I recently came across this blog post that lists the 12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk. Being more focused and less scattered when we do things in all aspects of life is something we could all gain from, and I’m no different. These are some good guidelines that we can adapt to our own lives. Plus, the article reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write a blog post on mindfulness myself. I even have a list of notes saved in my unfinished articles area about the topic, so what better time than now to tackle the subject? Now is good.
Strangely, I seem more focused when I train and race than I am in some other parts of my life. I’ve been known to do some work on email in front of the TV, although I try and reserve the more monotonous things for this treatment. I do know that trying to do high quality work while being constantly distracted is a recipe for error and omission, but some of us work in careers that demand high volumes of deliverables along with almost constant availability to others. This is less so recently in my career, but I do understand how that can be expected. And the whole eating while doing something else— ahh…guilty. I think we should begin to use the dining room table we now have instead of the couch in front of the TV. No, Alicia, commit. Starting tonight, we’ll begin using the dining room table to eat dinner. No TV. No distractions.
I think I do a little bit better job of focus and mindfulness when it comes to athletics. I rarely use my MP3 player when I ride or run because that takes my attention away from riding and running. Funny thing is that I desire the noise of “pump u up” music in my ears less and less now that training is more about relaxing and staying fit instead of hitting volume numbers and competing for speed and fitness for an upcoming race. Like they said in the Zen Monk Rules piece: when walking, walk. Likewise, when running, run.
I remember a conversation I had one time with newer triathlete training for her first half ironman. She had begun doing some longer runs to prepare and puzzed at how to get through these without getting so bored that she wanted to stop even with her MP3 player. I thought to myself, so what do I think about when I do a long run? I focus on my running form, the movement forward, the pacing, the how I feel, the reminder to stay relaxed, the mental triggers to keep my turnover high. So I shared these suggestions, but she looked disappointed that I didn’t hand her one of those Easy Buttons. But there is no easy button. When running, run, and think about all things running. There’s a surprising lot to think about and after you’re done, it’s refreshing to have focused on a one single thing that wasn’t family schedules, work stresses or other usual noise that crowd our consciousness.
Marc Becker has an article about mindfulness that has lots of good suggestions too. His comment about having “two minds” at work so that there’s a balance of concentration and relaxation is instructive. I’ve always like the approach of trying to relax everything, mentally and physically, that isn’t absolutley necessary to do what you’re doing during training or in a race, as a good way to ehance efficiency and reduce unecessary energy cost. In endurance races, which all triathlons are, enhancing efficiency and reducing unecessary energy costs lead to better and more rewarding performances.
One importantly unecessary energy cost is worrying about errors or unexpected situations that occur. These things happen. We can’t expect to anticipate everything and sometimes we just make a boo boo when we shouldn’t. Crap happens. Address it and move on. Energy spent beating yourself up because of some snafu is energy that could be used to finish executing a killer race. This is true in training as well as races. You wouldn’t want to train behaviors that you wish to avoid in races, now would you? Focus on what you should do to do things well and let the rest go.
So join me as I concentrate and relax and be mindful like a zen monk. Do what you’re doing and do it fully. One thing at a time.