My pre-run checklist

Before I go on long-runs, I mentally go through a quick checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything.  It’s the difference between having an enjoyable long run or an torturous one.

Now let’s see….

Barefoot me

  • Wearing sunscreen so I don’t catch on fire? Check.
  • Wearing bug spray? Check.
  • Vaseline strategically applied to prevent chafing?         Sorry, TMI…     anyway, check.
  • Got my keys? Check.
  • Phone? Check.
  • Sunglasses? Check.
  • Brimmed hat so I don’t look like a walking stop light by the end of the run? Check.

Is there anything else I need to go on a proper long run?

 

 

 

 

Nope.

Same and Different

There is an infinite number of similarities AND an infinite number of differences between any two humans, no matter who they are.  It just depends on what you choose to focus on.

When we like someone, we tend to find the similarities, and when we dislike someone, we focus on the differences, but both similarities and differences are there for us to choose from.  Noticing the differences can be fascinating, but generally speaking, the world is made much better when we choose to find the similarities first.

 

My Best Blogging Practices

My thoughts on the matter are a direct result of the thought-provoking blog from Eric at MakeItUltra.  In it, he shares some of the rules he’s set up to maintain a healthy balance between blogging and the rest of his life.

I was interested to read his personal blogging rules, and even more interested to realize the difference in how he approached the question from what I would have, though I would see myself adopting any of his guidelines.  This gives me great satisfaction; it reminds us that we can get insights from others but ultimately we all walk in our own unique way.  My own list, like his, lays forth the path in which I choose to travel as bloggers.

1. Consistency is king.  It’s more effective to have the deliberate pace of the tortoise than to have the hare’s feckless dashes to nowhere.

2. Produce.  Write a lot.  Writing, like any creation, multiplies exponentially as it becomes more prolific.  Writing down as much as possible is just like sowing a lot of seeds in a garden.  The more I write, the more I till my mind and plant ideas.  I don’t know which will grow, but I know the more I plant, the better the harvest.

3. Nurture your community, both in and outside of the blogosphere.  First, there are thousands of other bloggers out there.  A vast number of them are more experienced than you or I, but there’s plenty of room for everyone to be respected and prosperous in their own communities if they have an honest work ethic and compassion for others.

Second, isn’t that the fundamental reason we blog?  To connect with others, swap ideas, share what you’ve spent so much of your life learning?  So I can’t just post something once a week, pretend I’m the J.D. Salinger of blogging and never talk to anyone.  Well, I could, but why would anyone engage with me if I don’t engage with them?  I guess the Golden Rule is the only rule I’d apply here.  Do unto others as you would want  them to do unto you, or put another way, I’ll get only as much engagement from others that they’ll will have first received from me.

What personal guidelines do you use when it comes to your blogging?  What paths do you take to keep on track?  I’d be much honored to hear some of your own ideas in the comments, or point me to your own blog post.

-Andrew

What is God?

Love is God. Anything that leads you towards God (Love) is good. Anything that leads you away from Love (God) is bad. It does not matter to me what religion you ascribe to, or even if you are a passionately committed atheist. If you Love the humanity strangers, as if you loved the humanity of your own brother or sister, then you are on my side. You make the universe a better place. Anything that is actively done for the sake of Love makes you feel good. It makes you feel empowered in the best ways. It leaves the universe in a better place than you found it. Anyone who uses Love as a shallow excuse to perpetrate some evil on the world is committing the worst wrong of all.

The Cold Shower Mindset

Most of my showers are freezing, and not because I don’t pay my bills.

Apparently there are numerous health benefits of taking cold baths or showers.  Chris Gayomoli has an informative and entertaining blog detailing these benefits.  I’ll leave it to him to explain how it seems to cold water immersion redirects blood flow inward to deep blood vessels, improving blood flow back to the heart, which seems to help your system flush out the waste products and restore nutrients to the blood stream, thus reducing inflammation.  Well, that was about the gist of it, but check out his blog anyway; it’s a good read.

I don’t take cold showers for the potential health benefits, however.  I don’t even take them to help me wake up, or to help me cool off after a run, though it’s good for both of those things.  I do it because of the “cold shower mindset”.

The cold shower mindset is a take-control, GITFD attitude towards life.  It strengthens an ability to let go of little things that you thing you need but don’t, like warm showers.  This “cold shower” mindset is really about tackling something uncomfortable, accepting it, and then turning it into something refreshing and invigorating.

Here are the DOs and DON’Ts of taking a cold shower using this mindset.  I’m not a doctor, and pretending that I am one may be hazardous to your health, so… if you have a heart condition, make sure to ask your REAL doctor before taking really cold showers.

Don’t turn on the cold water and then stand outside the shower for several minutes while you “psych yourself up”.  At best you’ll just waste water and time, and at worst you’ll psych yourself into saying bold things like “oooh, maybe it could just be a teensy bit warmer….. and maybe even a smidge bit more….” and so on until you compromise yourself into an unsatisfying, slightly less warm shower.

DO turn the cold water on and climb in within three seconds.   Anything longer and you’re letting your mind talk you out of it.  Personally, I turn on the cold water, and say to myself “And, in you GO” and step into shower on the word “go”.  You may come up with your own command; you’ll probably need to.

Don’t spend your time cursing how cold it is once you’re in the shower.  Of course it’s cold! That’s the point.  Allow yourself to acknowledge and experience the temperature, but don’t make a judgment about it as if it’s good or bad.  You won’t adapt to the water by hiding in the corner, arms wrapped around you, wondering why you ever listened to people like me.  Instead, immerse yourself completely.  Whatever areas you really don’t want to expose to cold water, wash those areas first.

After about two minutes or so, your body should feel fairly comfortable in the cold shower.  When you towel off, it is unbelievably refreshing, not just to to the body but also to the spirit- almost like a daily baptism.

Again, I’m not concerned about the various health benefits of cold showers.  To me, they’re a seed to cultivate acceptance, simplicity, and self-reliance in my life.  Try it for yourself, and see how you feel.  You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Are you pursuing the right things?

Most good people chase after the wrong things: money, true love, professional success.  These are all quite good in and of themselves, but they are merely the fruits of cultivating the right things: contentment, loving kindness, and self-respect.

These three things are entirely within your control, though most people find they take considerable effort to nurture them.  Then again, doesn’t it take considerable effort to chase after money, love, and success?  You can attain financial or professional success, yet still feel empty inside.  Or perhaps you can easily attract romantic partners, yet still be dissatisfied once you are in a serious relationship, always thinking that your “true love” is still out there, waiting to be found.  But if you are content, the amount of money you have is inconsequential, as long as it provides for your basic needs.  If you have self-respect, you’ll attract the right partner for the right reasons.

So when you’re trying to solve the grand problems in your life, be sure you are using the write formulas.  Develop your contentment through a sense of gratitude for what you have, no matter what it is.  Cultivate your loving kindness not by searching for who will love you, but by sincerely imagining others in a state of harmony and happiness, especially if you don’t particularly like them.  (Try it- forgiveness is wonderfully liberating for the forgiver.)  Finally, remember self-respect.  Dignity is one thing that no one can take from you unless you give it away.  With it, you are armed with universal power that shields your soul and transcends any worldly harm.

All of this is simple, but none of it easy.  Who said life was easy?

Let’s take a moment to listen to the cricket sounds…..

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So since you’re going to put some hard effort into something anyhow, apply it to the right things: contentment, love towards others, and self-respect.  Everything else will take care of itself.

 

ECHO Guidelines- cultivating a better self

Why do we set goals?  Everyone has their own goals and their own reasons, but it always boils down to becoming a better person in some way or living a fuller life than what we have.  This is our meta-goal, so to speak.  Too often we focus on our desired results, however.  Of course this is very useful, but we often forget to focus on the very process itself.

With that in mind, here’s a simple set of guidelines to keep your process on track, no matter who you are, or what your goals are.  I call these the ECHO Guidelines.

ECHO stands for:

Exercise
Create
Heart
Organize

Find a way to incorporate these four simple things in your life every day.  And I mean every single day.  Chances are good that you’re already doing each of these four things most days, but recognizing these guidelines helps you focus and expand on the right things in an achievable way.  This is about process, so consistency is key.  It’s like depositing money to a savings account.  Even if you only deposit a dollar at a time, you are doing it every day, and its interest will compound more quickly than you think.

Here’s the good news about these guidelines: you can define these terms as loosely as you want. Let yourself be half-assed about them if you’re having an off day– it doesn’t matter; the point is that you are doing something.

To clarify these guidelines just a little further:

Do some sort of exercise every day..  It could be for burpees for 1 minute, a brisk walk for an hour, or a yoga session.  It doesn’t matter.  Move your body.

Create something.  Paint, draw, doodle, cook, build, make, whatever you want.  Create new connections with people at a networking meeting.  Create a different atmosphere at home. When you consciously get involved to bring something new to the world that didn’t exist before, you create something.

Let what you think and what you do be born of a loving heart.  I’m sure you’re a good person (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading an article about self-betterment on a blog called The Running Llama).  But even good people can have casual, malicious thoughts towards other; just think of the first thing that goes through your head when you’re running late and someone’s driving too slow in front of you… it’s probably not filled with brotherly love.  Watch these thoughts.  Don’t beat yourself up if you have them- we’re all human, after all, but be mindful of them.  If you were simply cognizant of all the little instances that you judge someone else, or casually wish them away, you vastly improve your life in the long run. But go ahead and take it one tiny step further, and make sure you do, think, or say something, no matter how small, that is specifically for the good of someone else. If it’s for a complete stranger, give yourself bonus points.

Organize something.  You don’t have to create a new organizational system (unless you want to), but at least contribute to the organizational systems you already have.  It could be cleaning dishes, going through old files, rearranging books, whatever you want. Keep the principle “a place for everything, and everything in its place” in the back of your mind.

When you touch on each of these four categories at least a little bit every day, you will have:

  • made a positive contribution to your physical health
  • added something new to the world to make your life easier or more enjoyable
  • increased the amount of love in the world, instead of adding hate or judgement
  • made the world a little more efficient and orderly

Again, this is about process, the important thing is not what you do or how much you do, but that you do it at all, at least a little bit every day.  It’s about thinking on the right things, giving yourself small victories, and letting consistency be your stepping stones. You won’t leap to the top of a building in a single bound, but by keeping focused on the process, you’ll remind yourself to achieve your goals one step at a time.

By keeping the ECHO guidelines in mind, you’ll simplify your process, take some pressure off, and give yourself at least four small victories every day as you work towards fulfilling whatever type of person you want to be.

Silence is Golden

I used to wear headphones just about every run I took.  I remember the runs that pre-dated my MP3 player, when I would run with a bulky Discman.  Unless I held it perfectly flat and stable, the music hiccupped with every plodding step.  I might as well have been trying to run with a miniature Victrola.
Admittedly, Walkmans worked better, but the only cassettes I could ever find were some Wayne Dyer audiobooks from the mid-eighties.  MP3 players worked the best for running of course, but those were only slightly less of a distraction than the Discman. I found I still devoted as much attention to the music as to my run.  I was either fiddling with the volume or trying to find just the right song for the moment, or trying to keep the ear buds from flopping out of my ears.
I didn’t like my dependence on music, yet still, I never went on any runs without it.  Just like shoes, it was simply part of my running equipment.
And then I started running barefoot, and I haven’t worn headphones since.
For one thing, the sound of my footsteps helps coach my running form: the quieter my stride, the better my form.  Also, I discovered that the primary reason I run barefoot is to connect with both my surroundings and myself, so cranking up music masks too much of that connection.  It’s like spending an entire camping trip watching YouTube on your smartphone.  Sure, you’re still in nature, but you’re simply not getting the full benefit.
Besides, I found that I didn’t need headphones to listen to music.  Our minds have a remarkable ability to play whichever song we want to hear, and it is often more interesting to watch where your thoughts take you.  It’s more meditative, more ‘go with the flow’.
Wearing headphones became an unnecessary issue of control, however minor.  I wanted to choose the right song, at the right volume, and keep those ear buds in my ears.  Of course, I would come to a song I didn’t want to listen to at that moment, or the volume would be too high or low for the circumstances, or those ear buds would fall out of my ears.  I wasn’t sure whether I was controlling the music or the music was controlling me. When I left the headphones at home, I found that I was watching my thoughts, but not trying to control them.  are an impartial observer of your thoughts, there’s much less to frustrate you.

So if you like running with headphones; do so- whatever helps you run is a good thing!  But you may be surprised how much music is out in nature, and within you, and how freeing it can be to let go of your headphones!