Recently I ran into a friend of mine, a very accomplished runner. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time so as I was nearing the end of a long run I decided to double back with her and chat. We talked about her training season, or lack of. She told me how she was spending the entire year building her base. I was impressed. I essentially am doing the same thing this season, however I am the kind of person who needs something to focus on. I’ve been conditioned to have a goal to work towards. That would be the little miss Type-A shining through.
Base building is the foundation of all training anyone decides to start. It’s been a while since I’ve spent any amount of time just base building. The goals I gave myself this season have been easy to accomplish and just enough push to make me stronger physically without mentally breaking me down. Base building is very much about running just for today and not tomorrow’s goal.
As my friend and I ran and chatted, I noticed she was holding two stones. I noticed but didn’t ask. We continued on our way, and I listened to her wisdom. We came to a stop and we were about to part ways, when I decided to ask about the rocks. The explanation was not anything I was expecting. She showed me her two equally weighted stones and explained how she used them. It was mostly about balance. The stones put weight in her hands and helped remind her to keep her shoulders down and relaxed. She was able to focus on the present task at hand using the rocks as a weighted reminder. I had a coach who would tell me to imagine I was carrying eggshells while I was doing speed workouts and it worked really well. My friend told me she used the rocks on all her runs. The stones also helped train her arms to move in the correct way, flowing like smooth pendulums.
She told me to pick up two equally weighted rocks and try it for the rest of my run. When a runner of her caliber tells you to try something you don’t question it. I picked them up. We hugged goodbye, and I continued on my journey home.
At first, I thought the rocks would annoy me, make my hands tense. Instead, the weighted feeling drew my shoulders down, and I relaxed into a smooth stride. I held the rocks gently rather than grip them with white knuckles. As I was nearing the end of a 36km solo run, I used the rocks as a focal point. They allowed me to stop focusing on how tired, sore or hungry I was and forced me to turn my thoughts my hands. I focused on the rocks and how they felt cool to the touch, strong and equal. I suddenly was staying present with my thoughts and letting my body flow through the movement.
Since that day my two equally weight rocks sit on my desk by my front door. On days I don’t use them, they are a reminder to stay balanced, to stay strong. On my easy recovery runs I use them for the same reason my friend did. To stay relaxed, to have that physical reminder of my shoulders creeping up. The rocks gently pull them down and remind me that life is all about balance. Whether I’m running, walking or cycling, I need to stay present and focus on that very moment and for me the rocks are a symbol of the “present”.