What do you think about when you run? , health and wellness

This article is an excerpt from ‘La Stride’, El Pace’s newsletter about running, training and improvement beyond time. If you want to get it, You can sign up for free here,

I’d like to start by asking you a question: When you go out for a run, do you do it to think or not to think? You may have never thought about it, but if you talk to people you know about it, you’ll see that the answers are very diverse. For example, I am one of those people who take advantage of the time I have to run to think about many things, even about work. Newspaper step, to which this article belongs, was actually born in a long training, now I am preparing for my first ultramarathon. But this isn’t the case for everyone: I’ve asked many amateur runners of different levels and ages, and I’ve been surprised to see their answers about what’s going on in their minds when they run. How different they are.

Carlos Carrasco, a 32-year-old runner from the Myrmidons Athletics Club, explains, “Although when I go out for a run the first thing I feel is a feeling of isolation, over time I realized that running helps me think better. Is available.” Me. “Now I use this moment to revisit the issues that concern me. The shame is that, because I go for a run after work during the week, the inertia of the day makes me unconsciously think about work. And I usually arrive with solutions to problems or a desire to take some initiative.”

Carlos Carrasco and Jimena Ruiz at El Derby de las Aficionados race in Madrid. Photo courtesy of Jimena Ruiz

Something similar to what Carlos says happens to me, but very different cases. I also asked my colleague at EL PAÍS, Alejandra Agudo, 41, who started running last July, got addicted to it and now reflects on it on her Instagram @ua_corriente. Like a good journalist, she wanted to see on the spot what was going through his mind while he was running. He went out for 40 minutes and then wrote me this:

“It’s not impossible to think, but I usually don’t think about work issues or the problems I’m thinking about, but rather about all the things that work and start all over again They don’t leave mental space for the rest of the day. And so I disconnect from certain obligations and connect with other aspects of life: the landscape, my breath to the back of my lungs and the movement of my legs and arms, the music if I’m listening to music, or the sounds at first. . “Last thing in the morning or day.”

Alejandra Agudo, on one of her racing trips. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Agudo

Jimena Ruiz, a member of the Myrmidons Athletics Club, teammate of Carlos Carrasco, and also a fan of long distances, says that “in the first half of a long race I try to think and distract myself, because if not, I know I’ll lose my mind. Going too long. In the second run, I just try to concentrate on running. Juan Diaz, 47 and member of the Hellin Triathlon Club (Albacete) told me something similar. : “When there are times when I’m not preparing for a race, I run for the simple joy of running and to clear my head,” he explains. “Actually, I find that it helps me How relaxes and helps me dissociate. When I’m preparing for a race, I usually think about race-related issues: the training I’m doing, upcoming competitions… but I don’t usually think about day-to-day issues.”

Juan Diaz running the Hellin Half Marathon, Albacete. Photo courtesy of Juan Diaz

Even Haruki Murakami, who has 0 Nobel Prizes and thousands of miles on his feet, has addressed this topic in his essay What I mean when I talk about runningIn which he wrote:

“As I run, I probably think about rivers. Maybe think about clouds. But, actually, I don’t think about anything. I just keep running between the silence I craved, between the flirtatiousness and the artful emptiness. it’s really great. Whatever they say”.

But why are there runners who automatically start running and start thinking and runners who only focus on running and disconnect? “We have the answer in their previous learning and in their repeated intentions during several training sessions,” Natalia Pedrazas, psychologist and doctor in healthy lifestyles and director of La Psicologia en Casa, explains by email; and Carla Rodríguez, psychologist specializing in emotions in sports, director of the Suelta Los Frenos Psychology and Sports Association. “Whether exercise in your life has been a moment of connection or separation depends not on whether we have different brains, but on what we have done in the ‘race moment.’ How we have configured it. According to experts, the tendency towards one state or the other depends on various factors:

  • Because of which we are practicing sports.
  • The personal situation in which we find ourselves.
  • Previous experience in sports (“An experienced athlete who goes out to play sports will be able to more easily detach themselves from external demands and physical sensations,” he says).

Although we don’t usually do it consciously, psychologists have given me some guidelines to help ‘contemplative runners’ disconnect and vice versa:

“First we have to ask ourselves, are there other ways or places to reflect in our lives? If we haven’t made them, running is probably a good time, because automatic physical exercise (when you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, you just run automatically and don’t think about how you run) Are) manages to be free, an ideal place for the hippocampus in our brain to focus on what it does best, retrieving memories and consolidating them.

The fact of running in a familiar environment, or going out with a topic in mind that we want to think about while we run, encourages this reflection. If we want to focus on running, we must consciously work on bringing our attention to specific aspects of it, ranging from the external (sounds, colors, time, people, environment, etc.) to our physical sensations of breathing. Including till. , heartbeat, muscle sensation, the position of our body… It is important to alternate because we will not be able to maintain attention for a long time on certain elements without getting lost, at which point our alternating thoughts and self-talk come into play. Can come.

And you, are you one of those people who rush to think or disengage? What do you think about when you run? Do you have any recurring ideas? If you want, let me know in my email. pcanto@elpais.es And, in the next installment of this newsletter, we will comment on the reactions.

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