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Monday, May 11, 2009

The Elephant and the Rope/

My Running Secrets

I love analogies. Jodi told me about a really awesome one the other day. You may already know about it, though, because she seemed to think it was common knowledge already. But I hadn’t heard it before, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the “elephant and the rope” analogy. When elephant herders want to restrain their elephants to a tree, they will tie a rope to their foot and to the tree. The funny thing is that this will successfully restrain an adult elephant who could easily snap the rope without much effort, but they won’t because they don’t know that they can. This is because they remember being tied to the tree when they were young, and couldn’t break the rope, and they don’t think to try it again, because the rope has already mentally defeated them.

I’ve been recognizing parallels to this concept everywhere in my life- figurative “ropes” that I have let defeat me, despite my potential to snap them. When I was in third grade, probably about 8 years old, my school had “after school activities”, which I loved. Every so often a newsletter would be sent out with a list of the activities, and I would sign up for my favorite one- I remember doing “Chinese Kite Design”, “Mask Making” and “Interpretive Dancing”- I always looked for the artsy ones. It was just stuff to do for one hour afterschool- and then we would take the late bus home. But one time, I was late signing up, and the only activity left was “Fun with Balls and Games”, which sounded better than nothing, so I signed up for it. As it ended up, I was the only girl in the class, which was held in the gym. We played games like dodge ball, kick ball, and soccer. All the boys taunted, tormented and picked on me throughout the session. I begged my mom to let me quit the session early, but she wouldn’t let me because she had already paid for it, so I was stuck. I was clearly not as athletic as the other boys in the class, and it ended up being a very traumatic experience for me. At some point during the duration of the class, I mentally vowed to myself to never ever ever again participate in sports or athletic activities. That was the rope that tied me to a tree for a very long time.

Throughout middle school and high school I avoided sports at all costs. I just knew that those things were “not for me”. It’s not that I consciously connected athletic activities with that experience in third grade- it was just that my mind was already made up about them, so I never even considered or entertained the idea or questioned why I thought that way. Not until my adulthood did I start “testing” that rope (as well as many other “ropes” in my life). Never in my wildest dreams, would I have imagined that I would be running a 10K in a couple of weeks, much less being a “regular” at the gym, where the workers called me by name. Seriously! I would have not believed you if you had told me that 10 years ago! Of course, I had a lot of time to make up for- avoiding physical activity for about two decades, doesn’t put you in the greatest of shape. And another thing I would have never envisioned myself doing is what I am about to do right now: give running advice. I’m going to divulge all of my little secrets that I have concocted to be able to battle the beast of running. I consider them “running secrets for people who aren’t runners”. Those of you who ARE runners, don’t read this. It isn’t for you. You have your own secrets, so go away. AND if you were one of those boys from the "[not]fun with balls and games" class- you go away too.

OK, here we go. But wait! First: a disclaimer. None of this is scientific- it’s all just stuff I’ve come up with in my head that keep me going- it may not be true, it may be delusional, but I choose to believe in it anyways because it keeps me going.

Do you ever see anyone running without something in their ears? Nope. It’s because it is almost impossible. You’ve got to have some aggressive, bad attitude music in your ears that will make you feel like a super hero. I pretend like I am in an action movie, where I am the star, and my IPOD music is the soundtrack. There are camera men on either side of the treadmill filming me as I run like mad. Sweat drips from my chin and I stare straight ahead into the face of danger, determined like the awesome super hero I am, to defeat it! Without the music, you are just a frumpy mom pounding her feet on a spinning wheel while your butt fat jiggles.
I am in the process of publishing my Itunes Imix entitled “This is what is in my ears when I run”. You will be able to access it shortly on Itunes. Otherwise, if you’re interested in getting it sooner, holler and I will email it to you- it's pretty rad.

2. Rockstar
OK, this is a sticky one. Like I said, none of my advice is scientific, and this one in particular I’ve heard could make you die (but I think it’s unlikely). My theory is that you can battle the brain, but you can’t battle the heart (like the actual blood pumping organ the heart- not like your soul). If your brain is telling you to stop running, you can say “NO WAY!” but if your heart is telling you to stop, if it really just doesn’t have the ability to pump the blood it needs to pump in order to run the distance or speed you are telling it to, then telling it “no” won’t matter. If it can’t do it, it can’t do it, no matter how much will power you’ve got. SO, I feel like having a Rockstar before running, gives you the power to fight the inertia that initially holds you back in the beginning stages of the battle. The running you do powered by Rockstar, may not burn calories or increase your metabolism (but maybe it does, I don’t know), but it does strengthen your heart, so that the next time you run, your heart will have more muscle, and be able to take the heat. However, it is addicting and you can easily get to the point where you don’t want to run at all without the Rockstar, so be careful.
I drink sugar-free or no-carb Rockstar (the white or blue can). I think the unhealthiest part about it is the acidity- so drink it through a straw to save your teeth. It doesn’t have aspartame like some of the other diet energy drinks, so I don’t think it will give you cancer. I’m positive that there is more to it than just caffeine- if you try it, you’ll see.

3. Mental Mantras
I believe the hardest part about running is battling the mind. Your brain will tell you to stop, and you’ve got to overpower your brain. It’s very similar to going through labor- I recommend the Bradley’s method over the Lamaze method (embracing the pain as opposed to resisting it). Just like contractions, your mind will go through waves of resistance (at the peak of each wave, your brain will say “time to stop”). Bradley method will teach you to “ride” the wave, anticipating the pain, without dreading it, being “in the moment” knowing that it is temporary, instead of clinching your teeth waiting for the end.
One of the obstacles of overpowering the mind is occupying your brain for the duration of the run. Sometimes I occupy my brain with “body scans”. I start at my toes and work my way up, having a mental dialogue about what my body is experiencing. I say “how are the tip of my toes?”, “good”, “are they experiencing any pain?”, “no, there’s no pain, just some pressure on particular toes, but not pain”, “good, ok how about the arch of the foot. How is it”, “the arch is feeling good, no sharp pains. Possibly some aches with each step, but overall doing well, maybe even some pleasantness caused by stretching the foot”, “alright, great! Now how about the heel?” “the heel is experiencing the most pressure of any part of the foot, but it is dealing well with it”. And I move up the body examining each body part for pain. If you actually are having real pain, then maybe you’re running too far or too long, or don’t have expensive enough shoes. But I find that usually when my mind starts to tell me that I am in pain and need to stop, that if I actually try to analyze my specific body parts, there really is no one body part experiencing pain- it’s just a collective experience from the body as a whole, that makes me think I am in pain. But I’m not. Does that make sense??
Sometimes also, I watch the numbers on the treadmill dashboard as I run and I have a rhyming chant to associate with each tenth of a mile. For the first tenth I say in my mind “one one one, run run run” over and over again in sync with my steps. For the second I say, “two two two, through through through”. Three is free, four- more, five- alive, six- kicks, seven- heaven, eight- great, nine- fine, and ten- AGAIN!! (and then I start over).

4. Positive Thoughts
Ok, this part I think IS scientific- I just can’t site my sources for you. But I did hear it somewhere. Negative thoughts actually DO make your muscles weaker. So cast the negative thoughts out of your brain and only think about positive happy things (maybe I heard it from Peter Pan). Today while running, the thought of an insulting, and disturbing email that I recently received creeped into my brain. I immediately casted it out, telling it that I would come back to it later, but NOT while I was running. You must infuse your brain with delusionally positive thoughts. You can come back to reality after you run, but while you are running, you must convince yourself that you are the strongest person on the earth, that you are so stinkin awesome and then nobody better mess with you, because you got what it takes to take over the world!

5. The “red” zone
The “red” zone is located at the end of your running timeline. It is the zone where your brain is telling you that you absolutely cannot take it anymore. Once you reach the “red” zone, consider it a victory. Then, while you are IN the red zone, imagine that you are actively converting it to a NONred zone- because the next time you encounter it, it will no longer be a beast to you. Your most productive running is done during the “red” zone, so cherish your time there, knowing that it is hard to get to, and be thankful that you made it there. Every single step you take into the red zone is a step of triumph.

6. Magic Gas
One of the main principles of natural childbirth is breathing. So is true with running. If you can get yourself into somewhat of a trance, while concentrating on the rhythm your breathing- that is good. I imagine myself breathing in magical power gas that delivers supernatural strength to my muscles. Sometimes I even follow the air along its journey through my body- in the mouth, down the throat, filling my lungs, getting connected with the blood in my capillaries, then flowing to my muscles which drink it up and use the energy to fuel me onward.

Those are the methods that I can think of right now. If I think of any more, I will add them to the end in blue, so that you can spot the addition. I hope this helps some of you (like Cassey). But even if the “ropes” that are tying you to a tree, aren’t ones associated with running, remember to keep testing them. Never assume that because they defeated you once, that they will continue to do so. Examine your life- you may not even be aware of a “rope” that is holding you back. What freedoms are you senselessly denying yourself? What “ropes” do you have??


Cassie said...

if only there were an epidural for running! :)

i want the imix. i've tried to be spiritual and pray my way through it...more like BEG my way through it...but i eventually just start repeating the lord's prayer because i get to a point where i can no longer think...

i'm a sorry case. i am seriously "just a frumpy mom pounding her feet on a spinning wheel while you butt fat jiggles."
only i run outside. so the whole world sees me as they drive by. people usually slow down and stare at me to make sure i don't need help and am not running from a predator. for real. it's awful.

Connie said...

I love reading your blog. I know I am your mom so people are probably thinking I only think your blog is special because I am your mom, but I think if I wasn't your mom I would read your blog and think, "I wish she was my daughter" or "I wish my daughter was as creative and funny as Naomi."

Naomi said...

Ok Mom... but I know you would still want Jolleen as a daughter even more.

Connie said...

Nope...I never cease to be amazed and oh so thankful that you are my daughter.

LottaMadness said...

One I do is I give other runners names depending on how they run. Like there is Turtle Man who sticks his head forward while he runs...all he needs is a shell on his back. Then there's Bullet Calves who looks like he's taken a bullet to his left calf muscle. Limpy Lady runs with a limp (I think her right side is actually slightly deformed) but she's always out there...running. There's also Skinny Grayhead - an older man who has lost quite a bit of weight since we started crossing paths on the open space trails.

BTW, I use most of your techniques - haven't tried the Rock Star tho!

Nichole said...

Naomi, you are my hero what the heck no you are a runner! Wow that is awesome, good luck with you 10K. I am about to join the gym becasue I can no longer find my body so please post your itunes and maybe some gym secrets:)

Colleen said...

I have to say that running and childbirth is a perfect comparison. So when I deliver in December I am going to drink a Rockstar right before we go into the hospital.

Me said...

i need your mix!

Holly said...

is your mix up yet?
what's it called.

I saw a Naomi's on there but it was FOR SURE not yours ;-)