Friday, January 31, 2014

The Power of the Mantra

     So we've all heard the term "mantra". It definitely conjures up images for some. When I used to hear that term I envisioned a group of Tibetan monks, dressed in full garb, sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting "Ommmmm", over and over and over. But a "mantra" is more than that. And I have found that it can be very helpful in training.

Things that make you go "ommmm"

     When I first started running, using Couch to 5K, I also listened to music. The Couch 2 5K app would prompt me when to run and when to walk and in the spaces in between I listened to music. I got accustomed to learning the time between each prompt to "walk" and to "run" and learned that each "run" was a certain amount of each song. So I would sing the song as I ran, knowing that once I hit a certain point in the song I would get to walk again. While it's not a exactly a "mantra", that process served something of the same purpose. It gave me something else to focus on to take my mind off of what I was doing.
This is an actor portrayal of me.
Maybe a little thinner.
     As I started running with friends and cycling, I stopped listening to music as much. It's a lot of fun to enjoy good conversation with great friends as you are training, however, I missed the familiarity of the music as my diversion. But as I developed as a runner and cyclist I learned another little trick that served as my diversion. I'd start focusing on physical elements that were on my training routes and I'd use those as my distractions. For example, I'd see a tree a few hundred yards away and I'd tell myself "if you run to that tree, then you can walk for thirty seconds" or "if you can just pedal to the top of that hill then you can coast down the other side." And creating those small diversions allowed me to shift my focus from the act of running or cycling and instead direct my attention to achieving a small goal. And as I accomplished each small goal I knew that I was getting closer to end goal of finishing.
Set incremental goals like running to the next tree
     As my training rides and runs got longer and longer while I trained for Ironman Louisville, my little diversion didn't seem to work as well. When you're riding a bike for 36 miles it's fun to pick out objects along the way as your incremental goals, but when you're riding for 112 miles you mentally enter into an entirely different world. It's an amazing place but I found that I needed more than signposts and trees to focus on. That is how I developed my mantra: I can do anything. I know that may sound boastful, but it's anything but. It's simply a reminder to myself of all that I've achieved on my journey and it's something that helps me remember that whatever it is I'm doing is finite. It has an ending. And all I need to do is just keep moving forward and eventually I will finish.
Everyting you do in life has one of these.
     So that is what gets me through the 112 mile bike rides, and the 26 mile runs. I don't listen to music. And many times I'm by myself on those longer rides and runs so there's no conversation. And when I feel like I can't go on, or that the hill I'm climbing is too much, I simply repeat to myself, over and over, "I can do anything. I can do anything. I can do anything." And it works.
     Do you have a mantra? Is there a word, or phrase, that you repeat to yourself when you're training to take your mind off of things? If not, I encourage you to experiment with it and find one that works for you. It doesn't have to be something positive like mine, but rather just something that takes your mind to a different place.



No comments:

Post a Comment