reach out. Thanks.