Present Sense

I followed up the blissful smoothness of my last long run with a low volume day of run/biking, and then had an absolutely storming track session. It was one of my best, ever. I felt in full control of my stride, was able to hold something in reserve on the longer efforts, and then push hard on the shorter ones. I have a vivid memory of surging around the top bend as I entered into the last 200m of a 600m effort and thinking that feels right. It has been a long while since I have felt that way, since I felt my body allow me access to another gear. 

Wednesday, I trudged out onto the trails and felt tired, but that was to be expected. The day after that I went for 12 miles and ended the relatively easy paced run feeling completely wiped. The final 2 miles were an absolute slog. Why? What changed in those two days? 

Could be that I was just tired. Could be that’s just the way it goes. 

Recently, Giannis Antetokounmp (the “Greek Freak“, NBA star) took part in an interesting press conference which caught a fair bit of attention. In it, he showed a lot of self awareness, and a great deal of humility. Most interestingly for me, Giannis noted that in his experience after playing a great game and putting numbers on the boards, the next day he usually sucked. To elaborate he said:

‘when you focus on the past, that’s your ego… when you focus on the future, that’s your pride… the present, that’s humility.’ 

I’ve known this for some time: to expect bad days to follow quickly behind the good, but I’ve never really thought about how my mindset might be adding to this cycle. That great long run, and that great workout, they’re both in the past. The beauty of running is that they are very much in the tank, in the body, in the legs and lungs, but the workouts themselves, the success of them, is gone. The training effect of a good feeling workout and a bad feeling workout is only minimally different. Maybe on a bad day I sit back a bit on the shorter efforts, but by what? Two, three seconds? How much difference would it make to my training? 

When I struggled on that twelve miler, I was comparing the way I felt to the way I had felt, as if there was some necessary link, but really I should have been focused on the moment, on that run. If I had been purely in the moment, if I hadn’t been comparing those past workouts, would it have felt so bad? It was only my ego that was causing me to think about those old runs and frame them as somehow better than what I was presently doing, as if I thought that I deserved that feeling again. 

And to use those good workouts as an example: I was feeling fitter and healthier than I had in many weeks, months maybe, and because of that I was ready to work hard, to focus entirely on what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking about past workouts because a lot of them in recent memory simply hadn’t been that good. 

Maybe that fresh start mindset, that this is the one, forget everything else mentality is what we need to be bringing to every single workout. Maybe there’s no guaranteed way to make a run feel good, but maybe there is a guaranteed way to make a run feel bad, and maybe more of us are guilty of making that mistake than we realise. Ego pulls us to the past, pride drags us to the future. Both take us away from the present moment and cause worthless comparison to great moments which have gone, or those which are still to come.

Avoid those and perhaps we can find some humility, and keep a little present sense. 

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