In the morning at 5am, a newly selected group of military students, who had just entered the military training after finishing school, were asked by their lieutenant to do a 10km hike in the woods. In the group was Aditya, who had, till now, never run in his life for more than a few kilometers. Seeing he didn’t have any other option, he started running with the group.
After a 5km run, his body started giving away. His was drenched in sweat, his legs were paining, and breath was out of his control. He lost balance, fell on the ground and kept lying there till the lieutenant came to him.
The lieutenant said in a commanding voice, “Boy, get up and get going. We still have 5km to go.”
Aditya replied, “Can’t run. Hmmphh… Hmmphh… Too tired…”
To this the lieutenant replied, “Young man, until now, you have been running with your body. Now, get up and learn to run with your mind.”
Yes, it is possible to run with your mind. And when you do that, running becomes all the more fun.
Here’s how I applied a small similar technique to run effectively and longer with less feeling of fatigue at the end.
The Park: I go for a jog everyday in the evening from 6-7pm. It’s a park near my house. The park is rectangular, not very big. Its length should be around 75m and width 50m.
I take 20-25 rounds of the park every day followed by a daily exercise routine. Starting from Side 1, I continue to Side 2, 3 and 4, and back to Side 1.
The Sides: At the end of each side of the park, with continuous running in the same park every day, I come across some end-points or markers. For example:
Side 1 has a 6ft wall at its end. The wall’s paint is disrupted and you can easily make out crazy animal shapes like a lamb, a buffalo, a dog and even a lion (depending on the distance and the angle of looking).
Side 2 ends with a house across the street with a wooden brown window which is open every evening. At the center of the window you can see the darkness of the room which is inside.
Side 3 also ends with a house across the street, only this time the clearly visible marker is the dark number plate of the white colored house.
Side 4 has a tree at the corner. It’s a tall tree with only the thin bark visible within the eye range of an average height man (me). The leaves are all at a higher height.
The Jog: As you know already, it is the habit of the mind to day dream in whatever we do. I am also a part of the same process. As I start the jog from Side 1 to 2, 3, 4 and back to 1; as much as I try not to, I begin day dreaming soon enough. And then I bring my attention back to the jog, and then the day dreaming. With each passing round, the jog and the dream cycles go on.
Eventually I start feeling tired after about 12-15 rounds.
Until that is, I figured out the way to run with my mind.
The Mind-Run: While running at any side of the park, I began to fixate my eyes at a particular spot at the end of the side and keep focusing at that point (trying not to blink either), till I reach the end of that side.
On Side 1, I would look at any of the animal shapes that I could imagine on that particular day.
Side 2, the dark window is a good spot to fixate on.
Side 3, the number plate of the house is perfect fixating spot.
And on Side 4, the tree bark is the focus point.
As I did the focus exercise, I figured the following changes in my jog:
1. It became easier to run 25 rounds as I was not focusing on my tiredness, but a point on the surrounding which I had to reach at every round.
2. My average speed of running got increased as a result since, again, I no longer cared for my tiredness; rather my focus was on reaching that particular end point.
3. My eyes were fixated on the end point hence I blinked less and began observing the surrounding more. It was like I was doing jogging meditation (if there exists any such thing!)
4. My ability to look for end points, or small goal-markers got increased, which I started applying towards my work and other aspects of life too, with positive results on the things I do otherwise.
Try It Out: If you go for a jog/walk/any other exercise session on a regular basis, first of all, kudos to you! In our least-focus-on-physical-health society, you are already an exception for the good.
The next time you go for your exercise, try it out. Try to find some small goal-markers at the end of the street/park side or wherever you go and fixate your eyes on that particular point. Make it your goal as if this is what you need to achieve for that point in time. And then move on and do the same thing for the other street/park side. See if you observe any difference in your exercise session.
Once you do this, try to put similar goal-markers in your work-life, and fixate your eyes/mind on any particular piece of work as you go about it.
Putting small goal-markers on mundane tasks and fixating ourselves towards them is an effective way of running the life marathon with the mind without wearing ourselves out a lot.