Chasing Mindfulness (literally!)

Vinitha Pastor's picture

In late 2014, I decided that I needed to put more of a focus into my own health and mastery. Several of my clients and friends were my inspiration to start training and running. I have never been athletic, nor have I ever played a sport. And every time I had put forth some effort into walking or running, I usually would quit after about a month because it was “too hard.” This time was no different.

My first 5k race this year was in January. I decided to do it on a whim and the only thing I had done to make this a goal was to buy a Fitbit. At this race, there was somewhere in the neighborhood of around 15,000 people there, and I was in the second to last group of people. It was 32 degrees outside. It took me almost an hour to finish. As I alternated between running and walking (more of the time was spent walking), all I could think about is how out of breath I was, how frozen I was and getting to the end. It was pretty miserable experience. At the end, there was no pride that I had finished. There was the thought of how crazy I was to even try doing this. In the days afterwards, as my body recovered, I started to think about my experience and how I really let my emotions get to me. I was so focused on trying to keep up with others and finish that it made me more miserable. Someone asked me about the race route, and I had no answer for them because I didn’t know.

I had been working at Peachtree DBT and subsequently practicing mindfulness for about three years at this time. So when I started “training” for my next race (which meant that I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill a couple of days a week), I decided to use some mindfulness skills. I consciously put forth effort into focusing less on the time and how fast I was going. I focused more on my breath and how my feet felt in my shoes. I also noticed that I was clenching my fists so tightly that my hands would actually ache, so I relaxed them. It was a constant practice because my brain kept wanting to go back to how horrible I felt and how I couldn’t breathe. Two months later, I ran another 5k and cut six minutes off of my time. Once I stopped focusing so much on the end goal, the better I got at the process. It was amazing to see the difference!

Applying mindfulness to any activity we are doing is not easy. Nor is it automatic. Our brains are trained to think about anything except the task at hand. If it is focused on the task, it is likely going to gravitate towards the negative. However, when we actually put some effort into the practice of mindfulness, it can lead to a calmer, more effective life.