Saturday, 4 June 2016

Esoterically Athletically – My New Approach to Training

New ideas can take a long time to germinate to trial and longer to reach execution.

I run differently now. I have a program targeting the Gold Coast Marathon in July, but I am not a slave to it. Why?

It was 3 years ago, either late July or early August. I had a coffee “date” with someone who among many things, is a student of esoteric living. In very simple terms, this includes, (and only includes) being honest with your feelings about everything, trusting these feeling and acting accordingly. It includes being “loving” to yourself, your body, to your being, and prioritising this as part of your daily life.

So, what has this to do with running training?  Keep reading, I haven’t gone mad. 

Our coffee (Peppermint Tea) ordered, I mentioned cycling 4 loops of Mt Coot-tha early that morning.

“Why four” she asked, “why not two”?

I stumbled an answer about 4 seemed reasonable adding some totally non plausible explanation.  

What the……….  Who does she think she is? Most people respond saying “wow” that is incredible but here is Ms Esoteric asking why.

It’s obvious - -  I did four loops because………. just because.

“Why push yourself to do four, did that feel hard on your body? She added

I stumbled again and quickly spurted out that it wasn’t hard and I wasn’t pushing myself unreasonably, I am fit etc etc.

I was incredibly unconvincing. I wasn’t telling the entire truth – the third lap was a struggle and I had to push myself and because it was so hard, I decided to do a fourth because that is what we athletes do. (But I didn’t share this)

Over the coming months and years, my Esoteric Student friend talked regularly about many things including treating our bodies kindly and lovingly. “Feeling into what are bodies are telling us”.  That more is not necessarily better and pushing ourselves physically is not necessarily sound.

I was largely dismissive of such an approach. I have grown up in a world of “no pain no gain”, “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”, “harder – faster – longer”, of course you have to train hard and of course it hurts. I grew up in a sporting household, a Physical Education Teacher Sister who played netball, tennis, cricket and softball and an Olympian Father where hard work was the answer to everything – toughen them up, train them hard.

Besides, what would Ms Esoteric know? How many Premierships has she been part of, how many times has she cycled the French Pyrenees, the Alps or dehydrated herself batting for 5 hours in the height of summer?

Training for the New York Marathon was hell – there, I have said it.

I followed a training plan. If it said run, I ran, the distance and time dictated in the plan, always, no matter what and did so often when in pain –  except when I was injured. When I recovered from said injury, I then doubled up my training sessions to catch up, that is until I was injured again. (looks like a repetitive cycle)

If the plan said run 28 kilometres I did, no matter how much it hurt. If it said run 10 k at an average of 5 mins 55 sec I did, no matter what muscle was straining, pain and all, often limping.

I am not saying every session was “hell” – just most of them.

But it was worth it. I ran the bloody the New York Marathon. I witnessed an incredible City from a unique perspective with a group of people from every point of the globe (55000 is a group).  I was the pretender in Brisbane team of amazing people all supporting and raising funds to support MND Sufferers and to contribute to finding a cure for the horrific disease that is MND.

But, in the back of my mind I knew I could not again go through the pain of a running training program, at least not without making some miraculous discovery of a miracle potion.

I thought about the “feeling” based approach Ms Esoteric had discussed with me. What was there to lose? Most of all, I could prove the whole “esoteric” thing to be rubbish.

You need pain to gain – you need to punish yourself physically, push yourself through the comfort zone to achieve physically – it is how it is and has always been.

For the last 3 months I have been following a training program aimed at the Gold Coast Marathon on 3 July – although I will probably only do the Half Marathon.

But I am not a slave to the program.

If the program says to run “today” I generally do. If it says run 10 k at 6.30 pace I may or I may not.

If I head out and don’t feel I am running “easy”, I stop after a few k, or slow down and see how that feels.

But also, if I get to 10 k and am feeling as if it all very easy and painless, I keep going. I am using the training plan as a guide while running a distance at a pace based purely on feel.

During the New York preparation, the most number of consecutive runs I completed without injury was 8. I realise that what I am about to say is tempting fate, but here goes anyway.  Through 56 consecutive runs to date adopting this new “feel” based approach, I have not suffered a single injury.

But what is extraordinary, I am running further, faster and more easily than ever. My “run to feel” approach has me running 46% further than the training program says to do, and at a pace that is 58% quicker. I have no stiffness the following day, no knee swelling, calf pain or hamstring tightness. My back is fine and even my shoulder is ok.

And, I am enjoying it – lots.  I look forward to my next run rather than dreading it.

My learning is, do what feels right and do what is kind to your body and your body will reward you many times over

It is just a pity that it took me 3 years to execute this.

Now, what is next? What else can apply this feel based approach too? What else have I learned but not yet executed?