We love to run.
It is our freedom, our self care time, our breath of fresh air in a world of never-ending to do lists and rushing from one place to the next…or lets be real, one thought to the next.
We love our running, we want to get better and learn more about it, but there just isn’t the opportunity to go to running seminars, workshops, listen to 25 podcasts a week, or add 35 new exercises to our daily routine.
That being said, our days are also full of plenty of time that COULD be used productively, at least within a mental sense. We may not have physical time, but there is time to grow as a runner, to learn and improve.
Sure, we can zone out and listen to music or hear radio hosts share a cruel joke they played on a coworker, but surely there are some things out there that can help make you and your running better.
Thankfully, yes there are things we can do to be happier, healthier, and more productive. Now, most of these can be done in the car, on the train, or during time spent waiting for a kid to come out of their music lesson. That being said you have to use your common sense about whether it is a good idea to do them. Each of these require a little concentration, so I would not suggest using them while you are driving through snow, in heavy rain, busy traffic, or when noise around you is especially distracting.
Neck into seat/posture
Have you noticed that we tend to hold our phones at lap or stomach level? Not exactly a normal position for your neck and head to be rested. Our bodies have had to adapt to looking down for multiple hours a day. This has changed some of the muscle development within our bodies, and for that reason, our neck strength has weakened. Next time you are sitting in a car, a high backed chair, or a regular chair right up against the wall, try touching the seat/chair/wall with the back of your head.
Feels awkward right? Like you are purposefully giving yourself something you work hard to avoid; a double chin. But actually, giving yourself a double chin, with your head against the back of the chair and your chin tucked into your neck is the posture that is best for our bodies. We have become lazy with this, and our spines are actually starting to adapt to handle the posture we hold most the day.
Forcing yourself into this posture, even just a few minutes a day, will strengthen those neck muscles that will help you stand up straighter, run with a better posture, and protect your back from damage that could give you trouble down the road. Think about it. When you have been told to stand with good posture, what are you told to do? Shoulders back, chest out and head up. This creates the position you are forming with pushing your head into the seat. It does feel good to sit that way, makes sense to our bodies.
At first, you will likely notice your neck muscles working hard within seconds, that is how weak those muscles have become.
I like to do this in the car, because it just takes a gentle reminder to keep the back of your head against the seat. If you feel it coming off, hold it back there again. Try to build up the amount of time you are able to sit like that.
Listen to podcasts
Of course, as a podcaster I would have to suggest this, and commuting is my favorite time to listen to a podcast, because you can listen and travel at the same time, but you are also learning, growing. You can pause if a particularly relevant point comes up, and make a note or ask siri/google to make a note for you, or just wait until you get to your destination if you are driving.
Now, I have lots of lists for ideas of which ones to listen to, depending on what you are interested in learning about. Rather than making this REALLY long or having you scroll through 200 episodes, I have broken the podcast episodes up into categories with a short summary of each episode, so you can find the areas and episodes you are interested in.
Enter your email below, and I will email you with a PDF with my recommendations for lots of different categories you may be interested in. In addition, I will send you my five favorites of all time, so you can start there if you prefer.
Read books/listen to audiobooks
Similar to the podcast, you can listen to an audiobook while in the car or communing, and the audible app even has the ability to make a clip and add notes if something is interesting or reminds you to look something up.
If your hands are free, a regular book is likely preferable…if you are anything like me, when your hands are free, it is too tempting to grab your phone or try to do something else while you listen…which soon means you are not paying attention (Instagram/Facebook have a way of doing that!).
This way you can choose whatever topic you want to learn more about, be it running, knitting, or how to become a better parent, whatever speaks to you.
If you are reading a physical book, you can pay attention to your surroundings better than you would be able to with a phone. Social media apps have been designed to suck you in, to take all of your attention, which is why we often miss so much in our world around us when we are in one of the apps (and why we can’t get out!).
Have you ever had one of those juustttt onneeee morrreeee scroooooolllllll and then I’ll be done as you desperately try to peel your eyes away from the screen moments? I have had plenty.
With a book, you can snap out of it quicker if someone/something needs you.
If it is an audiobook while traveling, you can learn, but still pay attention to the world around you, which has benefits in itself. I already mentioned Audible, which is great if you are an avid reader, but your local library may also have a good selection of audio books on their online library. It may take a while to get a book, and most only give you two weeks to read, before you have to return…but that’s more motivation to get through it.
Here are my favorite books I have read in recent years, if you are looking for ideas. I broke them down into categories that should be easy for you to find what you are looking for.
I am working hard at being better at this, but still wouldn’t say I have it perfected. Despite being told by expert after expert that mindfulness or meditation doesn’t have to be another thing to add to your to-do list, another time you have to set aside, I still struggle not to view it that way.
BUT, mindfulness and yes, meditation is much easier than we think. Being in the car, on the train, or just sitting in the doctors office are all great places to practice mindfulness and meditation. It will help you get better at it, so you start to do it more often without much effort and reminding.
Here is one easy method:
Start to go through each of your five senses, what are you experiencing right now?
Really think about it. Don’t judge what comes to you (if your car smells like smelly socks, try not to let that take you down a path of needing to clean it).
Just look at it objectively, as if you were describing the situation to someone else. Some of the sections, like sounds, touch, and sight will be more extensive than smell and taste, that is okay. Be as descriptive as you can, but remember, no one is scoring you on these. It is not about giving an answer anyone wants to hear, what do you feel?
I will use driving as an example.
What do you hear?
- The hum of the motor
- The chatter of my kids in the back of the car
- Other tires on the wet road
- The coins in the cup holder hitting my water bottle
What do you smell?
- A slightly stale smell
- The remains of my coffee in the coffee cup
What do you taste?
- My coffee
What do you feel? (I find this one is easiest to work up from the bottom of your body to the top)
- My feet in my socks
- The socks touching the shoe material, a little tight on the top of my foot
- My pant leg against my calf
- My thighs touching the seat
- My butt on the seat, slight pins and needles
- My bra against my skin
- My sleeves touching my arm
- My hands on the smooth steering wheel
- My fingers touching, a little cold
- The skin on my face wrinkled, the sun is in my eyes
- A light breeze blowing the tiny hairs on my cheek
- My hair tugging slightly in the ponytail
What do you see?
- The road, a little wet from the rain this morning
- A man walking his dog
- The dashboard of my car; the radio, the speedometer, my gas gauge, dust on the dashboard, a ticket from parking the other day
- Other cars, the man in the car next to me is singing
- My daughter in her car seat playing with stickers, she looks like she is concentrating
I have not listed everything for sight and touch, you will likely have even more, and you will get better at it.
When you look at it as a list like that, it can seem daunting, like there is a lot to “do”, but each of these will take up a split second of time.
This, right here, is mindfulness, you are taking in the experience of this moment. It doesn’t have to be the most pleasurable moment to practice mindfulness, just a moment like this or brushing your teeth. It all helps us to be where our bodies are, to be in the moment, which we all want to be better at. If you can do it in moments like this, you will remember to give it a try in those special moments, which will bank them in your memory in a much clearer picture than you ever have before.
Another one that could help your running and the way that you feel within your body without too much effort.
Put your hand on your stomach, notice how you breathe. Most of us may feel a slight rise of our belly when we breathe, but the majority of our breathing can be felt in our chest.
Although this may seem normal, it is actually better for our bodies if we can transfer more of that inhalation to our bellies, what is called diaphragmatic breathing. This means breathing in deeply through your nose, forcing the air into your stomach. Imagine trying to fill your midsection with air, not just straight in front of you, but into your sides, your back. You should almost feel a pressure when you do so, and that is because your abs are contracting slightly.
My strength coach, Drew taught me a long time ago how bad sit ups are for our bodies,, yet people continue to do them.
We would all be better off learning to breathe this way, THAT will build you a strong set of abs, not sit ups or crunches.
Try it right now, slowly, take a deep breath in through your nose, but consciously think about trying to push that breath down into your stomach, into all sides of your stomach. Yes, that will make it stick out, you want to make yourself a “buddha belly”.
Hold it for just a second, and as you exhale all the way out through your mouth, see if you can hold that tension in the muscles around your stomach. You should still feel it all contracting as you let out the air. Breathe in again and do the same. Repeat this for 5 breaths. Then take a rest, let your stomach “go” and rest.
Did you feel that was an ab workout? It was, but it was also teaching your body to be efficient with breathing. Often when we breathe just with our chest, we are not totally filling and emptying our lungs, we are in fact just using the top part of our lungs and just exchanging a small amount of air.
Practice this a few times a day, building up to 10 breaths in a row. You will quickly notice your breathing in running improves too.
Let your toes breathe/wear correct toes
Okay, so this one may not work if you are traveling by foot or public transport, but if you are in the car, start taking your shoes off and letting your toes breathe and stretch out.
If you have listened to this podcast with Ray McClanahan, you will know that most of our shoes are damaging our feet and increasing the likelihood we will get bunions. I understand that for many, removing your shoes for hours a day is not realistic.
If you work, there are few options (especially for females), that look presentable, and are not going to be confronted with laughs.
BUT while you are in your car, why can’t you take your shoes and socks off there? I strongly recommend getting yourself a pair of correct toes (use coupon code tinamuir for 10% off) to put on when you are at home, or yes, during these times of driving to place your feet in the correct position. That can really help to offset what we are doing while wearing our shoes.
If you wear Altra’s for any running (my absolute favorite brand) or any other shoes that are correct toes approved, extra kudos to you for giving your toes that freedom generally during the day. Each of these shoes listed do fit correct toes in them. The more time with your feet set in the right position, the better.
Gratitude is definitely a buzz word right now, and rightly so. We SHOULD be taking time each day to think about the things we are fortunate to have. Not just the basic, surface things like chocolate cake or Stranger Things on Netflix, but also for those things we take for granted.
We know we need to do it, and I have talked (as well as many others), about the power of beginning your day with a gratitude list. BUT if you have kids and they are your alarm clock or you just seem to keep missing it, find a time of day that does work for you.
If you have never done a gratitude list before, I can help you get started. Drop your email below and I will get you started.
If not a certain time, then being in the car, being at a game, waiting on someone to meet you, might be the ideal time to practice it.
Rather than reaching for the phone, start thinking about what you have.
Yes, start on the surface, as that is easy to look at your phone to your left and be grateful that you have a way to communicate with family, to facetime loved ones all over the world. Look to your right and see your coffee, how delicious it tastes, and the caffeine buzz that comes along with it.
Then look deeper. You have shoes on your feet, not everyone has that. You have a car that is reliable and safe. You have people who love and care about you. Your son told you he loved you this morning. That man held the door open for you when he didn’t have to.
You don’t have to create a master list, 10, 5, or even 3 things will do. But just try to really feel it, rather than going through the motions of, “my mum loves me, my dad loves me, my cat loves me”. Try to come up with new ones often. But remember, it is okay if it does not come to you naturally, and you find yourself “stuck” which can feel ridiculous and ungrateful.
But sometimes that is how it works, just sit with the uncomfortableness for a moment (NO JUDGING!), and wait till something you truly feel comes to mind. Don’t just add something so you can be done.
Call a friend/leave voice memos
We always feel too busy, and we have guilt about not being a better friend to those we care about, but yet, we struggle to find the time to you know, actually give them a call.
We rationalize it with thoughts of their own business, especially based on what we see through social media, they have a lot going on, I don’t want to disturb them. And besides, who calls anyone anymore? It can be much easier to just send them a quick text.
But friends, you know the power of a phone call, how NICE it feels when one of your friends calls and leaves you a voicemail to let you know they were thinking about you. Times spent in the car are a great time to give someone a call to let them know you are thinking about them. It feels good to know that, no matter who you are. Especially if that person has told you before that they struggle with loneliness, you never know what that could do.
Another alternative is to send voice memos or videos.
Videos can be tricky for the logistics…and awkwardness of recording them if you are in public, but voice memos sound like just leaving a voicemail. To the outside world what you are doing is totally accepted and you can make them short and sweet.
Often I find that the days certain people pop into my head are weirdly enough, the days that person is having a rough day, and they could REALLY use your thoughts and love. So next time you get that random person who you haven’t spoken to in a while come into your thoughts, act on it. Send them a quick voice message asking how they/family/work is, giving a few updates of your own, then asking them for theirs.
You know how good it feels to receive, and it will make you feel good too.
Give these a try, find a way to make better use of the time you have. It’s not easy to be rushing from one place to the next all the time, but at least this way you know you have done something to make your life and those around you, just a little better.
Remember to grab those podcast recommendations by entering your email below the list. I will give you my five favorites of all time plus recommendations for the following categories of interest you may have:
- Learn the science
- Older runners
- Body image
- Stop the injury cycle
- Thinking differently/breaking barriers
- Mental health
- Mental training
- Elite runners
- Legendary runners
- Ultra running
- Mother runners
- Training advice
- For the love of running
I will email you a PDF, pop your name and email in below, and I will send it to you within a few hours 🙂