Running; changing direction and taking it easy.

A personal update. Right now, something high on the list of things I'm thankful for - is running. 

It hasn't always been like this. I had struggled with running. It vexed me, because I wanted to run well. I could ride a bike, hike and climb with ease, but running always felt tough. It was confounding because in cycling and mountain climbing, I'd generally feel stronger as went. Running just rarely felt good, but I kept trying.

Eventually, I had two back-to-back injuries (partially ruptured achilles tendon followed by plantar facsciitis) over the past few years and there were a few times when I thought I was done with running. I recovered some and started running again. Then last year I did a race and got eliminated because I never made a checkpoint on time. I was demoralized. Even this year, I was still walking with a limp and it didn't seem possible to get past that. Something had to change and I faced the truth. I was just hurting myself. I couldn't understand it, I wouldn't ask my clients to do this, so why do it to myself? 

For better or worse, I'm blessed (or cursed) with persistence. Earlier this year, I was walking in the forest and it occurred to me that I had been doing it (running) all wrong. So, I made a decision to apply some lessons from some personal therapeutic work I was doing. It was clear to me that my running problem was emotional, not physical and that I was my own roadblock. I could power up, I just didn't know how to throttle back. What if I could stop what I was doing, change my approach and do it differently? It was working in other ways, so why not running? I made a decision that I was going to run easy and if it ever hurt, I would stop or walk.

It's a technique I've often used when training others and it has really changed the way I run. I've learned to enjoy it differently, to enjoy it through a different lens. It's easier, faster and my new 'struggle' is replaced by a sense of joy and quite often a profound sense of inner peace. I had to change my emotional response, in order to change my behavior and I know that now. What's radical is that as I practice going easy, the letting go is easier for many other things too. 

The Dalai Lama says, "Inner disarmament first, then outer disarmament". I knew well, that a part of my resistance to letting go of the concept of pushing harder, was that I grew up with that message - that I had to suffer and sacrifice to get what I want. It was internalized. And it's taken me long enough to let go of that concept. In this regard, nature is a great teacher for me. Trees don't struggle, they just grow. And the river just cuts through rock, no problem. Even the animals; they just hunt, eat, play, love and sleep - everyday. 

That's about it really, it's only been a few months, but it's a huge transition for me and I feel enlivened by it. I'm not setting any speed records - but I have a sense of freedom and joy at finding something that I was certain I'd lost. I really believed that my feet and ankles were past healing. Now I can see that it was my belief that was preventing me trying. One thing that has also changed, is that I'm more careful about my feet (and body) if I don't feel like running, I don't do it. I make time to stretch and strengthen, too. So I'm ensuring my success instead of being stuck on the idea that there was nothing I could do.  

I hope any of this small personal story is of interest or value. I used to think of 'letting go', as a theoretical concept and a bit woo woo for my liking. I'm a skeptic and I want results - for me and my clients. I tend to look for empirical evidence before trying things and I recognize that in a cultural steeped in protestant ethic, the whole notion of working less, is actually offensive to some. However, I know that letting go works and I thankful that I found a way to see this in my own life. I'm concerned with success for me and my clients, not what conventional wisdom dictates.  

An author I've enjoyed who writes extensively (and beautifully) on the science and practice of letting go, is David Hawkins M.D. Ph.D.  He's a highly regarded Psychiatrist and clinician (40 years in practice) who has written ten books on this and similar subjects. 'Letting go: The Pathway to Surrender' is a remarkable explanation of what happens physiologically and practically when we apply these principles and surrender to what is.  It's been a good book for me as a coach and also on a personal level. 

So I'm enjoying running again! I'm kind of amazed! I'm not going for gold, but I'm having fun! Here's a short clip, my friend, Zack took of me getting warmed up for training. The park is Forest Park in Portland. It's hard to believe this park is right in the city.  

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