Give Yourself Some TLC

As athletes, we spend so much of our time expending energy outwards--we are constantly exerting ourselves, pushing ourselves etc... How about directing some of that energy inwards? This is when a lot of the adaptations take place, when we allow our central nervous systems to calm down, and when we get to truly appreciate our running for everything that is has to offer. Plus, taking many of these measures can help us stay healthy and keep injury at bay!   

Every week I'll be posting something different.....go ahead..try something new!

Wk of May 6--A New Part to My Running Routine

I’m really missing the freedom of being able to simply reach out and hug others. Such a simple yet powerful gesture that offers immediate comfort and connection; and yet we are currently limited to doing so only within our own household.  

 

So when I came across this article “Forest Service Recommends Hugging Trees While You Can’t Hug Others,” I started smiling. 

 

I’d been practicing “Just Tree It” for a while – a custom where I stand in front of a tree, rest my palms and forehead against it, and then transfer any thought/idea that I wanted to let go of, such as pre-race jitters, obsessive negative thoughts or insecurities. This practice offered several benefits including a sense of release and grounding. However, I recently started to wonder whether I was inadvertently sending negative energy towards the tree.  

So, when I saw this article, I thought “Bingo! This is exactly what I need to be doing!” I didn’t even have to read the article to be convinced of the benefits, including a sense of calmness, grounding and connection.  So now, every time I am out running, I am stopping at least once to hug a tree. It goes like this:

 

  1. Pick a tree that you immediately feel a sense of connection to; it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, old or young.

  2. Stand next to it, feet firmly grounded and let your body lean into the tree while wrapping your arms around it. Rest your cheek/head on it.

  3. Give it a big juicy bear hug and just breath calmly and deeply. Pay attention to how you feel.

 

As I reflected in my last write up, this pandemic offers us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with our running and to look more closely at what it has to offer. For me, part of this offering has to do with observing gratitude and connecting with Mother Nature. Since incorporating Tree Hugging into my runs, this offering has deepened even more. Instead of saying “going out for a run,” sometimes I say “going out to hug a tree”.

 

And whereas there’s no doubt that I’m benefiting from this new routine, I’d like to think that the trees are also getting something out of it too!   

Wk of April 20--2 What are you Learning from This?

I was looking back at some blogs I wrote a few years ago, when I came across the following and thought how relevant it is right now (I encourage you to take the 2min to read this).  

 

COVID-19 has affected us all.  We are all experiencing fear and anxiety. Our lives have all been disrupted in some shape or form. We are all feeling the sadness and the void of not being able to connect in person with our loved ones and even our running comrades. We are all facing the uncertainty of what might come…or not come. Now more than ever, we need to be practicing kindness to ourselves and to each other.

 

Trying to look at the glass half full, I see this time as an opportunity to deepen our relationship with our running and to look more into what running can provide for us. 

This is perhaps the best time to ditch the Garmin and to ditch the expectations. Instead, perhaps ask yourself “what can this experience teach me about my running?” With races being cancelled, the absence of group practices, no more access to physio/chiro/massage therapists etc. perhaps now is a good time to refocus your running intentions. Instead of training for a specific race, what if you simply train for yourself? Run because you can. Not because you are training for something specific. Instead of running to hit certain pace or volume targets, run for the sheer pleasure of it, with full gratitude and pure appreciation for what it has to offer. 

 

It is hard to find meaning behind COVID-19 when we are literally in the eye of the storm. I, personally, HAVE to believe that only goodness can come from this. And whereas it may be too difficult to imagine what this goodness may be on a global level, I find comfort in focusing on the smaller, more tangible, and more personal elements—including my running. 

 

Right now, I am using this opportunity to focus on how grateful I am to have a strong body that allows me to run most days of the week. Running has been my savior. 

 

Running has grounded me –it seems to be one of the few things that has remained constant right now. 

 

Running has given me the opportunity to let it all out- there have been many runs where I have let the tears stream down my face without fearing any judgment or shame. I need this outlet.

 

Running has allowed me to tap into the “feel good hormones” that are so necessary right now.

 

Running has given me a chance to deepen my beliefs and my spirituality. Although I may be running alone, I feel connected to the people I pass (including their dogs) and to Mother Nature. In this time of isolation, this is needed more than ever. 

 

And whereas I have always appreciated these aspects of running, it has been easy to get caught up in the other elements of running—Can I get faster? Stronger? Push myself more? Train towards a particular race? 

 

So right now, I am taking this opportunity to give thanks to my running. To appreciate what it can provide in terms of its physical, mental and emotional offerings.

 

Thank you running, for keeping me a little bit stronger right now. xo

Wk of April 6--2 Why You Should Be Getting Your Legs Up the Wall

As a runner, you probably already know about the benefits of Legs up the wall (or its Sanskrit name "viparita karani"), especially after a long or hard workout. Not only does it feel good, but it also helps your recovery by draining fluids that are pooling in your legs, while also stretching your hamstrings and relieving a worn out lower body.  What's not to love about this? But there's another benefit to this pose, that can be so beneficial right now:  when done correctly, this pose can help to balance and calm your central nervous system.

 

Without getting too deep in a biology lesson, let's keep it simple.  There are 2 parts to your central nervous system: one part is the sympathetic system which increases heart rate, blood pressure. cortisol levels and muscle tension (think "flight or fight response). This systems dominates when we exert ourself with running. Or when we are stressed. The other part is the parasympathetic nervous system which lowers heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol and blood sugar levels, and muscle tension (think rest-digest and reflect-redirect). This system dominates when we are doing something calming (like restorative yoga) or when we are resting. Both systems serve a purpose.

But when one predominates......it's not a good thing. And right now, while we are all experiencing the chaos of the pandemic, it's a pretty safe bet that for many of us, our sympathetic nervous system is in a bit of overdrive! So getting your legs up the wall, on a daily basis, can help right now on multiple levels!

 

This pose is fairly simply--it's literally getting your legs up against the wall, with your back flat against the floor, and forming an L-shape with our body. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, for many of us runners with tight hamstrings, this pose can be a bit challenging and will require a few props (refer to this article written by Sage Roundtree, trun coach and yoga instructor as he explains it well  https://www.podiumrunner.com/training/recovery-pose-legs-wall/)

My last tip:  hold the pose for increments of 3minutes...this is because it takes 3min for blood to circulate throughout your entire body. So hold the pose for 3, 6, 9 or 12 minutes.  

© 2018 Jennifer Faraone