In this week, I have thought about my running and what training does for me considering that I treat running as a space for introspection and a space to unwind. The training and workouts I have attended have played a crucial role in helping me to learn more about my body and my mind. Through training, I have learnt how and when to intervene and more importantly, not to intervene, when my body and mind throw up various kinds of sensations and reactions in response to vagaries of the terrains and the mind. The training sessions help you to learn the techniques of running such as correct posture and develop your own speed, pace and breathing rhythms, momentums and equations over time. They say the devil lies in the details. I’d say that a good runner learns through details, details which may appear very mundane but are fundamental to the body and the mind. Take for instance breath which is so basic to our constitution but is missed/ignored as easily in daily life. I learnt the value of breath and breathing through Vipassana, learning and simultaneously unlearning how the simple act of observing your breath go in and out can help you to focus your mind and become more aware of how your body responds to sensations, stimuli and all that that comes with conditioning.
In this week, I have remained ambivalent about the value of training partly because I have missed several workout sessions in this season and have been highly irregular in following the training schedules but have simultaneously attached new meanings to running in my life as circumstances have unfolded. The coaches and mentors insist on being regular at workouts if you want to see the results. Perhaps what I have struggled with on this piece of advice is the meaning and understanding of ‘results’ which in turn has added to my ambivalences about training vis-a-vis consciousness. Let me try and articulate my dilemma before I go any further. I have argued on the group mailing lists that while having goals for running are important, it is equally important to let consciousness and serendipity play roles in the process of running and to learn to accept changes in goals and diversions in ‘progress’. In retrospect, I have realized that there are many times when I have not consciously let consciousness and serendipity work their magic as I have run. It is only lately that I have become more of an observer of myself while I run, watching the strides I make and take, the breaths that go in and out, the manner in which my mind constrains and enables me. But even then, I am not always an observer of myself. There are times when I slip into fretting and fuming, when I wish just before the run that today’s run gets over quickly so that I can hit the sack or get my mint tea, vara vara vara. I guess it is here that the regular workout sessions help. They aid me in becoming better with each run and even if I get worse at times, to watch the worse objectively, as if I was an external observer to myself, than to get into a reactive and negative mode. This Wednesday, when I went for the hill workouts where you learn to run uphill and downhill and develop your muscular strength and build on your breathing capacity, I realized that it is easy to slip downhill – that does not require much effort. Even the slightest bit of negativity will lead you to the paths downhill. But to move from downhill to uphill, you have to maintain a steady pace, an upright posture and a calm attitude which will see you all the way up, through and through. Workout sessions help you to internalize these lessons which in turn help you to perfect not only your running technique, but also the techniques with which we face our lives.
I guess the issue that I have been referring to so far has more to do with regularity rather than with training alone. I have struggled, in interesting ways, in this week, to understand the relationships between training, regularity and consciousness. Sometimes I have wondered whether the relationships between these three elements are contradicting. But in the end, most paradoxes converge happily as you realize that relationships unfold over time, change over time and take on new meanings from time to time. So also for the relationships between training, regularity and consciousness. There is no denying that with greater regularity comes more practice. With more practice comes greater perfection and you are more able to attain heights that were earlier not possible. I guess my concerns with regularity then have to do with the fact that once I hit perfection, what else will be left for me? Will running then become boring? Is it a much happier situation for me when I am impulsive, learning from imperfections and letting imperfections creep in and move out, all the time? I guess I will only learn answers to these questions over time. For now, run I must!
This week has been an interesting one. I have struggled with questions about regularity, training and consciousness not only with respect to running but also in regard to my other passions in life including writing, research and cooking. I have devoured the entire copy of Julia Child’s “My Life in France” and I have drooled over the culinary delights she has described and the passion that that 6 foot plus American woman had for cooking and perfection. For those who do not know, Julia Child is the famous American who learnt and perfected the art of French cooking and wrote the two masterly volumes “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Child is known as one of America’s most famous exports to France (though I personally feel that Julia actually imported the good ol’ France to the States through her passion, vigour and ever curious nature!)! I read about how Child got herself trained in Cordon Bleu and how she kept the basics of French Cooking as the essential framework within which she left the room open for experimentation, innovation and most importantly, instinct.
Julia Child was an interesting entrant in my life this week for through her life, I have tried to grapple with my concerns and ambiguities about training, regularity and consciousness. I don’t have answers and even when I have the answers, they will happily change from time to time. I don’t have an ending for this post either and I am glad to leave it open-ended which also reflects my state of mind. I’d put a momentary stop by quoting from Julia Child’s “My Life in France” (page 242):
“A live show was out of the question – partly due to the limitations of equipment and space, and partly because I was a complete amateur. But we decided to tape the entire show in one uninterrupted thirty-minute take, as if it were live. Unless the cameras broke or the lights went out, there would be no stopping or making corrections. This was a bit of a high-wire act, but it suited me. Once I got going, I didn’t like to stop and lose the sense of drama and excitement of a live performance. Besides, our viewers would learn far more if we let things happen as they tend to do in life – with the chocolate mousse refusing to unstick from its mold, or the apple charlotte collapsing. One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear if it cannot be fixed.”