Mindful running by acronym

Despite the fact that I’ve run less this Summer (fewer miles AND fewer runs), I’ve made it a point of emphasis to be more mindful during my running.

One of my main challenges in becoming a more regular meditator is that I do some of my best thinking while I run, so I decided to turn a weakness in to a strength to see if I could get the physical benefits of my run with the emotional benefits of mindful meditation. And since I usually feel better emotionally after I run I figured I was already doing some form or mindful meditation, it was just my legs and not Headspace, guiding me.

Getting started: breathing & Step-counting:
My first forays in to mindfulness had to do with a very regimented approach to dealing with the breath and counting my steps. If you’ve read my blog posts about running, you know that steps and footfalls are pretty important to the more forefoot-strike running stride I’ve been using for several years, but counting steps and putting so much emphasis on how my foot lands is only part of the solution I wanted.

I haven’t blogged about it here previously, but checking in with my feet – mostly listening to how loud my footfalls are and trying to make them quieter – is a good solution for me. I tend to lose some of the natural rhythm of my running when I think too much about my feet. Given my footwear choices, listening for my strides being too loud is a better analog for measuring how I’m running then counting or forcing my forefoot to land first (something that ends up feeling, for me at least, just a bit too much like prancing).

Likewise breathing while running should come naturally and not feel forced, labored or otherwise shoe-horned into some concept of right vs. wrong. I had attempted a 3-strides-in/2-strides-out approach after reading an article in Runner’s World mostly as a way of combatting a problem I didn’t have: side cramps. The article contended that alternating the intake of each breath on left and right footfalls could ward off cramps and curtail any lopsided hitches in stride and performance.

For me it boiled down to too much mental effort trying to solve a nonexistent problem. Much like the footfalls exercise, it also made me feel less in tune with my body and my run instead of the opposite, which is my overarching goal.

So what did I do? I made an acronym!
I’m probably just a touch OCD, so thinking about a relevant acronym that captured the kinds of mental activities that, for me at least, helped me get in to a mindful space during my running made perfect sense.

I’ve been reading my way through Wherever You Go, There You Are and I’ve been struck by the concept of a dignified posture for meditation. With “D” as my starting letter here, then, is my acronym: D.R.I.V.E.

D. Dignified posture
R. Relaxed face
I. In(ward)s & Out(ward)s
V. Vertical spine
E. Energetic lower body

D. Dignified posture
Starting at the very top of my head, I imagine I’m a dignified person, a dignitary or at the very least a runner with some sense of dignity. I try to do the same thing as I sit and meditate, so this is the logical running extension. Your interpretation may vary, but having a dignified running posture is as descriptive or prescriptive as I try to be, physically.

R. Relaxed face
Thinking my way down from the top of my head, I focus on how much tension I’m carrying in my forehead, cheeks and especially my eyebrows. You’d be surprised how much more focused and mindful a run can become if you stop furrowing and start thinking through your emotions. It also helps with breathing. Which leads to …

I. In(ward)s & Out(ward)s
This is the step where I think about my breathing, but also the step where I check that I’m abiding by the list items that come before and after it.

I called it “In(ward)s & Out(ward)s” for two reasons:

  1. Literal – The ins and outs of the breath
  2. Figurative – To check that my body (inner world) is aware and abiding by these rules so that I can be equally mindful of the world I’m running (outer world)

V. Vertical spine
I realize I ought to be leaning slightly forward to generate the proper momentum and encourage forefoot striking.
I know that I’ve already mentioned posture with my first rule (D. Dignified posture)
I find that thinking of a straight and vertical spine is helpful.
I honestly needed a word that started with “v” to keep the acronym alive.
I like this rule.

E. Energetic lower body
Some days I have dead, tired legs. Other days my turnover rate (cadence) is too slow. Sometimes the whole locomotion just seems wonky. Thinking about keeping my energy level high in my lower extremities tends to improve all of these things at once.

Funny how much better a run can become if you accept the fact that you need to be running and not just loping your way aimlessly and mindlessly down the street.

I’ll grant you that my acronym isn’t as simple as just concentrating on the correct sitting posture or focusing on the breath, but I’d argue that running is an altogether more complex task than “simple” meditation. Plus, while I might meditate for 10 minutes at a time, my average run is more than half an hour in length.

In other words, I’ve got some time to kill, doing something sophisticated and multivariate so I might as well do some thinking and apply some structure to my mindfulness.

Of course I could also be overthinking things and not allowing myself to actually experience my run, but a standard set of rules to follow to keep myself aware of my mind, my body and my run seems pretty reasonable. I want to experience my run, not just suffer or slog through it to tick a box.

Your mileage may vary. Literally.

For another take on running and meditation, here’s Sakyom Mipham:

In the end I like that I can honor the drive it takes to simply put in the work, the practice, of lacing up my shoes and running with my D.R.I.V.E. acronym.

Until next time, enjoy your run and your meditation. That’s all I’m trying to do.

the-muppets-abc

If You Need The Muppets …

I didn’t go to San Diego Comic-Con this year to see the 10-minute pitch reel for The Muppets (styled as “the muppets.” in the graphics package) but, luckily, I didn’t have to. The whole thing is now online for all of us to enjoy:

The whole thing feels a bit more full-featured than the cutdown version of the 1975 pitch reel that Henson did for CBS which you can find on the Season 1 DVD set of The Muppet Show.

There had previously been a trailer of the new series which was, itself, just a cutdown of the new pitch reel.

If that’s not enough Muppet goodness for one week, you could always check out this mashup of Miss Piggy & Rihanna. It’s a little NSFW but probably worth it.

No word if Piggy will be out on tour with Rihanna, but The Muppets (the muppets.) will be on ABC on Tuesdays this Fall. Check your local listings, as they say.

Maybe in the Fall I’ll start blogging about each episode.

Until then …

Altra Instinct 2.0s

Altra Instinct 2.0 Review

2 years ago Altra announced an update to their cushioned-but-still-zero-drop model, the Instinct, dubbing this version 2.0.

A year ago I bought my first (green) pair and LOVED them!

A month ago Altra announced another update, dubbed 3.0, and discounted the 2.0 models, so I bought two more pairs – one green, one blue.

All told I’ve run in excess of 700 miles in these three pairs of the same shoe. I’m incredibly late for a formal review since you’re likely not able to pick up a pair for yourself, but it’s so rare for me to find a shoe I’d buy 3 times that I finally felt compelled to share it here.

The difference between this Altra model and most other “barefoot” or zero drop shoes is the cushioning. The Instinct 2.0 has a decent stack height and plenty of cushioning, like traditional running shoes, it just eschews the normal heel-to-toe drop for a zero drop. They also have a fantastic, roomy foot-shaped toe box, giving your toes and foot more room to spread out as you run.

What this means is that you get all the benefits of good form, mid-foot strike running plus the cushioning so your feet don’t suffer the abuse of road wear & tear.

Personally, I could never wear Vibrams because of my bunion and my feet got too tired and sore from running in my New Balance Minimus Roads. The Instinct 2.0s are the perfect compromise – all of the form benefits without any of the cushioning or comfort sacrifices.

Both of the new pairs have under 100 miles on them (barely) so I’ve likely got another year and a half before I need a new pair, but the Instinct 3.0 will be at the top of my list when I go shopping.

Miles run/Price paid per pair (L-to-R):
Green – 554/$105
Blue – 81/$75
Green – 75/$55

So not much of a review but one Hell of a shoe. People may comment on the wide toe box (my wife says they look like Moon boots), but they’re the best shoe I’ve ever run in. I don’t have to sacrifice anything & I’ve strengthened my feet & calves.

See you on the run!

TCM Kermit Logo

A TCM Tipple

Since yesterday was the 21st birthday of Turner Classic Movies (a previous stop of mine), I figured a little alcoholic tribute was in order considering TCM is now the legal age to imbibe.

Here, then, are a few potent potables and their movie pairings/appearances to broaden your palette & your film intelligence.

Cocktails:
French 75Casablanca(More info on the French 75 & Casablanca) – a truly classic film and a powerful champagne cocktail with a great backstory.

ManhattanSome Like It Hot – What’s not to love about men in drag drinking a concoction out of a hot water bottle?

Old FashionedIt’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – The only Old Fashioned more dangerous than Don Draper’s is one made by the pilot of a plane while he should be flying!

Whiskey SourThe Seven Year Itch – Another Marilyn Monroe mention.

Dry MartiniThe Thin Man series – If these films or this classic cocktail don’t make you thirsty, you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s Nick & Norah Charles (William Powell & Myrna Loy) enjoying some Martinis, to give you a “taste”

A Shot & a beer:
Narragansett (You may still be able to find the throwback cans in New England) – Jaws – You may need a bigger glass.

Nicholson’s WhiskeyThe Shining – Bourbon vs. Tennessee Whiskey

Honorable Mentions:
White RussianThe Big Lebowski – A caucasian with a lot of ins, lot of outs, lot of what-have-you’s

Vodka Martini OR the Vesper – Any James Bond film, though you’ll only find the Vesper in Casino Royale (and not the 1967 version, the 2006 version). – Shaken, not stirred.

Here’s the wacky Herb Alpert-licious trailer for the 1967 Casino Royale which is “classic” in it’s own way.

I’m not suggesting you do a marathon of watching these films OR drinking these drinks (the latter might be especially dangerous), but if you’re inclined towards a tipple and good movies, you could do a lot worse than sampling something from either column if you haven’t already.

Cheers!

There Goes My Hero

My Father-in-Law got a GoPro Hero3+ Silver (I’m fairly certain on the Silver, definitely a Hero3) for Christmas and was kind enough to let me wear it during my New Year’s Day run.

He put it in Timelapse mode to take a photo every 2 seconds and off I went. 35 minutes and 7k later, I was done.

Using the included GoPro Studio software, I was able to import the over 1,000 photos and create the video below. Because HD video (and a good number of video formats) are 24 frames-per-second, I actually had to import the photos as 12fps first and then render the .m4v regularly otherwise it would be a 40-second, 300+ mph rocket launch.

As it is you can see me run 4.4 miles in around 1:30, or roughly a 180 mph sprint. Next time I’ll record at 1 or even .5 seconds for a smoother, slower video.

Enjoy (and try not to get motion sick)!

Bonus running-related news-of-the-day: DailyMile now has an official iPhone app!