Like many this time of year I am exercising off the Christmas and New Year excesses, and those of you that know me know I like to run most mornings. I’ve been running most days a ‘working week’ for a couple of years now and I realised recently that I have got into a comfort zone with it, whereby, I haven’t been stretching myself and use it as my time to think about, and solve, the myriad of business and personal challenges that are always floating around as part of day to day living!
Coincidentally I was recently reintroduced to the concept of mindfulness, which is where one stops thinking about things outside of oneself for a period of time and instead focuses attention on everything that’s going on inside.
In a conversation with a networking contact I said that I practised it accidentally a few months back when I agreed to run an organised 10K at the last minute, with next to no training or preparation after a 3 week holiday! It kicked in automatically when I realised I was completely out of my depth, which coincided with my lungs, legs, arms and pretty much everything else burning! I needed to regulate everything I was doing because my personal pride was pushing me to get to the end and save any personal disappointment and embarrassment 🙂 I looked within for the whole run to get me over the line!
(That’s my amazing son giving me encouragement in the background!)
So today I decided to blend three things as an experiment to see what would happen:
- Running off (hopefully) what’s left of that one extra chocolate, turkey sandwich, glass of fizz and piece of cake!
- Getting out of my running comfort zone and stretching myself a little!
- Practising a little bit of mindfulness, which is actually quite hard to master when you are starting out with it!
So I set off with purpose on all three at 07.30 this morning on a dry but cold morning. What I realised immediately was that my brain was automatically trying to think of my workload today, the mini soccer match my team is playing tomorrow and the weekend in general, so I focussed within!
I looked internally to confirm how my feet were feeling whilst pounding the street, how my lungs were feeling as I had set off with additional pace, what my breathing pattern was like and if any muscles were niggling. All was well and I found that whilst I was doing this I was travelling well, feeling good and what you could possibly describe as working optimally.
I kept going and when I noticed my mind was drifting onto other things I refocussed and looked within and noticed my speed was dropping. I was becoming inefficient at running because my mind was drifting off onto something else. I wasn’t thinking about running and motivating myself by monitoring my inner performance. So I put that right each time.
This carried on for five miles and to be fair my main battle was trying to ignore the flash of inspiration I had at about two miles to write a blog post on focussing within, which demonstrates that practising mindfulness isn’t easy when you have a million and one things going on in life! In all honestly the last mile was tough as well because it’s mainly on the incline!
So none of this will surprise any of you; most definitely the focussed runners and sports professionals out there because this is part and parcel of how they deliver excellence on the pitch, court, track and in the pool etc.
It won’t surprise you in a business context either because if you have an objective and focus using your skills and experience when tackling business tasks, you will do an excellent job and achieve excellent outcomes.
So I suppose I reconfirmed a couple of things with my little experiment:
- If you want to improve on something, set yourself an objective to achieve.
- Focus 100% on what you are doing and the objective you have set yourself.
- Practice mindfulness (looking within), or your version of it, to limit distractions to help you achieve your goals.
What’s my evidence to support the above and why did I include a screenshot of my running app from this morning’s run at the top of this post? I ran a personal best for 5 miles this morning, which I was extremely pleased with as it included an average pace of less than 8 minutes per mile. I also know I drifted a little throughout, so I reckon I might have a sub 40 minute in me soon 🙂
Have a great day everyone and if you get the chance to experiment with any of the above I would love to hear your stories and results.
All the best for 2016.