Most of the time I run by myself. Occasionally I run with a running partner and sometimes I run with my neighbour’s dog. Today I ended up with dog and running partner.
Before going on my run I always have a few mindful exercises to focus on. Today’s focus was to get out of “thinking” mode and in to “sensing” mode. These exercises help me stop my over-analyzing mind and bring myself back to the present while I am running:
- The first focuses on the passing surroundings. Today the sea was like an over-saturated photo. Such blueness! The waves were clean but big and I could feel, smell and taste the seaspray in the air.
- The second exercise was to observe my body in motion – the tingling of the blood rushing into my fingertips, the sound of my feet hitting the ground, keeping check on my breathing, observing the slight soreness in my right heel as it hit the floor. No reaction to them – just curious observation. Soon the soreness in my heel disappeared.
- The last exercise was focusing on my mind. The more you practice observing your thoughts the quicker you can bin thoughts that are not productive to your run. The occasional non-beneficial thought was quickly sent packing and I got back into my ‘enjoying the moment’ zone.
Now running partner is a taller-than-me Danish lady with legs as long as The Andes and a running stride that could get her across The Strait of Gibraltar in a couple of bounds. She also works at Club La Santa sportsclub so is in very good condition. We always start the warm-up run together and then with her usual smile and up-beat voice she says her catchphrase, “Have a nice journey”, and she’s off at her gazelle-like pace while I reply to her back, “Thanks. Same to you”. I observe how she doesn’t even seem to move with great speed but those strides take her well ahead of me. (It’s wonderful observing a fluid running technique.) However I noticed today the gap was less than usual…yesss!
Now that little 4-worded catchphrase is absolute prime when it comes to those moments when I’m not feeling like things are running smoothly on a run. I remember the cheery tone and those four words “Have a nice journey” and it’s an anchor for me to change my mindset in an instant and focus on enjoying the moment. Your runs are what you make of them. I like to finish my runs off on a positive note knowing that I was able to overcome non-productive thoughts.
So now it’s just me and my neighbour’s dog, Simba. He’s a very well-trained dog. His owner is a trainer himself who has completed many triathlons and often takes Simba on his runs. He’d be ideal for canicross, I know I can run with him on offroad trails without putting him on a lead as he’s obedient (most of the time!). As I ran I observed how 5 year old Simba (35 years in human years), moves with an endless amount of energy! Here’s another anchor to focus on my run I thought! I listened to his fast panting, tongue hanging out and zigzagging from one side of the dirt track to the other observing this and that. This dog runs with a curious mind!
Learning from dogs
Running with curiosity (like Simba) can help make runs more motivating. It is the reward that makes you enjoy running for its own sake rather than being overly focused on achievement. It is this curiosity that helps get over stressful moments in the body by being curious about how it feels and just by observing. Maybe you notice that your shoulders are tense, so you let go and relax into the run. There’s an intrinsic reward from that feeling of curiosity, to the joy of letting go and not getting caught up in stress. Look at every experience with fresh eyes like Simba does. This is especially useful for motivating longer-distance runs. If you get a fundamental enjoyment from just being out there running, it keeps you going.
So with this little tip from observing Simba I wish all those who have challenges coming up, whether it is a running race or getting on a treadmill or any other activity to have that curiosity to enjoy the experience for its own sake. it will help get you there to the final!