Last week, I attended a seminar ‘Mindfulness and the Endurance Athlete,’ held at GU Headquarters in Berkeley. The presentation was given by Bruckner Chase and Michelle Evans-Chase, athletes and ocean advocates. Read more about their foundation and what they do. Listen to Bruckner on the GU Pinnacle Podcast.
I hadn’t originally planned on recapping the event. However, I ended up taking a ton of notes (as I always do – I pay attention better when I take notes). In turning my notes into a sketchnote (which I often do to process information), I was hit by the urge to recap the event.
I’m an over-thinker in all things, in all circumstances.
I’ll think about a thing, then think about what I thought about it.
In most cases, this is fairly harmless. But especially when I’m on a run, when I have nothing else to distract myself with, the slight hint of something going wrong can set me off into a spiral of negativity, which can then turn into a (negative) self-fulfilling prophecy.
This presentation was focused at endurance athletes (am I an ‘endurance athlete?’ I guess so, but that sounds so much more highfalutin than I think of myself) who regularly endure physical and mental challenges for long stretches of time.
My Biggest Takeaways
I won’t recap the entire presentation, but instead, focus on my main takeaways.
I’ll use the phrase ‘on the run’ here because it’s my activity of choice and it’s how I processed the information, but most of their examples were focused on open-water swims. Both because it’s Bruckner’s activity of choice and because many attendees were triathletes who had questions focused on open-water swimming fears.
On The Run
Some takeaways are most applicable mid-run.
Acknowledge the Feeling Without the Judgement or the Story
So often when something bad happens during a run, I spiral. My thought process goes something like this: My knee feels funny – maybe it will get worse – maybe I’ll have to take time off from running – maybe I’ll have to find a sports physical therapist for rehab – will that be covered by my insurance? – what if I then can’t pace the marathon in a few months? … On and on (and on).
9+ times out of 10 it’s nothing. It’s a passing sensation that goes away and never happens again.
So acknowledge the feeling (for example, my knee hurts), without expanding on what it could mean, or what it may result in.
Other members of my running club were at the seminar, and on our long run a few days later we practiced this: ‘I am tired,’ ‘My knee hurts.’ Acknowledge it and end of story.
We did it (or at least I did it) a bit tongue in cheek and exaggeratedly, but even so, it was surprisingly effective.
Be In The Moment
At an event or in a training run, focusing on a thing that happened or on a thing that could happen takes away from the experience.
The examples they used were of how being in the moment during an open water swim may help you be aware of wave breaks that could provide a competitive advantage.
While the open water example doesn’t resonate with me personally, nor does seeing advantages that could result in winning a competition (I’m not the kind of runner who wins events), the idea still holds true.
When I am in the moment, I’ll notice the amazing scenery I’m running in, or notice another runner who may need a few encouraging words.
How Long Do You Carry a Negative Emotional Experience?
Bruckner asked this question rhetorically, and I immediately answered (to myself): Too. Bloody. Long.
It’s like that old saying: did you have a bad day, or did you have a bad 5 minutes that you milked for the entire day?
This is an idea I’ll have to remember, especially during trail races where a bottleneck, or some other issue at the start, will annoy me disproportionately and will keep me wallowing way too long.
Some of my biggest takeaways are most applicable when I’m not running.
Unlike the Body, You Can’t Overtrain the Brain
I loved this idea, but I think it was the weakest part of the presentation – it wasn’t very actionable. It still isn’t clear to me on how to train my brain.
They walked through the parts of mindfulness meditation and said you should do it at least 30 minutes a day, every day. But they didn’t get into the mechanics of that practice. As a newbie, it seems like too big a leap to go from where I am today (doing nothing), to doing 30 minutes a day, without more specific information, guidance or tools.
Even so, it’s a good idea to keep in mind.
Fear is of Something That Isn’t Happening Right Now. What Is Happening Right Now?
I know I’ll be repeating this to myself regularly, especially in the days right before an event as I begin to worry about all the things that could go wrong on race day. I’m also going to try and find a way to work this idea into my existing mental risk management framework.
The current draft of my mindfulness/risk management hybrid thought process goes something like this:
- I worry about a thing
- Determine if the thing is happening now or not (mindfulness concept)
- If it is happening now – acknowledge it or deal with it
- If it is not happening right now – are there elements of it that are (or will be) under my control?
- Yes? Take action to address/minimize/prevent the negative impact of the thing (risk management concept)
- No? Move on. It’s not happening now, and I can’t do anything to address or minimize the thing.
Recognize (and Acknowledge) Fear For What It Is
So many moments of fear (and other negative emotions) may be disguised as other things.
I may not even recognize something that is bringing me down (my ‘I suck’ moments) as fear, but as I think back on many of those moments, they are rooted in a fear of something.
For My Coaching and Blogging
There were even a few takeaways that I think I’ll find useful in the non-sporting arena. Takeaways for my coaching and blogging life.
It’s Not ‘What Can I Do’ – It’s ‘What Can I Do With What I Can Do’
This wasn’t part of the presentation, it was an off-handed remark made at the end, but it really resonated with me for my role as a coach and as a blogger.
Running X event is great, but how can I make it more? How can I use it to lift others up or inspire others?
I have (or at least am trying to build) a platform that can be used for more than my own advancement.
Don’t Let a Feeling Decide What To Do Next
This is true in all things.
While there may be extreme fight or flight feelings, those don’t really ever come up in my life. The feelings I have are garden-variety fear.
I shouldn’t ever let that stop me from… well… anything.
- Signing up for a race distance (that scares me)
- Doing more video (that scares me)
- Posting blog posts (where I’m scared of making a typo or appearing silly)
Feel the fear, and do it anyway.
What about you, do you use any mindfulness or meditation in your running?