For the last 5 years, once a week, I have been attending a core strength class for runners from my friends at The Body Mechanic. It is a key workout of my week and when I miss the class, I do the exercises at home.
I know they help me physically.
And they make me FEEL strong.
The physical benefits of this routine are evident just by looking at my health insurance statement. In my first few years of running, I was troubled by constant injuries. Now I’m running longer and faster than ever before and I get away with general body maintenance & massage - touching wood.
Another result of the physical improvement shows in my form. My race finishing photos were the last thing you would want to put up on a wall on display. They showed my lack of coordination, my knees were falling in, shoulders dropping, head tilted on a side, totally out of whack. I looked in pain, even when I wasn’t. I am still very far from having a composed style, but at least, I don’t ask the race directors to remove my photos from their site anymore!
I am diverging from the topic… I came to realise that the second benefit of “feeling strong” is the main reason which has kept me so committed over the years. I associate the exercises, stretches and movements, to a feeling of building strength and having strength. Just by re-enacting these movements, I can almost instantaneously enter that mental state.
In other words, by changing my physiology I trigger a change in my state of mind.
This has translated in different habits and routines, I incorporate in my warm-up and at the start of a new day.
I do a few push-ups in the shower, stretch my back, 30 seconds of lunges and groin stretch. Before a race, I do step ups and squat at the start line. While running, I often do few butt kicks, extend my arms above my head, do some chest rotations. When I stop at checkpoints I may do a "Richard Simmons" for a few seconds and maintain a squat.
These movements last only few moments and don’t make any physical difference.
But the mental uplift is real. And to me, it’s all that matters.
There is an endless list of changes in physical states which I found create positive feelings. Feelings of energy, strength, readiness and self-belief. I now invoke these changes on purpose, when I need to prime myself for the day, for a hard training session, for a race or I need a pick-up.
The opposite is also true. More powerful and scary!
Just try to go out one morning and run looking 50 centimetres ahead, hunched and with a sad face. It will ruin your run and probably your day!
Maybe, like most, this is exactly how you run when you bonk. No amount of caffeine and pep-talks will get you out of that near-death feeling, if not coupled and supported with a change of physical state.
My point being that it is a self perpetuating circle. By changing our physical state, we influence our mind state. Which in turn will affect our physical state.
The body-mind connection is undeniably real and we are in control of most settings.
When all the dials are tuned to the best, we have a perfect run.
How do you put yourself in the best possibly physical state?