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Elite Runners Think About Running When They Run

Speak Up: What Do You Think About When You Run?

While attending the New Balance Women's Running Summit I had the chance to hang out with two middle-distance runners sponsored by the running shoe giant: collegiate steeplechase champ Jenny Barringer, and Sarah Bowman, who specialized in the 1,500 meter, the premiere of middle-distance track races.

The first thing that struck me was both runners reminded me of ballerinas; they were petite and lithe, wearing ponytails with no bangs. The second thing that struck me was that as professional competitors, the ratio of non-running training to running is two to one. For every hour they spend running, they spend two strength training, stretching, and recovering with ice baths and the like. When asked what music they listen to when running, both Jenny and Sarah chuckled — they don't listen music. To the follow-up question, "Then what do you think about when you're running?" both runners answered unhesitatingly "Running." Ahhh . . . just another element that separates me from the elites (along with speed and talent). I think about almost everything under that sun when out running — my job, my kids, my to-do list, what color to paint my kitchen, what color to paint my toenails. You get the picture.

I'm curious to know what you think about when you run. If you don't run, what do you think about when going through the repetitive motions of cardio? Does your mind wander more or less when you're strength training? Speak up and tell me what runs through your mind when you exercise.

Image Source: Getty
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Soniabonya Soniabonya 6 years
When I run on the treadmill I listen to my Ipod and lip sync to the music. I do interval runs balancing out about 4-5 miles. I'm not the biggest fan of running at all, but I like it when I see the results and feel good after pushing myself to a higher speed. When I do a cycle class, the music of choice is limited to the instructors, but I focus on their encouragement and how my body responds to the resistance. Swimming I focus on breathing and how fast I can do a lap, or how I can better my stroke. I also try to pay attention to other swimmers who happen to get into my lane.
smart-blonde smart-blonde 6 years
When I start thinking about running, I know that I'm going to quit soon. Guess my brain isn't wired for it. (I'm one of the I-hate-running crowd; been doing it for 2 years and I still hate it.) If I think about anything, it's usually work related. I find I have a lot of my best work-related ideas when I'm out running or walking. That is, after I get past my I-hate-running ideas.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
Same here -- I think about running, focusing on my body and the trail. I trail jog, and I have to pay attention to the path. There are rocks, gopher holes, muddy spots, etc. If I'm somewhat negligent of the trail, I could twist an ankle. Lately, I've been doing hill work on the trail, too. That's an extra level of treachery, especially if there are loose rocks.
MissTheresa MissTheresa 6 years
This is SUCH a great topic. I'll lead into my response with an anecdote. I was in the Navy for 12 years and had to run in a military style/pace with cadence at least 3x a week. We trained with the Marines. For a long time this was the only way I knew how to run: Left, Left, Left Right Left! Along with the various Cadences/Jodies we used to sing. (A Jodie is a style of cadence song for marching). Now that I am out of the service I have gone though some major changes in the Why's and Wherefores of my running. I used to run because I HAD to. Now I run because I WANT to. I gained a huge amount of weight after leaving the military (40+ lbs) and over the course of 6 months last year I lost all of it and am now back at a very fit 127 lbs. At the beginning of my weightloss journey I used to listen to music in my iPod and concentrate on not quitting. The running was HARD and it took everything not to quit. Sometimes I would cry. Running when you are 165lbs (40 pounds overweight) is so hard. I would focus on the music to avoid thinking about the way my ass and thighs and hips were bouncing around. I kept going despite my public humiliation. Over time I started to get smaller and lighter and one day I left the iPod at home. Running became therapeutic for me in a way that I never knew was possible. It forced me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, both metaphorically and physically. The challenge for me was mostly mental. My body knew what it needed to do; but my mind kept making up excuses to stop. During these times I would think about myself in a tiny bikini, looking really sexy, and I would force myself not to quit. As I have lost weight the things I think about when I run have changed tremendously. Now at 127lbs I am 7 pounds away from my goal weight of 120. As I run now, I think of my breathing. I listen to the birds singing in the trees. I enjoy the lightness I feel in my legs and step now that all of my extra weight is gone. Sometimes I think about the future and my job, but mostly I focus on the feeling of my body and I check in with myself. When I start really getting into my pace/rhythm around the 3.5 / 4 mile mark I listen to myself breathe. I try and enjoy the experience. When I get to the 5 mile mark, and I'm getting tired, I start setting goals. "Just get to the Capitol building and touch the fountain" or "Make it to the Washington Monument and run around the base once." Working through my emotions while I am running has been the biggest challenge of all. I always seem to want to quit. When I finally finish my run I always feel victorious. I pat my legs and say "Thank you girls!" I assess whether I put in an honest effort... did I give 110%? Running is not just about fitness for me, it is about the constant struggle within against negative self talk, and above all, proving to yourself that you can do anything. Theresa: 34 years old, 127lbs (formerly 168lbs)
flarewick flarewick 6 years
A voice in my head goes "Left, Left, Left, Right, Left" to keep me on a constant pace. Other than that, my mind's pretty blank.
Giasbash6260 Giasbash6260 6 years
Oh boy, lately it's been about a boy who works out at my gym the same time I am there - gah, it's all I can think about... well that and the singer who's singing in my ears... Lets just say I know a lot more about Snoop Dogg than I ever really wanted to know... ha ha ah ha ha!
Spectra Spectra 6 years
I think about what I have to get done that day or I just focus on the song that's playing on my MP3 player. And I like to look at the scenery and look for my "landmarks" that let me know how far along on my run I am.
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 6 years
I can't believe they don't listen to music & that all they think about is the running...sometimes, I do just focus on the running. ;)
LittleMzFit LittleMzFit 6 years
Can't say! I plead the 5th! :) That's my "me" time... :speedy:
insanitypepper insanitypepper 6 years
When I'm jogging, I think about food. I usually listen to podcasts about nutrition & health. But when I'm sprinting, I think about the sprinting. It takes concentration to run that hard.
stephcorinn stephcorinn 6 years
I think about how much longer I have to run, that I want to stop, if I really should stop before I pass out or if I just need to push myself to keep going, that I hate running but hate not running more. I always run with my music, but I've been thinking about not doing that lately. I hate having to mess with the cord and the headphones.
bluebellknoll bluebellknoll 6 years
I think about my breathing and I also try to push myself to not slow down and walk...especially going uphill!
JulieJean JulieJean 6 years
I think about running really :) Since I run on a treadmill, and the gym music is irritating, I listen to my running playlist. I lip-sync with the songs which really helps my breathing go figure. But I try not to think about anything and let my mind go blank as the songs are playing. Of course I end up thinking about my breath, how much longer I have to keep going, let my eyes wonder around the gym...
Asche Asche 6 years
"How much longer do I have to do this?"
lydialee_home lydialee_home 6 years
Like Fit and Chloe - My mind was on diff things when I run. Also, I thought I was the only one who think about food. :) Just like Chloe, food is all I can think of during the last 6 miles of my long run.
Dbaby Dbaby 6 years
first of all, GO BUFFS!! ok, now that I got that out of my system... I love to meditate as I run. I clear my brain of all thoughts, try to get as internally-silent as possible. Breathe in, breathe out; try to see if I can be present in the present moment. I listen to my music until I get into the woods, then I turn it off and it's just me, my footsteps and my breath.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
Everything. My mind wanders quite a bit.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 6 years
I'm like Fit - my mind wanders and I think about anything and everything. Also, during the second half of really long runs, I start thinking about what kind of food I'm going to eat afterwards!
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