CAN EXERCISE BE A FORM OF MEDITATION?

A couple years ago I was riding my bike down 101 into a head wind and a friend drove by.  I did not see him at the time, but later he said to me “you looked so serious”. I have actually have heard this comment a few times in my life and I had to give it some thought. What my friend had seen was in fact just a face void of emotion. To tell you the truth, often when I am running or riding or weight lifting (if I am in the “zone”); I am not really present at the surface and somewhat absent. I am meditating!

As a long time educator of fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyles,  my goal has always been to help my clients and friends and anyone else that will listen, understand the spirituality of training and fitness. The experience one has, no matter what sport or action you choose is so much more than purely a physical event. There are elements to training that go far beyond that.  And there lies the hook. I will admit of course there are times when I go for a run or workout in the gym when it just does not sync and the pistons are not firing. I call those times utility workouts. These are dues that must be paid because I know there are the payoff days.  This part of the discipline, which in itself is a form of mediation- the ever existing balance in life and in training, the Ying and the Yang.

The beginning is difficult. We tend to mostly experience fitness in the left brain and the body seems uncomfortable. I want to convey to you the need to allow that experience, and move through it. Allow yourself to be a beginner, knowing that with the consistency of the discipline you will begin to reap rewards. And it can happen very quickly. When you begin your training it is important to let go of some of the images  you have in your mind of what your body “should” look like or the mind chatter of how “out of shape you are” and so on. Training is more than vanity and more than looking good. Yes you are there to improve your health by becoming more fit but the real catch is the sense of self and well-being. A transformation occurs through training that leads you to discover who you are and a time to commune with yourself, a time to self-reflect.

TRAINING

I personally love strength/weight training and have been hooked since I was 17 years old. For me, it’s something I enjoy doing for its own sake apart from the results it gives me.

  • Weight training allows you to communicate precisely with every muscle in your body, to send blood and vitality to every space.
  • Weight training lets you lose track of time. You go into a flow where you become absorbed in the moment-by-moment process.
  • Weight training develops physical intuition. You get a gut-level sense, an instinct of what your body needs.
  • Weight training is ever changing and you learn to be flexible and receptive. You learn to let go of preconceptions of how you think you will train on any certain day. You go with plans but they do not always happen.

Another love of mine is running. It allows me to experience myself like nothing else. I do not see running as a social event.  Usually I run alone. I don’t like to talk and breathe at the same time when I run. Personally I like to focus on breathing, and natural awareness that puts the world on hold. Thoughts come and go from my mind and all I can really do is breath and tune into the effort and surroundings. I love running trails and I don’t mind if they are uphill, (that just means I go slower and think of breathing even more). Nature and running go together like peanut butter and jelly, another one of my favorite things.  But that’s for another article about nutrition.

Whether you are a runner or a walker, the solitarily aspect of that event allows each of us a uniqueness. It is what Ralph Waldo Emerson called our “individual genius,” our special way of being in the world. George Sheehan the famous running guru phrased it nicely when he said, “I know of no better way to find my own genius than running with no companion except the rhythm of my breathing.”

STARTING YOUR PRACTICE

I suggest that you mix it up, use different forms of fitness so you get to experience a variety of feelings and environments. Strive to do something that involves you being in nature. Something outdoors that you love to do and that can lead to a need to do other physical things that support that. Let’s call that the “physical domino affect”!  Stay positive, I know that sounds cliché but try and let go of negative thoughts and chose to simply stay aware of your physical experience, with practice and with the physiological changes that will occur it gets easier!

Training is not a destination it is a place that you can find in within yourself and spirit!

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Tribute to Grete Waitz 1953-2011

Tribute to Grete Waitz 1953-2011

In April of this year, not long after we lost the fitness guru Jack LaLanne, we lost another one of my heroes Grete Waitz. She was a role model and a pioneer of modern day woman’s running. At the age of 57 Waitz lost a six year fight with cancer she faced with the same determination and distinction that made her a champion and a most beloved figure in the history of woman’s sport.

Grete was an icon in long-distance running. However it did not start that way.  She almost missed her chance to show the world and herself what an incredible athlete she was.  In 1978 at 24, Grete’s nickname on the Norwegian national track team was “grandma”.  She had reached her potential in the oval. In those days the longest Olympic event women were allowed to run was 1500 meters. That is 1 mile on the track. Men were running 10,000 meters, which is 6.2 miles. Grete was about to retire and hang up her shoes, there were no races for her to test her endurance.

One must recall that it was 1972 when President Nixon signed Title IX into law, banning sex discrimination in schools.  This received federal funding. Long before Title IX was enacted, women were not allowed to play sports because of the notion that physical activity would damage their reproductive organs. However, the lack of school sports prior to Title IX did not deter women from participating in athletics. Many of my heroes like Grete were the woman that challenged the rules and conventions of society. They made the choice to go ahead and participate in sports; to go after what men have always been “allowed” to do. This was the real beginning for women to be allowed to play in sports and Grete was there with grace and determination.

In 1978 Grete decided  to run in the New York City marathon which was one of the biggest marathon events of the times. Waitz captured the first of her nine New York City Marathon titles in 1978, setting a world record in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 30 seconds in her first attempt at 26.2 miles. No one else, man or woman, can claim this achievement.

Woman all over the world (including yours truly) were just starting to run (or jog, which was the more accepted term). I remember buying a pair of Converse “running” shoes in 1975. They were just flat tops with no support. It was not until the mid 80’s that athletic shoe companies were coming out with running shoes designed specifically for woman. In fact in 1982 the first woman’s shoe to come out was the Reebok Freestyle designed for “aerobics”. Remember the leotard tights and ankle warmer socks?

In the 70s woman were coming out, sneaking into races that were allowing only men. Before 1972 woman were barred from running the famous Boston Marathon but it did not stop them.  I love the story of Roberta Gibb who hid behind a bush at the start of the Boston Marathon, sneaking into the field and finishing the race in an unofficial time of 3:21:25. She was the first woman known to complete the demanding Boston course. Gibbs’ inspiration to run?…The return of her race entry with a note saying that women were not physically capable of running a marathon. “I hadn’t intended to make a feminist statement,” said Gibb. “I was running against the distance [not the men] and I was measuring myself with my own potential.”

Grete like Gibb was thinking outside the box and showed woman all over the world that is was possible to train not just for 1,500m, but also for the 3,000m and all the way up to the taboo event of the marathon.  She was the pioneer of the woman’s marathon and she was very fast!

In 1983 Grete Waitz won the gold medal in the first ever world championship woman’s marathon. The first Olympic marathon event was in 1984 and Grete was there. She received the silver medal as her dear friend Joan Benoit made the gold. It was an amazing event. Joan Benoit accelerated ahead of the field at the 2 mile mark and never saw them again. Benoit is also a major force in the history of woman’s running- another story to be told someday.

Benoit said this about Grete “To me, Grete stood for goodness, greatness, graciousness, and generosity. She exuded all those qualities. We’ll miss her, of course. But we’re grateful for all the shared miles.”

I say thank you Grete for showing me strength and determination, rest in peace.

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Manzanita Pace Setters

Manzanita Pace Setters Jan 17th 2009

Manzanita Pace Setters Jan 17th 2009

January 10th 2009

Manzanita Pace Setter Charter Group Photo

Hi,

I am so excited the Manzanita Pace Setters are off to a super start.

We had 15 people, including an 8 year old girl Katie that ran the whole 3 miles with her mom.

And two dogs!

Some folks ran, some jogged and plenty of walkers, its all good.

We collected a full box of food for the North County Food Bank and that is the topping on the cake.

The plan is to meet every Saturday morning rain or shine and head out a new course each week that will be approximately 3 miles with optional add-on milage. You can walk, jog, trot, canter, lope or sprint its up to you! Do you own thing!

Yes you can bring:

Dogs (bring a leash in case we do a road thats a bit busier)

Kids

Roller Skates

There  are no rules but you did need to show up and if you can bring a can of food for the donation.

Come join us anytime!

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