I’ve been a runner since I was at school and as you may have guessed I was at school a longish time ago! In the 80’s when city marathons first began to open up, I trained for and ran my first marathon in Liverpool wearing Dunlop Green Flash tennis shoes. Tennis shoes! There was almost nothing available in the way of guides and Nike was just a fledgling company. I made it in 4 hours but could barely walk for 2 days. I resolved then to understand exercise and have researched and digested advice and guidance continuously since then.
My goal has been to understand what my body needs, not to turn my body into something else. What this has led me to understand is that to be healthy required a lot more than lacing up your shoes and hitting the tarmac. It’s vitally important to tune into yourself and recognize what your needs really are across the spectrum of needs:
To do this you have to be deliberate in analyzing yourself and methodical about making adjustments. It is the totality of these needs that leads to the best version of you as you evolve and grow.
For what it’s worth here is what I would recommend:
1. Every morning as you rise ask yourself …how do I feel?
Be as honest and as objective as possible. Did you overdo it yesterday? Did you get enough sleep? Are you worried or stressed? Make notes either mental or better yet in a journal. Let the feelings guide you to change your day a little. Maybe you need more energy or maybe you need to take things a little easier and get ready for an early night. Listen carefully and your body will tell you!
2. Then start your day.
I have 2 things I do every day – not always in the same order and not always the same exact things. I exercise and I contemplate.
- For exercise: I work hard on not overdoing it but also find times in the week to push myself. Some days I run and some days I walk vigorously; some days I do both. I get my heart rate up and I cool down. Every day I do pushups and a 5-minute plank routine. I never look forward to them, but I know that 6 minutes of upper body and core strengthening work help with posture and avoiding injury. I also use some weights 2-3 times a week as it helps with bone mass and raising energy level. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something for just a few moments.
Anything you want to do is great. Dance to the Radio! Get out a punch bag. Do that downward dog and warrior pose. Just work out with what works for you and every now and then change it up.
- For contemplation: I meditate. There are some excellent apps that can help but just sitting, even for as little as 5 minutes and following your breath, is a great way to center and balance yourself. If your mind wanders just gently go back to your breath.
Recently I have been taking a few moments to write a journal entry about how I feel, what I think I need and any offerings of gratitude. This was a big revelation to me. It tied together the process and helped me to be able to adjust as I needed.
Then throughout the day I take a few moments to check on how I’m doing. When I’m deep into tasks my breathing can become shallow and my body tenses up. So now as I remember I get into the moment with some deep relaxing breaths and stand and stretch. Breathing in slowly to a count of 5 and then breathing out slowly though pursed lips for a count of 8-10 is all it takes.
There is one other practice that I might recommend and that is sitting quietly for a few moments at the end of the day and asking again how I feel and what I am grateful for.