Friday, August 5, 2016

Self Discipline

Self proclaimed fitness freak that I am, one might not guess that I too lie in bed before a workout debating the merits of sleeping-in versus running five miles. Yet, this happens more often than not. Once out the door and struggling through that first mile uphill, does it get any better? Well, I am committed to running at that point but my inner voice still bargains, “You could turn around now and have 1 mile under your belt and go back to bed.” At this point, I usually attempt to distract myself. How is my breathing? Can I even that out? What about my stride or my posture? Can it be tweaked to be more efficient or aligned? I hear my Nike running app lady whisper into my ear a surprisingly slow time for my first mile, my pace is as apathetic as my attitude. This is where I start to question, again as a form of distraction to the discouraging mind,…why exactly do I run?

 I run 10 -12 miles a week during the school year. During the summer when I don’t teach elementary, that number climbs to closer to 15. However the question remains, why do I do it? I’m not training for anything. I do not plan to run a half marathon or place in a 10K. I’m certainly not currently running for speed, in fact when I note those slow paced miles, I remind myself that I am not running for speed but for practice. That word practice is laced with some pretty strong undertones of achievement. “Practice makes perfect?” As a yoga practitioner, I know there is no perfect expression of any pose and that yoga practice, is not practice for a performance but a form of physical meditation, a habit of mind and body. Just as I have a yoga practice, I have a running practice and though both of these share a physical component, the true work that happens out there on the trail, or on the mat, is that of the mind. When my mind tells me I don’t want to do the work, an internal struggle erupts. Whether or not we realize it, most of us talk to ourselves. Perhaps not out loud (though some of us can’t help that sometimes) but we all have a story we tell ourselves. Sometimes it is not the nicest story. Here is what I have learned. Self discipline is not about self punishment. It is about learning to expect the best of yourself but treating yourself with compassion along the way. That negative self-talk will most likely creep in, doubting, second-guessing, blaming or outright shaming. What the practice of yoga and the practice of running have helped me to develop is a second voice. (Don’t worry I’m not talking multiple personality disorder, I’m talking about developing a counter point, an advocate, a friendly and supportive internal message.) While the self-negating voice might intone, “You are slow.” “This is pointless!” “I don’t want to do this.” “You can’t ignore the nagging physical discomforts of this work!”, the nurturing inner monolog retorts, “You don’t have to be fast.” “This is a practice, there doesn’t have to be a point.” “Why not? Let’s explore that.” “Investigate the discomfort, learn about your body, would it feel better if you engaged a different muscle or altered your alignment?” That back and forth, that conversation with one’s self really equals reflection and with reflection we get to see who we are at this moment in time and who we are striving to become.

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