I know I shared last week the power my mind has over my body and the role it plays in pushing myself on those long runs. I read something this week on the mind and how memories and patterns are formed that I thought would be an interesting addition. Hopefully you think it's interesting too!
Our church is in the midst of a series on the book Primal by Mark Batterson. It's about getting back to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. I definitely recommend the book. I'm preparing small group studies based on each section of the book and this past week I was working on "mind." Mark Batterson has a real interest and affinity for science that shows up in his books and messages. There was some wonderful teaching and application on loving God with our minds--but I found it applying in other areas of our lives.
Stay with me...the running connection is coming...
In the message Mark preached to his church on the topic he talked about how a memory is made--not just remembering something that happened, but establishing long-term memory, patterns and habits. Remember when you used to cram for an exam? An hour after the test (or even faster) the info was petty much gone. It takes repetition over the course of time to create a long-term memory.
Think of your brain as an etch-a-sketch. To make a thick line, you have to sketch the same line over and over again. That's how it is in your brain. To create a new pattern, to condition a response, you have to do it over and over again.
Over the summer I tried getting up early to run. I would set my alarm and it would go off, and I'd turn it off. That would happen a few times a week. Once in a while I'd actually get up, but it didn't happen often.
This fall when my half marathon training schedule started, I was really committed to sticking to it as closely as possible. Which meant I'd have to get up early at least once or twice a week. The only guaranteed run time for me much of the week is the early morning. I can intend to run after work or on a day off when Bean gets home. But the chances of something coming up and changing those plans (including my own fatigue or laziness) is high.
It was rough at the beginning, and although I got up more than during the summer, I still hit the "off " button and rolled over at times. But I kept setting my alarm and as the weeks went on, I got up more and more. I was retracing those paths in my brain.
I began to wake up before my alarm sometimes. Or I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking my alarm was about to go off and was ready to get up and run. What a wonderful surprise to look at the clock and find out I had a few hours more to sleep!
Now, 8 weeks into my training, the pattern is formed. I pretty much always run on Monday mornings. On Sunday night I'm already anticipating waking up and I even look forward to going to bed, so that I can get up and run. Insane, I know. But that's how I've conditioned my mind. Even once my training is done, I'll probably continue to get up 2 mornings a week to run.
"Getting up early" for me is 5:15am-5:30am. I usually run early on Monday and Wednesday, both days that I work. I need to be in the shower by 6:30am in order to leave on time. My wake up time is determined by how long I need/want to run that day. Last Sunday was a stressful day. Not one thing in particular, just life adding up. I was scheduled to run 3 miles. But I knew I needed longer to work out my stress---so I got up at 5:15 and ran 5 miles. Oh it felt so good!
So...if you are trying to establish a pattern of exercise, keep on trying. Keep setting that alarm. Keep putting your exercise time on the calendar. Set out your workout clothes. That is the first step. Slowly, it can become an established pattern. Give yourself a goal to work towards. A 5k perhaps or exercising a certain number of days in a month.
You have to find something you like. Something that challenges you but is enjoyable. Checking out exercise DVD's from the library is one way to start. Or your cable company might offer Exercise TV with a lot of free workouts. Of course you know my exercise drug of choice---running! Once this half marathon is over, I'm going to keep running, but I know I need to do more cross-training.
**update on me**
My half-marathon is just over two weeks away now. I'm definitely excited about it. My schedule has a 13-mile run this Saturday--basically a half-marathon distance at a slower pace. I still need to figure out my course, but I'm determined to tackle it. I missed 5.5 miles of my long run last week (due to time and rain) and I missed 5 miles of this week's schedule. I'm still feeling good though. The schedule is the ideal and I'm happy hitting 75% or better.
I think my next goal may be to tackle a shorter distance (like 10k, which is about 6 miles) and try to get faster and faster. We have a lake near us with a running path and its a little more than 6 miles. Maybe I'll run that every weekend through the holidays and work on getting faster with speed intervals during the week.
How was your week of exercise and activity??