Sunday, March 13, 2011

Finding Productive Ways of Passing the Time

My friend and colleague Audra is currently training for her first marathon and came to ask my advice about how to keep from boredom when spending mindless hours exercising.  Any good coach would tell her to think about her form, to visualize herself on race day, to keep track of her pace, etc.  Although this would probably improve my performance, this is not the approach that I take when exercising.

I asked the same question as Audra to my friend Karen years ago when she was training for her first Ironman.  What did she think about during a six hour bike ride?  How could she swim 80 laps in a 25 meter pool and not go completely insane?  Her response laid the foundation for my own approach to keeping my mind busy during exercise.  I find it one of the most productive aspects of my workout.

Karen revealed that for every mile of her run, she thought of someone different that she loved.  She would focus on the amazing qualities of that person for the entire 9ish minutes, and then when the mile changed, she would move on to another loved one.  This helped her get through many long runs and I immediately adopted her strategy.

When I swim, ride, or run, for each mile or lap, I focus on a different loved one in my life.  I think about their amazing qualities, all of the ways they have helped me grow as a person, and all that I can learn from them as I evolve.  Sometimes I think of favorite memories with this person or points in their lives when they have really revealed their inner strength and grace.  The time goes by amazingly fast and my heart is fuller when I am finished.

I have been practicing this mental exercise for over two years.  I have since moved from just merely loved ones to more specific categories.  Each workout I do now has a different theme:  the most creative... courageous... intelligent... thoughtful... etc... people I know.  I spend my entire workout thinking about their special qualities, being thankful for their presence in my life, and learning from their distinguished example.

For me, having a life threatening illness really heightened the value of the relationships within my life.  SJS has elevated my sense of appreciation and admiration for the amazing people around me.  I am constantly filled with overwhelming awe of who they are as individuals and gratitude for what they have taught me about life.

To give you an example of what this type of exercising looks like in action, I will tell you about my 13 mile run today.  It is no secret that I am looking forward to starting a family eventually.  Today, before my run, I was thinking about motherhood and the amazing ability for women to put their own unique spin on loving and caring for their children.  When Dave and I set out, I began to think about the wonderful moms I knew.  I thought about their special gifts as mothers and what I can learn from them as role models.  By the end of my run, I was filled with deeper appreciation of these women and able to learn from their powerful examples.  Although I know many wonderful mothers, these were the 13 rock star moms that kept me company on my run today:

I encourage you to try this exercise.  Whether you think of a different person each mile, each block, or every few minutes, this reflection will help to open your heart and mind to the exceptional people that surround you.  By the end, you will finish feeling humbled by their unique abilities and endlessly fortunate for the relationship you hold with them.  You will be overwhelmed with the fullness of your life.

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