Ideas about change and growth have been percolating in my mind the past few weeks. This weekend I thought about it some more while out for a run on Saturday morning. I was at Miramar Lake and had to park down the street a bit because it was already packed at 7:00 a.m.! The loop around the lake is 5 miles and I was planning to run a bit farther. For the first couple miles, I kept thinking about how far I was going to run, what route I would take after completing the full loop, etc. The options were endless – and they ran through my mind, distracting me from enjoying the run for several minutes.
Suddenly I thought, “Why don’t I wait and see how I feel after running the lake once?” There it was: recognition that I didn’t know and couldn’t control how I was going to feel 30 to 40 minutes from now. Sure, I could have a goal to run farther, but why not let the run unfold and listen to what my mind and body told me in the moment?
This idea has occurred to me frequently over the past couple years, particularly while running or swimming. When I focus on the distance I plan to run or swim, instead of focusing on running the steps or swimming the lap I’m currently on, I’m disconnected from the moment. If I’m currently feeling strong and capable, I may set an unrealistic goal based on those feelings. Or, if I’m currently feeling sluggish then I project that forward and think there’s no way I’m going to be able to finish that many more miles or yards.
I have found a lot more enjoyment in both forms of exercise by learning to stay present and take what my body and the conditions give me. It has become more about enjoying the process than achieving goals. I love to run and swim. I don’t want to rush through these activities so I can cross “exercise” off my list for the day. Realizing that my feelings are always changing has also been enhanced by focusing on growth over achievement. I’m seeking to improve my running and swimming skills over time, rather than focusing on specific goals that would require much more time and dedication than I’m currently willing to give.
Embracing the fact that things are always changing, including our feelings at any given time, makes it so much easier to remain mindful and present in the moment, because you know there’s no sense in trying to control the future. There are an endless number of variables that impact our physical and emotional states at any given time. Being mindful and present gives us the best chance of adapting to those changes as they occur. Being disconnected by analyzing how we’re going to feel and what we’re going to do in the future does not enhance our performance, and actually robs us from enjoying the process too.
It gave me a little rush to realize this connection between being in the moment and embracing that change is constant. That bit of enthusiasm helped me have a really great 7 mile run while listening to a wide variety of music. This is another trick that reminds me to stay present: I like to listen to Pandora’s shuffle setting and not let myself skip songs that aren’t particularly great for running. It’s fun to let the music shape how I’m feeling and just go with it. This run, it happened to play a lot of music that reminded me of Dennis. So, instead of analyzing my running performance, I enjoyed thinking about my sweet husband and how he has made my life so much richer while running to some of “his music” – Vicente Fernandez, disco, and Bruce Springsteen.
So, that was my lesson: focusing on the activity of running while listening to random music, rather than accomplishing a certain goal, is more enjoyable and gratifying.