Monday, February 14, 2011

The Philosophy behind the Name

March 2005 w/ my custom hiking staff
My blog title, “Running in the World” is based on existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger’s term “dasein,” loosely translated as “being-in-the-world.” (Notice this blog URL is even “running-in-the-world.” Cool, huh?) See the Wikipedia entry for more about dasein.

Dasein has come to mean a lot to me over the years, and I wanted my blog name to reflect that. My husband and I use dasein as our geocaching moniker, and my husband incorporated it into a custom hiking staff he had made for my 35th birthday.

To me dasein also suggests that I should live in and fully participate in the present moment. Not that I’m good at it, but I’m getting better, and running is helping me with that. Last October, just before my first 50-mile race, I purchased a silver and leather bracelet with the words “Live in the Moment” on it. I wear it on all my long runs. Whenever I get overwhelmed, negative, or any other not-helpful frame of mind, I look down at those words to bring myself back to the present moment.

Here are some ways that I practice being in the moment while on the run. They prove especially helpful when things start getting difficult or painful:
  • Don’t think about how many miles, minutes (or hours!) remain in your run unless it makes you happy. Live in the moment, but plan for the future (practice proper nutrition, hydration, pacing, etc.).
  • Notice everything! Become like a microscope. Focus on each individual rock that makes up the road shoulder or the trail bed. See individual blades of grass, leaves and needles on trees. Look at each car as it approaches and passes you. Become curious about the lives of the people driving them. Look up at the sky. See how blue it is. Note the quality of the clouds, jet contrails. Breathe deep the smells of fresh cut grass, blackberries on the vine baking in the hot afternoon sun. You get the idea— notice everything! One day last summer I chose to focus on house numbers. I got home from my run so blissed-out on house numbers! Notice everything.
  • Bored with your usual run? Though at first glance things may outwardly appear the same, the rocks are in slightly different places. The river is not the same river that it was yesterday. Plants are growing and dying. How are are surrounding different than they were yesterday? 
  • When a negative thought pops into your head, replace it with a positive one. Don’t keep telling yourself that you feel crappy and aren’t into your run. Tell yourself “I feel great!” and more likely than not, you soon will. That’s not self-deception, it’s self-direction. Only tell yourself things that send you in the direction you want to go in. You don’t really want to keep feeling crappy, do you?
  • Likewise, if a body part begins to hurt, ache, or feel tight, don’t jump to conclusions (oh no, there goes my hamstring again!) and assume that it’s going to bother you from here on out. If you think you’re screwed, you’re right, and this is something you don’t want to be right about! Relax. Breathe. It’s just a passing thing as your body gets settled in to the run. Breathe love and relaxation into the aching area. Talk to it. Tell it “I hear you talking, but I’m busy right now. I can give you plenty of attention (foam roller, The Stick, massage, etc.) later.” Think or say out loud the word “relax” and feel the tension melt away. Breathe.
  • On the other hand, allow yourself to revel in your pain or how difficult your run is for just a moment (it takes a lot of effort to hurt— be proud of it!), but then move past it.
  • Focus on your form. Feel your stride rate increase slightly, your torso become a little more upright, your shoulders slightly back, collarbone “lengthened,” chin tucked slightly lengthening the back of your neck. Arm swing becomes more pronounced. You immediately feel stronger, more confident, more powerful and efficient. Keep coming back to your form. After a period of time, it will come more naturally.
  • Focus on your breath. Take occasional deep cleansing breaths. Sometimes I find myself breathing so shallowly that it almost feels like I’ve forgotten to breathe. Inhale deeply, then forcefully exhale. Not only does this get rid of excess CO2, it just feels satisfying. (I’m convinced this is a big reason why smoking is so addictive. How many smokers do you see take a shallow puff off a cigarette? That’s right, they all inhale deeply.)
  • Relax. Don’t squint or scrunch up your face. Let your face and jaw go slack, as if you were half asleep. Look through half-closed eyelids if it’s safe to do so. On occasion dangle your arms at your sides and shake them out. Relax your hands. Keep your shoulders low. Make sure they don’t rise as your run up that hill. Any tension is wasted energy. When the going gets tough people tend to tense up. Don’t fight it; instead relax into it. 
  • Give yourself permission to slow down. When I slow down it’s easier for me to notice my surroundings and get more enjoyment from them. Take a short walk break when the desire strikes you. Notice everything. Pick out a point ahead: perhaps a rock, tree, or bend in the trail, and start running again when you reach that point.
These are a few techniques I have been using lately as my long runs get longer and more frequent. I’m not saying I’m good at any of them yet. I have to keep reminding myself, but sooner or later they will become habits, very good habits. 
Sunset from Pilot Butte looking toward Mt. Bachelor. I couldn’t help but notice the clouds and color!

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