Trail Running, Meditation, Covid 19 and Healing

For many of you, you’d know that endurance sport has been a passion of mine for quite some time. After 11 years in the triathlon game I’ve finally moved on. I’ve started to leave the bike and goggles behind and focus on the concept of ultra running. Why? Well honestly it is a massive challenge that:

  • 1st scares the hell out of me 
  • 2nd creates an opportunity not how fast, but how far I can go 
  • 3rd forces me to change 
  • 4th it’s much easier to travel with a pair of running shoes & a backpack than it is with shoes, bike, wetsuit, helmet and all other paraphernalia needed for a triathlon

So what’s the point? By far and away it’s not to brag. This running caper in many aspects has me beat. The time on the feet, the speed or the slowness of the run has me frustrated and the fatigue and injuries never feel too far away. However, I wanted to touch on a comparison. 

A comparison of the hard work of: Trail Running vs Meditation vs Covid 19 vs Healing  

There are 7 similarities that I can see in the hard work: 

Doing something hard doesn’t come with instant, recognisable measures of improvement or success. 

All of these things take time but with patience we can get through it and we can get better. Whether it’s the 8wks for muscular and ligamentous injuries to heal, the 20-week running program, the 3 month COVID 19 isolation or 8 week meditation program. All things, if the end result is good enough, will take time.

Although it rings true, this is a very tough problem to face. We don’t want to feel better tomorrow, we don’t want to run faster next week, we don’t want to wait till next month to be beyond COVID 19- we want it now! Yesterday preferably. We certainly don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines unable to play the game. But to get better, to get where we really want to go we have to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Or as is common in the military “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

We can’t predict the future. 

We don’t know exactly what comes next. For many of us we focus on the next. We focus on the mountain top, the next goal or task regardless how big or small but we are aware of exactly what should be right around the next corner. Although some sport coaches may preach the blueprint plan that is a carbon copy for each athlete, if you truly want to get better, you need to maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. What stretches are best to aid your healing? What’s the next mental distraction that’ll force you to loose focus or what’s the location of the next coronavirus outbreak? Who knows? Who is paying enough attention to see what you specifically need next?

Be present in this moment, it’s the only moment that counts.

There’s not much point worrying about tomorrow’s run today. Nor is there a need to think about what’s for dinner during this meditation. To worry about next months holiday in the middle of Covid. There’s worry and fatigue associated with forward thinking or any distraction from the present. In discussing Michael Jordan, Mark Vancil said in Episode 10 of “The Last Dance,” 

Most people live in fear because we project the past into the future. Michael’s a mystic. He was never anywhere else. … His gift was not that he could jump high, run fast, shoot a basketball. His gift was that he was completely present. And that was the separator.” 

Layering counts. 

Putting the steps together, regardless of how small is the only way we can build up or go forward. Sometimes, going for another run seems pointless (it certainly has for me lately). Another meditation session can be met with questioning why. Wondering the difference or benefit from another chiropractic appointment or massage or from taking the antibiotics to the end of the script can leave us scratching our heads. 

For many not knowing the end of Covid 19 has left them struggling for motivation or the kick to get moving. Yet have you ever had that random back pain that came on with something so trivial like making your bed, picking up something off the floor or checking the blind spot in your car? Chances are you’ve done that movement a million times, yet this time it’s caused you pain. Layering works both positively and negatively. Imagine the slow, perpepetual and relentless build up of scar tissue or the chronically abused lungs more susceptible to respiratory infections. As Lao Tsu says it beautifully although a little cliched, “the journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step.” I’d prefer to layer that as a step in the right direction.

The process is more important than the destination. 

In a similar vein to what has already been discussed regarding predicting the future. Sometimes the mountain top is enshrouded by clouds, yet we still stress over what’s happening on the peak above us. First, we need to get there. One step at a time. We need to heal one day at a time. We need to train our body and mind one day at a time. Sure, like many people I love knowing where the mountain is, what peak I am climbing. But most of my focus has to be here- on the very next step I can take. It’s only if I focus on what I am doing can I hope to make to the highest peaks. As covid 19 taught us- who knows what will comes next anyways? 

The gratefulness is in what we can do right now. 

There are some incredible options we are blessed with in this modern world. To have the health, fitness and time to actually run, let alone run long distances, not forced but for my own pleasure. To have access to health care, the time & space to meditate or actually survive COVID lockdown. COVID has taken so many of life’s simple pleasures away, unfortunately it has taken countless jobs and livelihood let alone the cost of life itself. Yet we are here and “any day above the grass is a good day.”

As for healing, yes this pain might be bad, but how debilitating is it really? Isn’t pain itself just temporary? We are here and I’m grateful we are. We have a unique opportunity, and power to help shape our future selves- only if we’re grateful for where we are. If needing a dose of gratitude- check out “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.”

Comparison is futile (to yourselves, to others or even to a watch). 

“But I’ve never been injured before” or “It never used to take this long to heal.” That’s probably got something to do with you not being the same as the person you used to be. I know for me I am not as fit, strong or fast as I used to be. Imagine how hard it’ll be once I actually hit 40….. What about Covid? It’s shut off so much and there’s just so much again that we just can’t do, but there’s no point comparing this to 2019. Or comparing my fitness to that of my previous self or a friend. As David Epstein says in “Range,” we live in a wicked world. There are so many variables:

  • 1 + 1 doesn’t always = 2.
  • The need to allow for variables. To create space and not worry if things take a little longer, if we are a little slower.
  • We are where we are.
  • We are who we are.

So there you go, yes healing is hard, meditation can seem futile, Covid 19 has blindsided us and left us unsure of the future and trail running is a belter. Yet there’s something in each if these that we can learn. 

If all we get from today is a lesson, is it really wasted? As a perpetual student I’d like to think we never stop learning. If we can learn together then ideally we will be better together too! Here’s to you being awesome- today, tomorrow and beyond!

You are just as amazing as you need to be right here, right now! 

Dr James Staciwa | Chiropractor