Zen and the Art of Running

When I first bought my nook back in 2010, I downloaded what I thought was the complete version of this book. The reason I could not for the life of me remember reading it was that I hadn’t, resulting in plowing through the introductory sample in less than 30 minutes. I immediately downloaded the rest of the book without hesitation, and my plans for working through this book throughout the span of my weeklong on call vaporized in a morning of in bed reading.

20140123-190549.jpgMorning bliss!

Excuses, we all make them. I’ll be the first to admit that I am guilty of throwing heaps of them around to get out of running. Honestly, I am public enemy number one when it comes to sabotaging my success as a runner. Since lacing up in winter 2009, I have gone through waves of training and periods of idleness, and later burn out and frustration. Larry Shapiro’s Zen and the Art of Running: The Path to Making Peace with Your Pace is without a doubt, one of the most useful books on running I have ever read. I knew from the get go that Shapiro’s approach was intended as a run-spirational self-help book, but little did I know how much it would shift my perspective, especially with regard to making excuses.

The Zen Practice activities really give the reader the opportunity to whip out their journal and brainstorm. I’ll confess that my Zen was out of whack as I eagerly tackled the questions posed in the EPs. Even completing a bare bones version of each task, I had enlightenment glaring back at me. Taking a view at the greater picture, the segments about travel running issues and work-related factors impacting one’s justification of running avoidance struck particularly deep, as since I started flying, I’ve developed quite the cache of self-imposed “Get Out of Jail Free” cards when it came to running. When did running, become my own personal Alcatraz? It’s time to make an escape. I look forward to exploring myself as an endurance athlete, by further delving into my laundry list of excuses.

Every day is a new start!

While the “RUNNING Tips” sidebars were quite useful for runners of all levels, I didn’t find use for “From the Mouths of Runners” quotations. I do appreciate the sweeping range of ages, but for the novice runner these comments can be off-putting. Shapiro’s personal anecdotes and clear examples provided me with the connection necessary to properly engage the material. While the early chapters snowballed my reading pace, I came to a grinding halt with chapter five: “Training the Zen Way.” I felt like too much technical material was cramped into the single chapter. Honestly, I made three passes at the “The Middle Way to Train” subsection, before giving up and moving on to chapter six. I need to find my Zen focus before I revisit it.

Hitting the treadmill with a new outlook!

One of the essential chapters all runners should read is seven: “The Zen Guide to Injury and Aging.” I firmly believe that many of us do not consider the effects of overtraining nor the emotional abuse we may inflict upon ourselves as a result of injury. Also, coming to grips with aging is something someone in their thirties doesn’t necessarily consider. If I am to continue running until I’m a grizzled old beach bum, realizing my body won’t be the same now as it will be in ten, twenty, or thirty years. Heck, considering the Zen approach, I am a different runner each time I lace up. Talk about a refreshing change of pace.

Several things I need to do before applying what I’ve learned is finding time and the proper locations to complete the tasks presented by Shapiro. As I’m in the midst of my on call week, I cannot shut off my brain and unplug for the world. I am going to try the basic meditation exercises over the next week, and see if I can clear some of the clutter out of my mind palace. The activities requiring a track I intend on tackling when I get home at the New Smyrna Sports Complex. It may remind me of running the mile in high school P.E., but it will be just me and the track without distractions. With regard to treadmill running, I find it a necessary evil, especially on short layovers when I am near the airports without safe places to run.

Working on making smarter decisions!

I found the section focusing on how running can impact and break relationships disheartening. Likening running to addiction, albeit a healthy one, and exploring how it can destroy relationships, was difficult for me to swallow. I am blessed that my friends and family understand my desire to run, and how it has impacted my life for the better. I certainly hope that I never have to deconstruct my reasoning to justify and explain why I enjoy it, nor do I hope it ever becomes a wedge in my relatioships. Though I love running and racing, running isn’t the only thing which defines me, so I believe it will not become a volatile issue. Should it develop into one and I am unaware, I give my friends and family full permission to stage a How I Met Your Mother-style intervention and Bon Saget better be narrating!

I need to go on a HIMYM bender!

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