In my last blog I spoke about my learnings from Peak Performance, more specifically about living with purpose. I wanted to come back to another important aspect of life that I’ve been inspired to work on (because of that book as well). Mindfulness. Have you noticed the “trend” lately from many of the top athletes of practicing meditation? I was like you, “yeah yeah meditation, yeah I know it’s good for you, but I don’t know if I’d like it,” I thought. I read it over and over in many tweets and blogs and still didn’t give it much real thought. Now, I am science-based. I need to see things scientifically proven before I’ll fully get behind them. Cue Peak Performance. One of the chapters I was listening to was detailing how to “rest like the best.” After all, training at the top level is in vein unless you are able to recover from this stimulus. Here pops up an entire chapter dedicated to mindfulness meditation. Meditation? There’s that word again. Hmm. I better give it some thought, I guess. I listened to Brad and Steve explain how mindfulness meditation can help your brain go from work to rest and that the top employees at Google had been using it for years to achieve “peak performance.” I was intrigued. Moreover, I was amazed with the simplicity in the way that they described the practice and realized it was SO much easier than I thought. Simply, mindfulness meditation is sitting quietly, focusing only on one’s breath. They suggested starting with just ONE MINUTE per day and increasing over time. Now one minute a day? Who can come up with an excuse for that? Set a time, and focus on one’s breath – not complicated at all.
So I started. With just one minute per day for the first week, increasing to 2 minutes the second, and then to 5 minutes with some sessions lasting even 30minutes per day. I have been doing so for over 6 weeks now. Want to know what I’ve learned?
1) Mindfulness meditation is all about being PRESENT. I think we’ve truly forgotten what this is. We are so busy thinking about what we’re going to do tomorrow, or what happened yesterday, or what’s for dinner that we forget to enjoy the MOMENT. Just sitting and focusing on you breath teaches you to slow down for a minute and appreciate just living, being healthy, and just being. Have you been present?
2) I’ve also become more in tune with my breathing. Practicing breathing deeply and exhaling fully has made me feel that much better in workouts and easy runs. I feel as though I am breathing deeper and in a more controlled manner.
3) Enjoy the little things. After I finish a meditation session, I feel much more in control of my life. I am able to control my emotions and reactions better (as Peak Performance shows is proven through research) and am more calm. I am also more aware of my surroundings. I will go for a recovery run and actually look up at the beauty around me, take in the blue skies, the feeling of running and being fit, being outside in the fresh air and appreciating all of it. Practicing meditation has helped me slow down in this technological age to be more mindful and truly enjoy the little things in life.
4) Focus. I have found that with being in the “present” I am able to focus more and get a lot more out of myself during workouts. I have been working on just pushing at that moment, during that interval, without worrying what’s ahead of me. This will be a very valuable skill to carry forward to racing especially during longer distances when I begin to get tired.
On top of my meditation I also started FLOATING, inspired by Adam Hortian. Floating is very complimentary to meditation. It involves an enclosed tank with a very high concentration of epsom salts where you lay down and automatically float. Here you have no sense of sound, sight, or even touch since the water is body temperature. I’ve been going to Nu-U Float in Brantford here and been really enjoying it. A great local, family run business. I’ve been floating once a week, every week or two. Floating is an amazing experience.
Don’t worry about being claustrophobic or what you think about when you are in there. Just go there and each session with have it’s own experience. You lay there and let your body relax and eventually you will drift into a state of pure relaxation. Being completely present in the moment with no distractions from sound, sight, and especially not from your cell phone. 1 hour of uninterrupted relaxation which will further set your body into recovery mode allowing you to take in all those glorious gains from your workouts. I think floating has been key to helping me hit new levels with my training and keeping my body healthy and injury free. Don’t knock it until you try it. Honestly. Learning how to actually relax will empower you and allow you be more productive. Some of the benefits include: stress relief, meditation, introspection, creativity, pain reduction, improved recovery, better sleep, and magnesium absorption. Try reading/listening to The Float Tank Cure if you’re interested in learning more in a short 2 hour book.
I’m on a mission this year to stick with a “Growth Mindset.” That is, to work on myself as a person in all aspects of life. This includes education – taking an online course and applying to Physiotherapy school; mental fitness – I’ve read “How Bad Do You Want it” “Peak Performance” “The Float Tank Cure” and am currently reading “Endure” all are very complimentary books; and personal happiness – being present, not stressing the small stuff, and going all in without worrying.”
Fast forward to this year’s training, I’ve run the best training block to date. Including many 130-140km weeks and amazing workouts hitting times I’ve never hit. Check out my strava for more details. I also had a few great races so far this year including a 4th place finish at Robbie Burns 8K and a win at Refridgee-8er 8mile in crazy freezing rain conditions.
I had a few minor setbacks with a cold that I’m (still) fighting (and was fighting leading into Chilly Half) so that was a bit disappointing not to be able to show my fitness level there. However, that was a great win in terms of mental toughness. I was not having a great day but I pushed myself to give everything I had on the day knowing it was not my best but I needed the experience to be able to get through tough races in the future. I look forward to racing ATB 30k, Spring Run Off 8k, and Mississauga Half-Marathon. All events that I’ve raced before and each of them are so well organized. I am really looking forward to bring my experiences with meditation into my racing and getting closer to my limits than ever before.
I challenge you to try meditation (and maybe even floating :)). Start with 1 minute a day for a week. I guarantee you will notice changes in yourself. It is very surprising but a wonderful surprise. Check out this free app that I use called “Insight Timer” you can either do a guided mediation so you get a feel for what to do or use the timer function and pick your favourite background music.
Let me know how it goes! I hope to see you all out there on the roads this spring until then…