Running according to my heart rate requires an intense amount of focus. Throughout the summer, I did every single run within an aerobic heart rate zone. This means that at the beginning of each run, I had to focus on starting slowly and building up my heart rate to the max level over about 10-15 minutes. Then, I had to focus on keeping my pace slow enough that I was able to keep my heart rate under the max limit but also fast enough that I didn’t drop more than 10 beats below my max.
During the heat of the summer, as my long runs stretched into the late morning when the temperatures really climbed, I often had to switch from a slow run to a fast walk in order to stay in the zone. This change required extra focus. To keep my heart rate high enough while walking, to keep my pace swift, and to avoid the body’s default stroll it craves during a long effort requires a lot of focus.
Running with others required a whole different kind of focus. Everyone’s pace and associated heart rate are unique so finding a pace that was agreeable to everyone was almost impossible. Also, when you are wrapped up in a conversation with friends, it is easy to forget to look at your watch to monitor your heart rate.
I spent a lot of time alone this summer running at my own pace. While this was necessary to really implement my goal of running according to my HR, it was lonely. Loneliness brings with it a focus on self. This was perhaps the most beneficial and most difficult focus.
Some of my runs lasted as much as 6 hours. 6 hours alone in my head was not always a pleasant place to be. It was not uncommon to spiral into thoughts that were unkind to myself. I had to focus on letting these thoughts pass by so that they didn’t pull me into the muck and mud of despair. I wasn’t always successful however and more than once I broke into tears mid-run. I am sure passersby thought I was a lunatic – this crazy slow blubbering bumbling lunatic.
I also learned I am stronger than I think. I can persevere through more and maintain relentless forward progress despite the thoughts in my head. When I focus I can let go of self doubt and prove my inner voice wrong.
Despite these challenges, I stayed focused. I stayed committed. “Focused” is the best word to describe my experiment over the last several months. Focus is a choice and only we can make our own choices. Each day I had to make the choice again to stay focused. And if we want to accomplish goals in life, focus is a crucial part of that success.
The journey continues……