Crutches are for Broken People

Crutches are for Broken People

On the advice of Marathon Brian, I have been running without my iPod for weeks.   Last year, as Brian was doing his NYC Marathon training, I would check in with him each week to get an update on what, at the time , appeared to be an amazing feat of strength and endurance.  LOL, it still does!   I was just a newbie runner, scraping out 15 minutes, 20 minutes of running.  Working my way up to a 5K.  So to listen to Brian talk about running 15 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles…..I was in awe of him.  Then one day he told me he runs without an iPod, and I nearly fell @ss on the floor!


Blown away by the idea of running without music, I remember asking him, ” Bri…what do you think about for 22 miles?  How do you DO that?”

He started off by telling me that the main reason for running without the device is simply not to have the crutch.  Brian spent alot of time during his training routine to build his ability to deal with the unexpected.  He spent alot of time building his pace, through intervals and rigorous training runs, he could “feel” his pace, even without the Garmin watch.  If it rained on Marathon day, he wanted to have experience in the rain.   If the route was hilly, he wanted experience with hills.  If he could throw the unexpected into his training pathway…he did.   So he made a conscious choice not to rely on the iPod…..because once you grow to rely on the music mentally….once you NEED it….what do you do if the unexpected happens..and in the middle of the race, your iPod craps out on you?? There you are…running…without your crutch….your mental game has been drastically changed.  And you have many miles ahead of you.  So Brian did it for the simplicity of it.

Hmmm.  Interesting.  But I’ll tell you this….on that first day when I walked out my front door to run only 2 miles without my iPod….I wasn’t convinced.  It was a leap of faith,,,,,kinda low on faith!  and high on the leap!

So how did it go?  Well….let’s dish.

It was early morning, as usual, which is so pretty anyway.  The birds were chirping, just having woken up.  The air smelled fresh and cool.  I felt more connected with the world.  Weird.  How can I feel more connected with the world, just by unplugging those rubber ear buds from my ears?  I dunno….but I’m tellin’ ya, it’s true!  All of a sudden, I could smell the air more fully.   I could feel the sun coming up over the trees.   And I could hear the birds chirping….and honestly….they made me happy.  It all made me happy.  As I approached the street sign at the end of my road (my personal Start/Finish Line),  I hit the button on my Garmin watch, and my first outside music-less run began.

Immediately I was aware of my breathing.  Hey kid, take it easy there.  You sound like you are gonna fall over.  Breathe!  In…..Out…..In….Out.   In many ways, I was a newbie runner all over again.  With all those miles on the pavement spent up to that moment, I had never listened to my breathing.  How could I?  I was all plugged up with Lady Gaga.  With ears-wide-open, I could hear myself breathing, and I could focus my attention on myself.  I used my mind and my lungs to calm down my breathing and create a more normalized pattern.  I’ve read lot about runners creating a ratio of breaths per step.  Nah…too complicated for me (for now).  That’s something for another day, in the future.  Right then, that day….all I wanted to do was steady my breathing so I didn’t sound like I was wheezing.  LOL  And little by little it worked.

I could also hear my footsteps hitting the paved road.   My husband Peter recently commented that when he walks past the spare room when I am on the treadmill, that he can barely hear me running anymore.  That day, outside, I could understand what he was saying.  I’ve come such a long way from the early days.  It’s so interesting that as my running has improved that my footsteps have become lighter.  I….Diane….Runner and baby gazelle….am lighter on my feet.  How K.E.W.L. Is That!!!!

Beyond that, the run felt pretty typical.  It was easy in spots and hard in spots.  Each run, I PUSH.  I push myself to go faster in pace….so it feels hard.  Not ridiculously hard, but challenging.  Setting out on the run, it was those challenging moments that worried me.  How would I make it past those challenging moments without my signature song, Titanium by Sia raging in my head!??   But, Oh Well, here I am, and let’s get it done.   Just as it started to get hard, a weird phenomenon happened.  Quite naturally, without forcing it, my new Inner Voice took charge, and started encouraging me.  ALL those old mantras I had created long ago started coming back.  “This is Good”, she said.  “You can do it”, she confidently repeated to me over and over….until like magic, Voila….I had done it.  And it felt better.  It felt……well….less hard.    I didn’t really understand it when it was happening.  But I continued thinking about it all day and into the next.  SomeThing curious happened out there, without the iPod.  SomeThing Important.

I made myself remember ALLLLL those runs with the iPod plugged into my head.  I made myself think about and remember , “What was I saying to myself during those runs?”  Well, lots of things, is the answer.  Yet at the core of all the self-conversation I had with myself, was this single thought:

God Almighty…Is This Over Yet?

Yeah.  Kinds sucks.  Negative.  Whiney.   The best way I can explain it to you is this…..It’s like I was a whiney kid in the back seat of a car on a long drive, and my iPod was like a Sesame Street video plugged in to keep me occupied.  But it only worked to distract me for a little while.  Then my mind went to that nasty place.  That place where it started to cry and complain and whine like that kid in the back seat.  Waa.  Waa.  Waa.  Are we There Yet??

O Brother!  I can tell you this, it’s as bad in your own head when YOU are the whiner….as it is in your ears when it’s your kid in the back seat.  That’s the TRUTH!

I didn’t realize that the iPod would make my mind go there.  It was the LAST thing I would have expected.  If you had asked me, I would have told you the iPod was motivating, energizing.  The  music picked me Up.  Up.  UP.   But in reality…..the iPod was a crutch that only served to pacify me, to quiet me down.  But it only worked to a degree….and then my thoughts had to work twice as hard to be heard above the music.  I had to scream above the music…..and most of the screams were………negative.  Hmmm.   How counterproductive is that!

Wow….weirdness all over the place.

In contrast, these weeks without the iPod have taught me this.  When my thoughts are not pacified, when my mind is asked to come to the table and HELP during my runs….it comes willingly with natural Coaching behaviors.  Yeah.  How crazy is that?  My new Inner Voice is a Coach.  And a pretty darn good one too.  She encourages me.  She pushes me forward.  Heck, she is demanding too.  She tells me, NO!  No stopping.  Just go one more mailbox.  Now go one more driveway.  One more tree.  She “One Mores”me until I’ve made it up the hill or around the next corner, or past the next mile.  She “One Mores”  me all the way to my Finish Line street sign, and then she Celebrates my success.   God, I had NO IDEA how strong, and powerful, and encouraging my thoughts could be…..and I NEVER would have known….if I hadn’t turned the music OFF, and turned my mind ON.

This is probably the single most meaningful lesson of my running experience, to date.  Unplugging myself has given me the gift of a lifetime.  It has given me ….the Coach I’m going to need as I run those 26.2 miles.  When I’m out there on my own, fighting my fight that day… Coach will be my partner, and she is going to help me far far more than Lady Gaga or Sia ever could.  Sorry ladies, no disrespect, but….it’s T.R.U.T.H.

Please don’t get me wrong.  Music is magic.  And I love it.  A small part of me misses it…..but NOT enough to give up the POWER of what I have found in myself in exchange.    So instead I use Music in a new, hugely beneficial way.  I use music to get me In The Mood to work out.  I use it to Pick Me Up, so I ensure that the workout happens when I get home from work, when I get out of the car after the long ride home.  Music Picks Up My Spirit and Gets me Past the Hardest Part of the Workout…..the Start.

So, no crutches for me.  I’m not broken, I’m not lame.  I don’t need to lean on anything to get me down those 26.2 miles.  The only “thing” I want to be dependent on during this part of my journey ……is Myself.   I’m going to be Ears Wide Open, and Present for every mile on Race Day and all the days leading up to it.  I don’t really know what lies ahead of me…..but I know this.  I’m NOT going to miss a minute of it!

Operation No iPod Successful and I’m Loving it!

Ciao for now….Diane

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