Focus is really not my forte. My mind is always jumping about, I do several things at the same time and I juggle non stop. I'm great at making links and connections, love new ideas, but I am rubbish at paying attention and I just don't do detail. I've always been a fidget, perpetually distracted at school, never sure what I wanted to do or be.
So I start things with a great flourish and great intentions but finish in a bit of a state and get through life by the skin of my teeth (see my blog posts on the Barcelona Marathon for evidence!). I can get very distracted - you wouldn't believe the number of times I've done my ankle in whilst having a good neb into a well lit window enticed by the chance to glimpse another world and not noticing a pothole (sounds like a metaphor for you life. ed). I must test the patience of himself when he has to repeat things because I've been carried away by a passing insight. Twitter of course fuels this type of behaviour, because I am a flibbertigibbet, a will o' the wisp, a dilettante with a mind that goes leaping about.
In a way, I quite like it. It's exciting and stimulating, despite the scrapes it gets me into. I have to balance lots of things in life, we all do, so it's handy that I can juggle various crises. But it was when it cropped up in my running that I began to think a bit more deeply about what all this is about and the implications.
You won't be surprised that this has all happened because of my Chi Running. In my Chi training session 6 weeks ago, Nickwas giving me feedback and advice and I suddenly realised I wasn't really listening to him. I heard what he said but I was busy thinking about what comes next. I 'fessed up and Nick said I have a head full of chattering monkeys and I need to focus on the here and now. Yes, Nick you're right, of course I do! Now, can I just ask how many times should I .......
I forgot about the monkeys, and got on with becoming a Chi runner, focussing my attention on keeping my shoulders down, keeping my posture right, keeping my pace steady; exercising my attention and my legs. No more listening to the iPod, letting my thoughts wander at will. This paying attention to what's going on at the moment is having a remarkable effect on my running. I've lost that sense of urgency that I have to run as fast and far as I can every opportunity because I might not be able to run tomorrow. Instead I'm focussing on my running as I'm doing it. Every time I run I listen to my Chi Running podcast and focus on the here and now. It's paying off even in training terms - my ability to run at a consistent pace is getting much much better and I'm having fewer niggles already. I am at peace with my running in a way I haven't been before.
Because I'm still limiting how often I run, I've started practicing my running form when I'm doing other things. You don't need to run to relax your shoulders or get your posture right. I've been reading the Chi Walking book so I can do it when I walk about and got some really good ideas there too. Chi is beginning to seep into other areas of my life and this is good.
So I was feeling quite positive, then came the week from hell. I've been horrendously stressed this week. I won't bore you with the details and it wasn't the worst week I've had, but I was struggling. I'd run out of time and energy, my head was close to going ping with all the juggling. I was overwhelmed by what I had to do and guilty about what I wasn't doing. Not surprisingly, I wasn't sleeping, so I got the early train to get a good crack at things and hopefully do enough to get ahead of myself.
As I sat on the train, shuffling a massive pile of papers, my heart sank, it was as bad as I thought. How was I going do all this? Through the fug came a ray of light - just focus on one thing. All I had to do was decide my most important and immediate priority and focus on that. It was surprisingly obvious when I looked at my diary and then things fell into place. I could feel the pressure falling off and my mind calming as the clutter and clatter fell away.
I was in the here and now. I'd stopped listening to the chattering monkeys reminding me of all the stuff I had to do and getting quite agitated about it all. Those monkeys were pulling my attention in all sorts of directions, getting me agitated and holding me back. As I decided on my priority I began to feel in control and my brain began to calm down and clear.
Focus is yet another muscle I have to develop, just like those glutes. If I am going to do a half decent job of balancing all the things I value in my life, I need to learn to focus.
As I type, the monkeys have been distracting me - telling me to make cups of tea, getting me to clean the kitchen and make pots of soup. But they're not upset or alarmed, they're happily chatting and chirruping to each other, occasionally reminding me that I have other things on my horizon and that it's good to take a break. Those chattering monkeys are going to help me get balance into my life - if I can get the little buggers under control!
Training this week fell victim to my chaos. I did half a day of serious gardening, one aerobics session, a sneaky five miler and I hope to run tomorrow, but I'll see how I feel. It's been by luck rather than design that I've got any exercise this week. A lot of the internal chattering is about when can I squeeze in a run and when can I get to the gym. I reckon if I timetable sensibly, I can cut this chatter out too.
You never know what's going to happen when you start running, or cycling or cooking or whatever thing captures your imagination. Writing the blog gives me a chance to reflect on what's going on and that helps. My marathon challenge is firmly rooted in my head and how I organise my thoughts and my life. I think I got that in theory, but doing it is a bit different. Being a runner is never just about the legs is it?
Take care, keep well, run strong.
ps yes I know a chimp is an ape not a monkey! But I really like this photo. She's a few years under her belt and despite the chattering and jumping about, she has wisdom an experience - and a nice smile!