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Running aware: Keeping the body and mind in sync

Keeping the mind and the body in sync is essential. Recently, one moment in training tested Tara’s ability to keep calm and patient while she listened to a signal her body was giving her.
Winter trail

It was simply myself, the quiet paths and an early morning long run. I was free from the treadmill and the accompanying music blasting through my ear buds. With spring on its way, I could hear familiar rustles and chirps in the midst of the thawing trees and within the crisp, wild grass. As I ran, I was aware of my body — how it felt, how it was responding.

This keen awareness of body is something most runners will understand. There is a need to constantly be on top of the signals your body is giving you. It helps to decipher between the serious and harmless triggers that your body is sending your way. The ability to tune in with the body is critical to a successful running career and it goes beyond catching potential injuries. For myself, it informs me of how to treat my body properly between runs and it helps me monitor my nutritional needs.

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Over the past 10 months, I’ve learned a lot about how to sync my mind and body. Much of this has come from persistent coaching by both my running coach and my ADHD coach. It takes a concerted effort, consistency and time to condition your body and mind to work in a truly connected way. There are times when I still get it wrong…

Last Monday during a strength session, I came up from a one-legged squat and I felt a shot of pain in my left groin/ hamstring area. Most runners have been here. You feel a pull or some sort of pain and you have to make the decision: Push through? Or stop? Last summer, I made the mistake of running through sharp pain. It put me out for a month and so when I felt that same area go on Monday, it was enough to make me stop immediately.

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My hope was that it was just a cramp and that it would go away, but I had no such luck. Fifteen minutes later, it still hurt to walk. My mind started settling in on the idea that it could be more serious than a cramp. This is the point where I lost my mind-body connection. I allowed the fear of being seriously injured take over my better judgment.

As a person with ADHD, I can hyperfocus which is both a blessing and a curse. The ability to intensely concentrate on something is a beautiful thing when it’s directed in a positive way. But it’s awful when it goes wrong.

I returned home, anxious to get ice on it. My mind raced. I wanted to know if it was a minor pull or something serious. And I wanted assurance that I wasn’t going to be out for an extended period of time. Realistically though, there was no way I was going to get any of those answers that night, no matter how hard or how much I iced. Still, in hyperfocus mode, I iced and I iced hard.

What does “ice hard” mean? Exactly what it sounds like and I don’t recommend it — ever. I wrapped the ice pack around my leg so tightly that when I took it off after 20 minutes, I had pinched, cut and burned a chunk of my upper leg. I went to bed anxious about how it was all going to feel the next day.

When I woke up I was concerned, but no longer hyperfocused. With my mind and body back in sync, I walked around to feel it out. The site of the original pain felt quite good, but the area damaged by the ice was swelling. It was clear the best thing to do was to take the day off, which worked. I then took one more day off to let the swelling go down. Peace of mind came knowing that I was doing everything my body was asking of me.

In the days following I was back in fine form. On Friday I put in a double run and everything felt solid. On Saturday, I was able to enjoy a beautiful early morning long run. I don’t think a kilometre passed without a moment of gratitude. I also gave thought to how far I’ve come in terms of listening to my body and of the importance of staying calm in approaching how I manage it.