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What am I missing with the running/music thing?

Made it out for a run today, despite the subzero temperatures here in NYC.  Decided I’d throw together a “running mix” and take my iPhone along for some musical accompaniment, just to see how it went.

As you know if you read my post last week, I’m a “leave the music at home” kinda girl when I run.  I’ve always felt that it’s worth sacrificing some music-induced motivational moments for the peace of just focusing on my body.  Well, today I proved my own point (for me and my running, anyway): 2 miles into what was supposed to be at least a 5.5 mile run, my knee – which I’ve had problems with for some time – started to feel a bit tight, courtesy of my chronically tight IT band and hip flexors.  By mile 2.5, I was in pretty serious pain, but the music caused me to push through it until about mile 3.5.

Not such a bad thing, right?  For some people, those “pushing through it” moments are precisely why they run with music.  Totally get it…I get an energy boost from good music too (obviously).  The problem with it for me is that music causes me a) not to pace myself (my tightening IT band/knee was so painful by mile 3.5 that I was forced to walk/run the last mile…and obviously didn’t make it to my goal of 5.5 miles) and b) to “push through” situations that, unfortunately, cause me more pain later or even cause me not to be able to run for a few days.  Not to mention that I definitely don’t feel as refreshed when I come back from a run with music vs. one without.  Strange but true…and reminds me why I stopped bringing music in the first place.

So I’m curious.  Do any of you have similar issues when running/working out with music?  Or am I just crazy not to harness the motivational power of music to push myself as an athlete?

Meditation for those who can’t (or won’t) sit still

Among my 2010 goals are the following:

  • Run a half marathon.
  • Re-establish meditation practice.

I wrote those goals on January 3.  I looked back at them a few days ago – as I was completing week 1 of training for the NYC Half Marathon – and thought “Hmmm…got the running thing down.  Haven’t meditated even once.  Maybe next month.”

Then it dawned on me, as I was slogging through my first 5+ mile “long run,” that running is meditation.  It’s moving meditation.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/© Volker Kreinacke

Transcendental meditation is defined as “a technique, based on ancient Hindu writings, by which one seeks to achieve a relaxed state through regular periods of meditation during which a mantra is repeated.” My mantra during that long run was “just make it to the other side of the bridge, just make it to the other side of the bridge, just make it to the other side of the bridge.”

I came across the term “moving meditation” recently in an article that mentioned the way in which Pilates becomes meditative through the use of good breath and the seamless flow of movements.  I’ve also seen it used to describe yoga and tai chi.  And for you Star Wars geeks: A quick Google search revealed moving meditation as a Jedi meditation technique involving the building or repair of mechanical objects.  :)  Regardless of the type of movement it describes, moving meditation conjures a feeling of rhythmic, energy-induced calm and focus.  It seems like a paradox; but for some of us, keeping our bodies busy allows us to access that calm in a way that sitting on a pillow with our legs folded never could.  (Or in my case, for longer than sitting on a pillow can…my record with “real” meditation is about 10 minutes!)

A few things I do to access that meditative state while I’m running or practicing Pilates:

  • Find the natural rhythm to the movement and try to focus on it. With running, it’s the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground or of my breath as I inhale and exhale.  With Pilates, it’s the breath and the natural, dance-like flow of the exercises.
  • Leave the music at home. I get that a lot of people use music to “enter the zone,” but I find it distracting.  Far more interesting to listen to the noise in my head and give it a chance to quiet down in relative silence.
  • Accept that my brain will likely not be able to focus on the rhythm of the exercise the whole time. It’s nearly impossible to stay focused during meditation 100% of the time (unless you’re a Buddhist monk, I guess).  I make a game of gently pulling my mind back into focus when I notice it wandering.  In fact, I sort of see it as a plus that I can’t stay 100% focused – the thoughts that float in and out of my brain while I work out often form into new ideas if I can just balance them with those moments of rhythmic calm.

Here I’ve been beating myself up for not meditating more often when all the while I just chose movement over sitting still to quiet my mind.

What other tips do you have for using movement as meditation?  What kinds of movement do you use to do it?

Are manners (or lack of them) sabotaging your personal brand?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/krista_g/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Manners sometimes get a bad rap. Do I really have to act a certain way for people to respect me? Why should I follow a set of stuffy rules when I’m all about pushing the boundaries of my industry?

I recently attended an event hosted by the Young Women’s Leadership school in East Harlem, NY.  The school’s soon-to-graduate senior class joined a group of volunteers – primarily business women from the community – to discuss and learn about table manners as they relate to business and social events. I grew up in the south, so I know a thing or two about manners.  I thought that maybe I could add a little value to the event.  Instead, I was reminded that a) I’m no Emily Post and b) manners are as crucial to success as knowledge of your job and how well you do it.

I have passable manners – with the occasional elbow on the table and iPhone usage during dinner ruining my “perfect” record – but I was particularly impressed by the way the YWL staff explained the importance and “why” of manners to the girls.  Manners, they said, are not meant to restrict your behavior and make you feel uncomfortable if you “mess up”; on the contrary, they give everyone at the table a common set of rules to play by so that no one is made to feel uncomfortable. In other words, a common set of rules for behavior in certain situations actually allows people to relax and enjoy themselves.  They don’t have to worry about offending another guest if they just follow – at least loosely – the rules.

Here’s one of the real-world situations we discussed that night: You’re at a business dinner, sitting next to someone you’ve just met, and you’d really like a piece of bread from the basket sitting at the other end of the table. If you reach across the person next to you to pick up the bread basket, you may or may not offend them, depending on their feelings about personal space. Why risk it? Take a cue from Ms. Post instead and ask your new acquaintance to pass the bread to you. Potential personal brand crisis averted!

I also learned about the logical reasons behind most of the etiquette rules we follow (interesting to think about for rules that seem arbitrary or stupid).  For example, something as simple as placing your fork and knife together on your plate when you’re done eating not only signals to the wait staff that you’re finished but allows them to easily place their thumb over the silverware to hold it in place when they remove your plate.  Or tipping a soup bowl away from you (and spooning the soup away from you as well) so it doesn’t end up in your lap if you have an unsteady hand.

In a world where manners have become optional, why not make ourselves stand out by actually having them?  We may not be thanked for our good manners, but our lack of them is certain to cause people to remember us for all the wrong reasons and may even hurt our business.  How much more brilliant, innovative, and engaging could we be if our manners were so good that they faded into the background?

What do you think?  Are manners an important part of a personal brand?  Have you or someone you know made an etiquette mistake that cost you/them respect or even a piece of business?

Note: For those without access to my “1-800-SouthernMom” manners hotline, I found this: Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success.