I recently read in some advice on improving or maintaining good mental health that a healthy activity is to start taking notice of things around you. I guess being mindful of your surroundings. This is both practical and achievable, and a near perfect activity for an outdoor runner like me. With this in mind this week, I set out to run ten stride repeats after a short warm up jog.
I noticed a couple of things almost immediately. The path I use for my repeats – a straight strip of tarmac around 80 meters long – isn’t flat, it’s a slight incline in the direction I was running it. I’d never noticed that before. I also noticed I don’t have a stride run setting for my legs, they only go straight to full flat-out sprint mode. I’m not sure I was noticing the right things.
I started out with a five minute walk/jog followed by a light run for about 15 minutes. Through the trees, across the park and along the river. Without worrying too much about pace, form, cadence, I could spend time observing the nature, soaking in the greenery and the creatures within (mainly birds and squirrels, but a few geese and swans along the river).
On to the strides section of the run, I normally feel a little self conscious hurtling as fast as possible before turning round and wheezing slowly back to the starting point. This is an activity for the early hours, not the evening as it was then, prime time for dog walkers and pavement blockers.
No bother though, there is adequate grassy spaces on both sides of my route so I weaved from path to grass and back again to the bemusement of all around. Noticing the beauty of the river flowing endlessly past and the contrast of this sweaty man, anything but beautiful, puffing alongside was all part of the outing.
I finished the run with a light jog back home, with the final couple of minutes as a walk, attempting more mindfulness as I listened and observed my body recover from the exercise. A few stretches and post-race nutrition and it was a successful run. So much so that my legs felt surprisingly fresh the next day after all my exertion – I barely even noticed them!