Running with the Mind of Meditation: A Book Review

Good morning!

Today’s post is brought to you by the other half of 2 Generations Running! Enjoy! 🙂

The Other Half of 2 Generations RunningI started reading Sakyong Mipham’s   Running with the Mind of Meditation a few years ago, put it down, then picked up it again last summer when Nora and I were training for the Rochester Marathon.  And here I am leafing through the pages again, looking for the passages I especially liked (asking myself if I am crazy) – as  I have decided to register for the Bay State Marathon, in Lowell, this coming fall. (We are going to wait a bit to sign Nora up – just in case a new career takes her to distant frontiers, but I am kind of hoping that tradition will not be broken, and that we will be able to run this one together as well.)

Running With the Mind of Meditation: A Book Review | 2 Generations RunningThe fact that meditation is about being still, and running is about moving, and well…moving fast, does not mean that the two things are as different as it would seem. In fact , meditation can help athletes get more out of physical training because it helps them focus, can help control negative self-talk (and who doesn’t need help with this one!) and can help with the stress of becoming injured.

And since there have been so many studies and books coming out about the benefits of meditation in our everyday lives ( TV anchor, Dan Harris’s book 10% Happier comes to mind ), I decided the connection would not seem as  strange as it might have five or six years ago.

So, a little background: Sakyong Mipham  is a Tibetan lama and teacher and leader in the Shambala Tradition. He is also trained in martial arts, and this interest in physical activity eventually led to an interest in running. With many races, including 9 marathons, to his credit, I knew this guy could teach me a thing or two.

He actually makes many good points and suggestions that have helped me in my running, but I will touch on a couple I believe were especially helpful-

  • To acknowledge: This is a concept that is important in meditation, because if you sit cross-legged on a cushion for more than ten minutes, you are probably going to experience some discomfort – if not a full-fledged toe cramp! So acknowledging discomfort for what it is, accepting it, and simply realizing that it will pass, is a great piece of advice, and one that is usually borne out by the pain sort of fading on its own. This was big for me when I started on those long-long runs.  Needless to say, there was a good amount of discomfort (usually starting around mile 15) but I did find that if I acknowledged that  I was feeling tired, or winded from that last hill, I was less annoyed by my feelings. I even spoke to my discomfort out loud: “Hello there, Discomfort.  I was wondering when you would show up…come run with me… Only 3-5 (whatever) miles to go.” Silly, but it made me smile, and I found I definitely felt less tired.
  • Also, in running we become very focused on “Me”. We have to be especially if we are training for a long race, or hoping to PR in the next one. We need to worry about form, (Am I doing it right), about pace (I went out too fast), about fueling, (should I have eaten that entire Clif bar?). Running can narrow our focus a bit too much, something I also noticed in the past.

Running A Marathon ECard | 2 Generations Running

  • While meditation is usually about concentrating on the breath and trying not to have any thoughts, there are also meditations on compassion: this involves choosing someone specific and thinking about that person in a loving way. Those long runs were great opportunities for me to remember a friend in need, or a family member I had neglected! Of course, there was definitely some straying back to thoughts about me- my achy knee, or my refueling snack (after all, it’s a LONG run)but just like a meditation centered on the breath, you simply bring your mind back to thoughts of compassion or kindness about that person, or persons.

 


 

I actually wrote this a few days ago and let it sit,  because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end it. Then I went running Saturday morning.

Running with the Mind of Meditation Book ReviewAnd this is what it was like out. Bear in mind, it is March 28thand it’s snowing. That’s right. And though it wasn’t going to accumulate, it was going to flurry all day.  That didn’t put me in the best frame of mind but I knew the only runs we regret are the ones we skip, so I dressed and went out.

It wasn’t cold but the snow was in my face which made it surprisingly hard to see (or maybe that’s not all that surprising.). I told myself it would be better on the way back, but it really wasn’t. I was annoyed and I felt tired, more tired than I should feel after just a few miles. I started to think about the Bay State Marathon, and then it happened. A little voice in my head started to hint that I couldn’t possibly run another marathon, until it finally said loudly, “You’re a coward.”

And I thought Holy Cow, talk about negative self-talk!! Never mind all the meditation and all the books, and all the much longer runs and races I’d actually done: this was where my head went on that Saturday run.

Running with the Mind of Meditation Book ReviewI think you can tell that from this picture – my head was not in a good place.

So I slowed down. I tried to remind myself about this post, (about the things I believed I had learned but was clearly forgetting to implement) about running with discomfort, mental or physical. I started to pay attention to my breathing, and then I tried a meditation on others….I remembered Nora and I are running the Run for the Troops 5k  next month (and it probably won’t be snowing. We hope.), and I tried to think of the disabled veterans and their families that this group helps by building specially adapted houses.

It helped a lot and I finished in a much better place. But as I stood in our snowy driveway, sipping water, I decided I definitely  need to reread this wonderful book – as I get ready to run the Bay State Marathon.  Because one thing’s for sure: I’m no coward.


Born to Run {A Book Review}

Hey there and happy Wednesday!

So this past weekend, I finished reading Born to Run. It was such a compelling and fascinating read, I knew that I wanted to share a full review of it here on the blog (and hopefully convince some of you to give it a try!). So saddle up, and get ready for book club time!

Born to Run Review.The description of the book on the back cover reads, “An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?” This struck me right away as I have dealt with my own foot injury this past summer and more recently, knee problems.

As the author later points out, I’m not alone. 65 – 80% of all runners experience an injury every year. Isn’t that just insane? You would think that with all the improvements in technology, shoe design, and gait analysis, that running injuries would be on the decline, wouldn’t you? It’s not. It’s actually gotten worse as shoes have gotten fancier.

“Only 2-3% of the population has real biomechanical problems… Every time we put someone in a corrective device [i.e., orthotics], we’re creating new problems by treating ones that don’t exist.”

If you’re like me though, you’re probably thinking there’s no way you’re going to go all natural and tackle barefoot running in the 21st century.

New Girl Gif. 2 Generations Running.Hey, I have no desire to be picking bits of gravel or broken glass out of the bottom of my feet! But in my opinion, this book isn’t really about advocating one way or another for barefoot running. It’s about balance. As Christopher McDougall learns from watching the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico (arguably the best ultrarunners in the world), runners stand to improve more by focusing on form and cross-training than by buying the latest Nike sneakers. Not that it’s really cross-training for the Tarahumara; for them, it’s just sprinting after a rabbit for dinner, hauling firewood, or completing a strenuous 20-mile hike through the canyons to the neighboring village. It’s simply everday life. (I won’t lie, I’m happy it’s not my everyday life, but it works for them.)

McDougall also explains the evolutionary theory behind the history of running – were humans really born to run? And if so, why are injuries so frequent? This leads into explanations of persistence hunting – tribes would single out an antelope or gazelle and literally chase it until it collapsed. These animals can beat humans in a sprint, but they don’t have our endurance. These persistence hunts typically lasted roughly 3-5 hours. Do you know what else usually consists of 3-5 hours of running?

Marathon. 2 Generations Running“Our latter-day version of prehistoric hunting, the marathon. Recreation has its reasons.”

But if that’s true and we are born to run, why do so many people hate it? In the eyes of legendary track coach Joe Vigil, it was because running was “…too much about getting stuff and getting it now: Medals, Nike deals, a cute butt. It wasn’t art; it was… a hard-nosed quid pro quo. No wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end… then why stick with it if you weren’t getting enough quo for your quid?”

This passage really rang true for me. I remember loving the feeling of running around as a little kid. I wasn’t running to burn calories or get skinnier; I just enjoyed it. I still enjoy running, but I’ve definitely gotten more up-in-my-head about it, as I’ve grown up. Reading this book made me want to take a deep breath, and just go run, no GPS watch, just me and a trail to explore. Too bad all the trails around here are a little snowy for that right now. 😉

If you’re thinking that all the shoe and evolution stuff sounds kind of dry and scientific- you’d be wrong (at least in the case of this book). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Born to Run reads more like a memoir and even the most science-heavy parts of it are so clearly expressed that anyone can understand and relate to it (no biology degree required!).

Quote From Born to Run. 2 Generations Running.

So in sum, if you love running, read this book. If you don’t love running, but you enjoy a good adventure novel or have some interest in evolutionary theory, read this book. Basically, you should just read this book.  It’s worth it.

Have you read Born to Run? If not, have I convinced you?

*All quotes in this review come from author Christopher McDougall in his book, Born to Run.