Tag Archives: Mind

Running Goals: Macro Versus Micro

Are your running goals defined by times and race distances? Or do you have other criteria?

Falling short of a goal forces us to re-evaluate.

Time and distance goals are used to achieve my bigger goals in running. They are tools to chase moments where I truly feel alive. Goals can be differentiated into macro versus micro.

Micro Goals

Micro goals are simple and measurable. Examples are:

  • Run your first 5km
  • Run a sub 40 minute 10km
  • Complete 100km ultra marathon
  • Cover 80km in a training week
  • Run every day for 30 days

These goals give your something objective to aim for. Help guide your training and racing. Provide structure in what you do.

Does it matter if you hit these goals?

Reality of Running Goals

Most people don’t really care how fast your race is. That’s a good thing.

Racing 10km in 39:58 versus 40:03 may feel like a big deal to yourself. It usually doesn’t rate that much to others. Those who care about you tend to care more about what the goal means to you. Not about the specifics of the goal.

Will achieving the goal change your life?

It’s the process that can change your life. Not the goal. We can bring up exceptions to this. Such as having to run a certain to qualify for another race or gain team selection. This isn’t the case for most runners.

But don’t use this to down play the importance of setting goals.

What Are Macro Goals?

Macro goals are your ‘why

Your goal doesn’t have to be massively profound. It can be as simple as you enjoy chasing fast times in a race. Other examples can include:

  • You want to feel healthier
  • You enjoy the act of running
  • Running clears your mind
  • It just feels right
  • You chase the feeling of achievement

You can get more in depth and detailed. The important concept is this is truly why we run.

Understanding your macro goal means it’s easier to make choices. If your macro goal is about gaining a qualification time then you can choose to sacrifice some other aspects of your lifestyle. If your goal is to be healthy for your family, then you can be comfortable that running 10km is fine versus 15km. It comes back to what you really want.

My Own Macro Running Goals

I chase a certain feeling. That feeling is the moment when I feel truly alive.

Everything in my life is enhanced when I feel like this.

This feeling comes from moments. These moments occur when:

  • the noise is stripped away
  • the task feels impossible
  • time feels distorted
  • I am broken down to my core

Running provides me the opportunity to achieve this. It feels innately natural for me to use running to chase this feeling. Something special happens here. It is in this space where there is an interplay between success and failure.

This is why I run.

Best Way To Start A Running Program

Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

The approach isn’t about exact mileage, paces or mix of training of sessions. Those all vary depending on upcoming goals and current fitness and health. Instead I look for an approach that sets me up hit my training consistently and hard. To get me beyond the initial burst of motivation.

Two principles make up this approach:

  1. Refresh the mind
  2. Prepare the body
Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

Refresh The Mind

This is not taking a break. Instead I am chasing the enjoyment. Looking to lose myself in the process of running rather than focussing on times. It is a form of moving meditation.

There are 2 aspects to refreshing my mind.

All runs are based on feel. Some structure still exists in the form of intervals or repeats. On those runs I don’t worry about any exact times. Instead I run based on feel, looking to achieve the feeling rather than any number. The times are only a by product. If they turn out faster or slower than expected then it’s irrelevant.

If I feel like changing the planned run then I will. It really doesn’t matter as long as I’m still training and enjoying it. Every so often this approach results in some runs much faster than they feel.

Supporting the more relaxed approach I aim to run in places I enjoy. This is almost always on the best trails around me. This year I did this by making the most of the spectacular trails and beach around Anglesea.

Prepare The Body

This is mixture between hard training and allowing recovery. A wide variety of running paces, terrain and intensity is important.

I will train hard and fast in between different versions of easy. I’ll state again I don’t care about exact paces, but am looking to have the running feel great.

One aspect of training I avoid during this process are hard, long runs that grind me down and require a few days to recover from. Those types of runs tend to be counterproductive. They rob me of the snap and spring I look for. Any over load usually comes from pushing the speed up.

I’ll expect to be a bit sore from some training for a day or 2, but shouldn’t require anything beyond that. There is room to throw in a race, but nothing beyond 12km.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

How I Started My Year Running

Camping with family and friends put me amongst some of the best landscapes along the coast. A mixture of hills, single track, bush and beaches made for the perfect playground.

Living in a tent without setting an alarm allowed my body to follow it’s natural circadian rhythm. This is a luxury to me. Life as a shift worker makes this a rare opportunity.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

  • VO2 Intervals 4x3min with 3min easy jog
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 7km
  • Race: Tim Gates Classic 10km
  • Regeneration 4km
  • Easy 6km
  • Easy 10km
  • Hill Repeats 4x3min with jog back down
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 6km

In writing it looks like a typical running program. The distances, paces and even the structure of each run isn’t very important. It is the approach that makes the difference.

I find the best way to start a running program is to take a bit of time to refresh the mind and prepare the body. How do you like to start a new running program?

Improve Your Patience: Improve Your Running

Patience is the ability to wait calmly in the face of adversity and frustration. Running rewards consistent and progressive training over extended time. If you improve your patience, you will improve your running.

 

Lately I’ve found myself thinking, “if everything would just hurry up, I’d have better patience.”

 

I love working towards goals, but lately I haven’t been so good at it. I want my running to be at a higher level. Stuff around the house I want finished. I wish our next holiday was now. So many things I want now. Just chasing the end product has gotten in the way of doing the work needed to achieve the goals. Instead I’ve managed to develop  habits in procrastination.

 

Chasing small tasks may give a quick outcome but don’t add much to my bigger goals.

 

This needed to change.

 

It is time to develop positive habits. Getting in the way of this lately has been a lack of patience. Which led me to look at how to improve my patience. There is some good science on this. In this post I summarise what I have found and what I aim to put into place. Continue on to improve your patience. It will likely improve your running too.

 

 

Why Improve Patience?

 

Improving patience has been shown to improve sense of well-being, positive coping virtues and thriving. In simpler language this is:

  1. Feel better
  2. Cope better
  3. Achieve more

 

 

Is Patience Trainable?

 

Yes.

 

Like your body, you can also train your mind.

 

 

How To Improve Patience

 

Turns out it comes back to some regular practice. Just like in training the physical aspects of any skills. Research is suggesting 2 key ways:

  1. Willpower
  2. Framing

 

1. Willpower

 

You can increase your willpower with practice.

 

By repeatedly putting yourself in situations where you are required to have patience you can extend out your threshold of frustration. Those who are used to waiting are better at it.

 

Start small. Take multiple opportunities to practice patience. Put yourself in situations where you have to wait a little longer. Choose the longer queue at the shops. Wait for someone to catch up to you. Arrive early for an appointment. Use a slow internet connection. While waiting make a concerted effort to relax. Breath slowly. Keep a good posture.

 

Repeating these small moment of calmly exerting some willpower can become a habit. You become accustomed to remaining calm and controlling your impulses. You can improve your willpower.

 

 

2. Framing

 

Reduce your reliance on willpower. Reframe your thinking with your imagination. Make it easier to have patience. Imagination can change the impulse to take on the immediate reward by changing how we view the reward. As a result won’t need to rely as much on willpower.

 

Vividly imagining the end outcome makes it easier to maintain patience. The clearer and more realistic you can picture the end result the better. Add in detail. The more the better. Picture why it is worth waiting for the end result. Why is it better than taking on the immediate. Create a positive feeling around the ultimate result you want. Imagination the negative feeling and negative result of not maintaining your patience. The stronger the difference between a positive and clear view of what you want versus an giving in to an easier alternative, the more likely you are to stick with it.

 

The further away your goal the harder this is to clearly visualise. Longer time frames limit your imagination and reduce the strength of your vision.

 

There is a way around this.

 

Don’t limit your imagination to the end result. Bring it forward and visualise positive steps along the way. Create a sequence leading to your end goal. Take the same approach as above. Add detail. Work on creating a positive feeling around each step. This will make your vision more powerful and more likely to alter your impulses. Making it easier to choose patience and reducing your reliance on willpower alone.

 

 

Good Things

 

Good things come to those who work for it and have patience. So hurry up and improve your patience.

 

Chasing Flow In Running And Life

Are you chasing flow? When it feels easy to do something hard. When you are completely one with yourself and the task. These are the moments you feel truly alive.

 

Further along I’ll provide 5 steps I follow in chasing flow.

 

Is It Real?

 

There is a good amount of science coming recently looking at flow. There is now a good amount of evidence suggesting it is measurable with distinct physiology. High levels of neurochemicals related to pleasure, reward and the ability to perform superhuman feats all appear to released at the same time. These include, noradrenaline, dopamine, endorphin, serotonin, anandamide and oxytocin.

It’s not just the neurochemicals. There are measurable structural differences in the brain in those who train to develop long term skills. That is, some parts of the brain are larger and more developed. Check out the study Brain Structures Differ Between Musicians And Non-Musicians.

 

 

Does It Last?

 

Without the right situation externally and internally flow can be fleeting. When you get it right, it can last for hours.

In 2013 at the Surf Coast Century I ran my fastest 100km race in 11:46:07. The majority of this time I was in flow state. This race hurt, it certainly wasn’t easy. Yet it felt right to keep pushing. I raced above what I had physically trained to.

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Throwback to Surf Coast Century 2013⠀ ⠀ Grand plans and big goals initiated my training. Having covered the 100km in 12:26:01 last year, I was thinking I could slash that down under 11 hours. The training did not go as expected. Not much over 30km, plus a few gaps. I was worried about my ability to finish let alone be happy with my time.⠀ ⠀ 😫 ⠀ ⠀ This was my best race ever. I dug deeper and got more out of myself than I thought possible.⠀ ⠀ The incentive of a beer stein 🍺 was enough to pull me under 12 hours. 11:46:07 for the #100km⠀ ⠀ ⠀ 🏃🏼⠀ ___________________⠀ #throwbacktuesday #runhistory #nostalgia #reminiscing ⠀ #ultramarathon #scc #surfcoastcentury #surfcoast #anglesea #torquay #beachrun #trailrace #movingmeditation #bestrace #tbt #throwback #rapidascent #checkpoint #oakley #jawbone #hydraquiver #doublebarrel #2xu

A post shared by Jason Montfort Running Alive (@jason_monty) on

 

5 Steps To Chasing Flow:

 

  1. Find The Sweet Spot
  2. Do It With Clear Purpose
  3. Limit Distraction
  4. One Task At A Time
  5. Develop Mindfulness Skills

 

 

1. Find The Sweet Spot

 

Without challenge we have no flow.

The task we are to perform should be difficult. Near the edge of our abilities. The area in which we question if we are able to do it.

It helps to have developed your skills in the desired task. The higher your mastery of a task, the more likely you are able to achieve flow in it. If you can perform the majority of the task automatically due to hours of practice, it will be easier to reach your peak state.

In running when the fatigue and challenges of a race hit the edge of your abilities you need well practiced running form. Having the ability to rely on your rehearsed stride frees you up to focus on what is necessary. This brings you closer to achieving flow.

 

2. Do It With Clear Purpose

 

Know without doubt what success is. What are you aiming for?

All other steps are about process. To get the most out of the process you need to be clear on what you are aiming for. The work has to mean something to you. The goal can usually be stated in a simple sentence. However, you need to have an authentic connection to the goal.

In running ultra marathons I always have a time goal for the course. The goal is always at the edge of my abilities. I can state the goal as, “complete the race in under 12 hours.” This is clear and simple. The connection I feel is deep and genuine with pushing my body to it’s limits in running. This connection to the goal is so important I only focus on races that I feel it.

It always just sport. My work as a paramedic provides many opportunities. When attending someone in cardiac arrest the goals is simple, “save this person’s life.” It is easy to connect with this purpose.

 

3. Limit Distractions

 

Do what it takes to allow you to focus on what is important. Distraction is the killer of flow.

Create an environment that helps you focus.

Distractions can be your own thoughts. Having a negative mindset pulls you away from flow. Beware your self talk. Create your own internal environment to help you focus.

Distractions can be external. Your smartphone is the perfect example. Notifications popping up pull you away from your main task. Every time they do you take a step away from flow. Remove your phone if you need to.

For races I start with the external environment and move towards improving my internal environment.

My external environment is controlled by leaving early for a race. Allowing myself plenty of time not to feel rushed. Before my warm up I will listen to my “Race Ready” playlist. This eliminates distractions and makes it easier to clear my mind to create the internal environment I want.

I aim for a feeling of relaxed readiness for my internal environment. A non-judging alertness of my body and how it moves. Thoughts are minimal. Just a feeling of focus and movement as I make my way through my warm up and toe the start line.

 

4. One Task At A Time

 

There is no such thing as multi tasking. Only task switching.

The more you try to do, the less efficient you become at each task.

When racing do you race your best when you are thinking about work deadlines or chores not finished at home? Do you race better when your attention is on what you need to now to run?

Set up what can control in life to assist this. Get those chores done early. Complete those items that get in the way of running so they don’t interrupt you. Stop trying to do two or more things at the same time.

Practice staying on one task until it is complete. Then you can move to the next. Over time see if it improves your efficiency.

5. Develop Mindfulness Skills

 

There are so many different ways to develop mindfulness. There are different definitions. Here I will keep it simple. I treat mindfulness as the ability to be focussed on the now.

The skills required take time and practice. I try to develop them in this order:

  1. Single point focus (one thought or object) in a relaxed and quiet environment
  2. Ability to return quickly to focus when distracted
  3. Skill focus in a relaxed and quiet environment
  4. Single point focus under pressure or distraction
  5. Single skill focus under pressure or distraction

I use many different tools to develop these. They include meditation, run training itself, breath training, aspects of the Wim Hof Method, Insight Timer application and guided mediations (see Further Reading below for links). Personally I find taking a concentrated focus of breath training and meditation over a week or two helps me incorporate these skills within the physical training of running.

 

Further Reading

 

If you are interested in expanding your knowledge on chasing flow I recommend the following:

 

Chasing Flow In Running

Fear Of Failure: Make It Your Advantage

The fear of failure of can be debilitating. It can also be used to bring out your best.

 

Sport is an amazing platform you can use to develop the traits that make you a better person. Endurance sports have an amazing ability to reveal a lot about yourself. To paraphrase founder of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, Commander John Collins it is where “you can find out what your soul is made of in a non-lethal environment.” I find running can do exactly that.

 

You can take what you learn in running and apply it to other areas of your life. Running can be more clear cut. You can define success or failure as a definite time in a race, the ability to cover a certain distance, or to achieve a personal best. Training to reach your goal takes time, commitment, discipline and plenty of other attributes. It isn’t easy, but we can get a lot out of it.

 

Good goals give us a real chance of failure. Pushing your boundaries means you have to go further than you have before. You never truly know you can do something until you have done it.

Fear of Failure

Destructive Fear of Failure

 

We can react to potential failure is different ways. We can simply not try, self sabotage or create excuses. Most will be familiar with the multitude of excuses heard before a race:

  • I haven’t done any speed work
  • This isn’t an ‘A’ race
  • I’m just training through this one

It’s  better to turn the fear of failure into something constructive.

 

Productive Fear of Failure

 

First recognise the fear of failure as positive.

 

It let’s you know your goal is a challenge. You will grow more from chasing big goals. If it doesn’t scare you, it might not extend you.

 

Identify what you fear.

 

Get specific. Write it down. Is it something you can control? Is it something you can prepare for?

 

Use this to plan your training or approach.

  • If you don’t have time to do the training, use it as a catalyst to look at how you spend your time each week. Be detailed. You might be able to find that extra time. It might take some creativity.
  • If you are afraid of the distance. Focus on your long runs. Make them a priority over your other training. Use the fear of the distance to motivate you to put the most into your longer runs.
  • What if this or that happens during a race? Think about what would be the best approach to deal with it. Plan ahead. If you don’t know what to do, ask others.

 

 

Use the fear of failure to tell you your goal is big enough. Use it to plan to take on that goal.