Part of the reason I run is the conversation, the creativity. I have learned the hard way that you can run the fun out and find nothing more to say. Or you can change up the route, the workout, the moment, and be inspired. I've spent a fair amount of time training when I felt crummy, wasn't all that motivated, but my tenacity kept me putting the miles in. Most of these runs were so-so, I didn't feel any better or worse after them, but I definitely didn't feel inspired either. On the other hand by running with people and carrying on certain social interactions (even if they're just in my own head) I've noticed runs soar by as if I had never really been running. I've found the simple act of acting like an artist during a run allows me to be creative with routes and workouts and more connected to what I am doing.
I can be bit of a science nut when I want to be and there is clearly a mind-body connection here. Yes I teach yoga, pilates, and work as a doula, so I do have my hippy vibe too, but don't be too fooled as I am quite grounded in what makes all of these work. Stay with me. Cortisol is a stress hormone while small amounts are good for performance too much can wreak havoc. It's what are body produces when we get anxious and overwhelmed. I see it most readily at births. If a mother can stay calm and focused she'll be less likely to have spikes of cortisol and less likely to feel the need for drugs and interventions. You know what else cortisol does? It crushes creativity. It literally shuts down the right side of your brain. Your brain and body goes into survival mode. There is no doubt that running can trigger over production of cortisol. It probably has the potential to give one that extra drive to win a race or set a PR. Unfortunately it can also potentially inhibit these as well. Ever go out for a race and lock up in the first few miles? Ever go out to the track with a split in mind and get frustrated when you can't seem to hit it? Do you feel better when you start focusing on your breath? Do you feel more at peace when running on a new trail? That's hormones!
A few days ago Outside Magazine came out with the article Running on Empty. It's definitely worth a read and a big issue for the endurance runner especially those pushing the envelope. Towards the end of the article they've quoted Mike Wolfe in regards to overtraining, "I believe in the mind-body connection... I've often wondered myself and others having worked so hard for so long at some point the mind quits before the body and just says, 'Enough.'" Anna Frost a few years ago speaks about getting to a very low point and how she was running without the love of it in this beautiful video by Salomon. She says, "it took a long time before I got out a pair of shoes again to go and do what I love and not just go and run." To me this is exactly the missing link, when running loses it's sense of creativity we are running on empty. We aren't inspired and we're hurt, tired, drained, and just plain exhausted.
By focusing too much on the outcome we lose our creative spirit. How many times have you been out on a run and so focused on a future race that you've missed the experience of the run you're on? I can say I have been there. The problem is that getting fixated on an outcome is more likely to heighten anxiety and stress. The best runs and races in my life have been the ones where I am present. It's probably asking too much to make all runs inspirational, but I have made an intention of this in 2015. This morning I had a foggy run with my friend Linn in Redwood Park. We took a very typical out and back route, but what we shared in that 60 minutes left me inspired. She told me about a friend of hers who said, "much of our suffering comes from wanting things to be other than they are." I would take it one step further to say that suffering is a loss of creativity, of being playful, and in the moment. When we can be open to a process regardless of the end result we can open up a whole other side of our brain. We can move without fear and explore our true potential. Be creative folks.