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On Slowing Down and Learning

Road Signs

I have been pondering this post for a couple weeks as I look toward my goals for 2014. I am a firm believer in “signs.” If I stopped long enough to reflect on my actions and consequences, I would recognize the signs I have been rushing by the last couple months. It is always a sign when I misplace things and/or lock my keys in my vehicle. I need to slow down. I managed to lock my keys in my vehicle twice in less than a month, and could not find the spare key(s) for several days. I did not take the time to pay attention to where I was stashing my things, and not being mindful about removing the key from the ignition and my coat pocket when I decided to lock and slam the door shut. This inconvenienced me and the people who needed to help me retrieve the spare key.

Another sign I managed to miss is  over scheduling myself so that I missed appointments or forgot about them altogether, because at the time I booked myself, I did not pause long enough to look at my crazy calendar and think about the consequences of cramming one more thing in. Inevitably, someone is sure to be disappointed and inconvenienced. And it usually means re-scheduling, which takes even more precious time away from my tight schedule.

Losing things, forgetting things, missing appointments, and let’s add missed deadlines to the list. I am a rule follower, and if I have deadline to meet, I will do whatever it takes to meet it. However, working nights, holidays and weekends  and not taking a full and complete vacation away from work in order to meet deadlines and responsibilities is unnecessary and inefficient. 2014 will be all about slowing down to improve productivity and efficiency, both at work and in life.

Goals for 2014

My personal trainer asked me what my race goals were for 2014. Since I have only been running for a year, we talked about this and I am still a newbie. “I want to get stronger and faster,” is my reply. I have no idea how fast-I just know there is plenty of room for improvement. “I would like to run  a half marathon in the spring.”

“Then we will need to get serious with a running plan,” he told me. “Does that mean I have to run slowly?” I asked.

“Yes, the slower the better.”

I don’ t understand.

We often talk about the science of fitness during our workout sessions, and the one lesson that has taken me the longest to learn is slowing down. This is especially important in the early stages of skill development and learning-in any context. Proceed slowly-with caution. Your brain needs time to learn new movement patterns, time to process new language, time to learn . With every new weight lifting sequence, there is a learning curve and patience is required. Slowing down requires patience-a quality I am still working on acquiring.  I get that. With exercise patterns and weight lifting I can see the immediate results and experience the consequences of rushing a lift or a movement.

Reading to Understand

So I turned to some of my favorite Runner’s World articles and started reading, and trying to understand. I had to read slowly and carefully; I had to read closely.   I had to read to learn the importance of running at a slow pace. Running at a comfortable, slow pace allows your body to build aerobic capacity, which leads to being able to run longer, further and faster. But it takes time. This is not a process that happens over the course of one, two or even ten long, slow runs, but over months and years. It involves things like growing capillaries which lead to increased blood flow which leads to more oxygen being delivered to your muscles. Running slowly at a lower intensity also trains your body to burn fat as fuel, thus providing more fuel for your muscles to burn.

Ironically, my running goal to run faster will help me achieve my goal to slow down. I will embrace being slow. Faster may be better in the moment, but for long term results and learning to occur, the tortoise is the winner.









Cathy Brophy • January 8, 2014

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