Saturday, February 12, 2011

Less like a Math Test, More like a Painting

Derrick and I were snowshoe running on some new trails last night. There is something about how the pre-dusk February sun reflects on the pine trees and snow-covered land that gives it a magical quality. It is hard to describe, but the pale colours of the sky and snow meet the richness of the green in between and I am left in awe of the radiant beauty of nature around me. The base of snow is well over knee-deep now, but the trails are packed down by our snowshoes and I found myself feeling grateful for the ten-thousandth time for them allowing us access into the silent woods of winter.

Then, part way through the run my thoughts shifted to feeling the need to train more. I started to feel stress in my body, with the impulse to write up an ambitious plan and muster up the will to follow it as a top priority. To harness every one of my allotted type A brain cells because I'll need every one of them to keep me on track. In the past I have been able to motivate myself to train hard to try to meet particular goals, mostly out of insistence on following a plan like this. When I've succeeded it has been extremely satisfying and I've found out important things about myself in the process that will always be a part of me.

I call it the Math Test approach. It's a logical plan fueled in part by fear. I would be super motivated to work hard because I wanted to "pass", and was starting a long way from where I needed to be. Add to it a powerful underlying need to prove worthiness to myself and it's a recipe that has a serious punch of power if you buy into it. But now that I have learned from this approach (most importantly how untrue the worthiness thing is), I don't feel it is going to work again.

When I started feeling that stress yesterday I already knew that well was dry, so I shut it down right there. I reminded myself that for coming off of a long downtime I'm in a good place and there's nothing to stress about. (Really, why would I stress about my stress-reliever??) I re-focused on the beauty of the snowy woods around me, and felt the stress melt away. I definitely still have goals, but the process of reaching them needs to be a larger part of the enjoyment. Not just satisfying mentally, but day-in/day-out enjoyable physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The metaphor I'll use this time is that of a Painting - I have an idea of what I'm after, but I'm going to be open to letting the final picture evolve in a way that is a lot messier, organic, and fun. Like I did yesterday, I'm going to aim to stay in the moment and let it flow.

I would never say one approach is better or worse, it's just about finding what feels right and being able to adapt. When and if I try a 100 miler, it may very well feel like cramming for a math test again, or maybe I'll find some kind of good balance between the two approaches. There really is good in both of them, and it's not like I haven't enjoyed training before, that's obviously not true at all. It's just that I want a larger proportion of my runs to be from a place of truly loving being out there, not just being a slave to my training plan.


Buttons said...

Sara I think that is a great
no- plan. Enjoy the moment and nature the rest will take care of itself in time. Stress is your enemy. I love your logic in this. Beautifully written B

KarenM said...

HA!I just knew you were on to something big on last weeks lunch run! I could feel your energy, a bit reserved but there as a simmering power none-the-less. When 'it' comes, when 'it' wells up in great form, when you have nursed 'it' into what you want, in whatever form 'it' takes..I am soo very happy for you. And I'm cheering for you too!

PS. I like the picture of the trees. Were you making a snow angel?

EJ said...

I still have nightmares about cramming for math tests. For me I have to say that running is not my stress reliever instead I would like to say that running is my "passion" however that may be too grand verb to use at this point in my running career. I agree that I don't want the training and the races to be chalked full of stress. I want to run into the light and not the depths of darkness. I know that you have been doing this running thing longer then I and I trust your instincts and it makes sense to me so am taking your words to heart. Running faster does not make me more or less worthy. I would love to write more but I have to get to a race so I have to end this comment. Thanks for the advice. Eliza

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

interesting post. When I trained for western states last year I attempted to hire a coach....that lasted less than a month as I realized I didnt want to be a slave a training plan. It took all the fun out of just running, and being spontaneous. Training became a 'have to' versus a 'want to'.

I am all about just doing what you feel. As a runner, no matter what, you will be out there because that is what you love to do. And when you know you are going to be running a 100 miler for the first time, you don't make as many excuses not to be out there, because you know how screwed you'll be if you don't! However, you can still be spontaneous and have a great time said it best....why would I stress about my stress-reliever! brilliant