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Thu, 07/19/2012

Improve Your Running Performance and Discover Running as a Means for Meditation

As you know I love running. It gives you a clear head, it is the ideal balance to sitting at the desk and you can always do it when you feel like it.

Since I ran the Berlin Half Marathon in April and actually run a better time as last year – I was 11 minutes faster this year – I have been pondering whether I should train more strategically on my running to achieve an even better time when I will run a Half Marathon the next time. That will be in late August. Therefore I read a lot about how to improve my performance. Some of the more interesting articles I have read I would like to share with you here. But first allow me to tell you that online registration for the 33rd Berlin Half Marathon 2013 had already started on June 1st.

When training for a marathon, half marathon or a run with an even longer distance – there are 100km-run or runs that will last for some days as well – you add all your runs of one week. Depending on the kind of training you might run up to 50 km in one week – do not get nervous, it is not every week. Normally you do three runs per week. I tend to run once a week and then not longer as 16, 17 km. That is not enough to improve my time. So I better change my strategy – if you could say I having a strategy in the first place – to running two, three or even four times a week with each run not exceeding 12 km. Well, that is a matter of time actually. I have severe difficulties to run in the morning for different reasons. But in the late afternoon and evening there are other things to do as well. Anyway, why shouldn't I try something else to help me train?! What about music? I always have music with me when I am running. Adharanand Finn pondered about this question in the British newspaper The Guardian as well. There he quoted Dr Costas Karageorghis with: “'Music is a legal drug for athletes." Well: say no more. That is exactly my feeling all along. I like to listen to dance-music because they fire me up best. Somehow this works directly to the body, because sometimes I do not really listen to the music but let my thoughts flow and it still works. When running in a competition I do not bring my mp3-device. Then the people lining the street, cheering and making music are the infusion to get me going – and with 11 min. faster as last year, I would say it worked perfectly.

But what about an audiobook?! Well, why not. I have not tried it but Lucy Ward has. She trained for a half marathon (sic!) which took place on the frozen Lake Baikal. “It's the calm and diverting rhythm of audiobooks that has persuaded me to train on snow and ice in temperatures dipping below 20 degrees”, she writes in her article. I am sure it is all the same in hotter environments.

An astonishing idea I got from Chris Cox who read “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by the Tibetan Lama Sakyong Mipham. The book brings together meditation and running and how both can profit from each other. Cox wrote, that he tried the technique and in a 10 km-race actually ran four minutes faster than his target time. But running is kind of a meditation itself. I have already written about it. Running frees your mind and it stimulates it to process unfinished thoughts. So during your run you come up with fresh thoughts, ideas and solutions. This actually means that it can be trained or that running can be used not only to mediate (to cleanse your mind) but to overcome low points in your daily routine. If you are stuck with a problem, go running and let it take care of itself. The only problem you will have is to remember what your mind came up with – so better take a notepad or smart-phone with you.

Another thing you should bring is water. When you go running you will sweat. Sweating means loosing water you have to replace. One can easily loose up to two liters while running on a hot day for a long distance. But how do you know how much water do you need? Last year with the half marathon it was hot and I used every opportunity to drink water. This year it was cooler and after a while I thought slowing down at a water stop to drink was just a waste of time. So I let it be later during the run. When training I never have water with me although on hot days I better should – or I should only run a short distance. There has been a long discussion over how to handle the water issue. And if you want to elaborate on it I can recommend Sam Murphy's article in The Guardian in which he explores in some depth the discussion on how much and when to drink. Not surprisingly today the recommendation concerning the amount you should drink is: drink when you are thirsty! Well, who would have guessed? And during training you even might be able to get along with your thirst for some time so that you do not have to bother with a water bottle. When you drink before starting your run do not drink too much. To much water or food in the stomach can cause problems during running, which can lead to an inferior performance or even to breaking the run off. But when back, drink! It really is important and on hot days better carry water with you even when it is uncomfortable.