Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where's Your Mind When You Run? An "In The Zone" Moment.

Ten mile trail run today with my husband.  We ran along a section of the Deschutes River Trail where our dog Ashe could run leash-free and we could enjoy running along the river and up and over the rocky mountain path without trying to hold onto a dog that can likely run four times our speed and distance.  Ashe seemed to be the happiest about this about this decision --he ran in and out of the trees, ahead on the path and the occasional jump in the cold river to chase ducks --always coming back to check in before taking off again.  Ten strong miles for us and probably a good sixteen for him.  All of us, returning home tired, happy, and grateful for our time out there where we were able to expend our energy doing something we love:  Running in Nature! 

At some point in the middle of the run, I could no longer hear my husband behind me.  There was quite a distance between us, compared to usual when he's right at my heels pushing me on.  It was as if I was moving effortlessly up the hills and around the rocks.  My feet moved quickly on the downhills just like I have learned to do on these steep portions of trails.  Body leaning forward, feet landing softly. My entire body felt strong. Knees lifting.  Muscles firing. Mind present.  I realized my pace was much faster than a normal easy trail run.  But yet if felt as if I was floating. I was in a place with my running that would be best described by using the familiar term "in the zone".  I wasn't over thinking.  There were no emotions from the day clouding over me.  I was simply and powerfully: fully present in that running moment.

After awhile, I heard my husband say something to me.  I think it was something like, "Nice Push!" This kind of pulled me out of my zone-like trance.  Not in a bad way...just different. My mental chatter came back on and my mind wandered like it often does.  I could definitely notice a difference in my running effort and feel.

Where had my mind gone to where I didn't even realize that I was running this faster pace?  What were my thoughts?  

I thought a bit about this and realized that my thoughts during that time were in a place where I was envisioning myself RUNNING.  I was imagining what it felt like to run strong and effortlessly.  I was seeing myself in a race and doing tempo runs with a friend who had texted me about running just moments before I left for this run.  I was seeing myself with quick steps and a beautiful forward lean to my stride.  Remembering the trail running movie that I had watched earlier in the week and imagining myself as one of the runners on screen.  My thoughts were powerful in how they connected with my body and ultimately leading to my strong and comfortable pace that came so easily!

Obviously, not all my runs are going to be "in the zone" runs.  And I don't necessarily want them to be.  Every run is different.  When I need to process something that is heavy on my heart or when I'm stuck with an idea and need some creative flow, I want my runs to be about letting my thoughts wander so I can think while moving.  But when I'm dong a speed or tempo workout or racing?  I want to be in this place where my mind and body are focused on the same task.  I want to float.  I want to run strong and have it all come together in a way that feels like a fine oiled machine ...mind, body, spirt!

Running is different for all of us.  Some are super fast.  Some slow.  Many run for pleasure and race for fun. Others for personal bests, breaking records and winning.  No matter what kind of runner we are or where running fits in our lives, one thing remains the same for all of us:

Our thoughts are powerful!  Our minds are just as important as our bodies when it comes to running strong.  When we are focused on the moment and filling our minds with confident thoughts where we see ourselves running the way we want to run, it's amazing how our body follows suit.  

A moment like today is not a new experience.  It was a reminder though.  I was reminded of just how good it feels to be in this place where my mind and body connect so beautifully.  A place where my mind almost separates from the thoughts that are pressing and distracting and it goes to a place of its own where it connects with the running moment.  Legs and arms moving with the vision in my head.  Without even really knowing that this is what's happening until afterwards.  I love this!  THIS is how I want my races and workouts to be!

Today's strong run was a huge motivation for me as I get ready to kick off my Boston/Trail 50k training.  It was a run that made me want MORE of that "in the zone" experience.  I'm so thankful for a body and mind that allows me to run strong!  

1. Where's your mind when you're running?  
2. Have you found yourself in this zone-like state of running?  
3. Do you know how to get into this zone when you want?  If so, what do you focus your mind on?  


  1. Those experiences are awesome, aren't they?!
    I always find that the less I 'try' or focus on numbers or outcome it's easier to just get lost in the run. Sometimes I repeat that mantra "lost in the run".Another thing I find is that just being grateful to have that feeling of effort-appreciating it vs. fearing it.

    Like you, picturing running being effortless and natural frees something up mentally. And it seems easier to access on the trails....

    1. So true Adrienne...the less I "try" , the easier it is to get to this place! That's what happened yesterday! I love your comment here...good food for thought.

  2. I love getting in the zone like that! Did you wear your watch? I'm wondering how much you sped up! :-)

    1. You know, yesterday I did wear my watch...I've been running lots without it but yesterday I felt like I having a bit more control over my experience...I wanted to know distance and a little of the pace just for kicks. And it's hard to compare trail running like this to road so the paces don't hold a lot of weight. A 7:xx mile on trails for me is flying! 8's are fast for this terrain too! Where I run 7's and 8's on the road (6:xx for speed work), a 9:xx is perfectly acceptable (for me) for an easy run on the trails! 10s even on some portions. And over 10s on the climbs!

  3. I love those runs where you are in such a zone you don't even realize how far or how fast you have gone. It has been awhile since I've had one but I know the next one is out there!!!

    1. You will get there soon Kim! Keep staying positive like you've been!

  4. Sounds like you had a fantastic run. I am glad that you are able to appreciate and recognize those days when things come together. No wonder you are feeling a little fired up about you upcoming training! Love it! I wish I could stage those days, or know how to trigger them... can't get enough of that feeling. I do think that allowing yourself to run harder and asking yourself to be fully involved with the moment is a part of what creates these moments for me. It may be as simple that when you are pushing yourself you are forced to be absorbed in "the moment," your footing, your breathing, your goal ... it consumes you and doesn't leave a lot of energy for distractions like the real world... that stuff can wait. :)

  5. Wow, that sounds like a really great run.

    My thoughts change from run to run depending on what my mood is, what's distracting me, how my body's feeling. Sometimes I can be miles away and sometimes my thoughts will just flit from one thing to the next. It doesn't really matter what happens because I always feel good afterwards.

  6. What a beautiful experience! My mind can be busy but other times I can be in the zone, as you described. I don't know if it's the dopamine/serotonin rushes I get during running, but I will sometimes become so happy during my runs that I let out a sob! I am so grateful for the ability to run, to having my strong body, and for the life I'm living. Running makes me feel so alive!

  7. Some of my greatest runs are when I'm in the zone imagining a easy, flowing, strong stride. When I think of all of life's troubles and start to cry I flounder all over the road...but each run is necessary. Great blog! I look forward to following you :)

  8. Thanks for sharing! Nice post!

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