We are hard wired to Run

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As part of my part time freelance lifestyle I also happen to be a math tutor. I really enjoy this role as I can see young people grow in confidence, not only in tackling a subject they had found difficult, but they also seem to develop a new found aura of confidence. Interestingly enough, parents also report that their whole child's demeanour seems to improve.

The other day I was tutoring a young man, and the conversation turned to the general idea of how we learn. My thoughts to turned to Noam Chomsky, who wrote extensively about many things, but in particular he wrote about how we acquire and develop language. Basically, he argued, we are wired for language. When we are born, we acquire language provided we are placed under the right conditions for this to happen. Our circuits for language just need tuning and refining. It is all there in our brains ready for the triggers and switches to be turned on.

Speaking to my trustee I discussed the idea of speaking mathematics and training your mind to initiate learning through dialogue. The point being that we are hard wired for mathematics as we are in language acquisition. So for the session I insisted that he spoke out his thoughts when solving the set problems. This practice of focusing your language as you think slows your thoughts down, encourages reasoning and reflection and also promotes deeper 'thought furrows' in your mind. Quality thinking penetrates your mind and has strong comparisons to the Buddhist approach of mindfulness.

It does not take a great leap to deduce that our human minds are different from other animals because we think mathematically, artistically, philosophically, have a complex language and of course we also have the ability to make tools.

“Where is the running?” I hear you cry. Well, our bodies are the heroes. I am amazed just how adaptive and how quickly our bodies change when we begin to exercise. Equally I am amazed that even those people who live unhealthy lifestyles, overweight or simply sedentary in the extreme, can respond so well in such a short space of time to adding some running or basic activity and changing their diet.

The key difference in ChiRunning is that the process of running is defined. If you take the example of the tutee, he simply wanted to survive each mathematics problem and get to the end. Many runners who first attend my ChiRunning classes have cottoned on to the fact that there must be more to running then simply the end product. Some are intrinsically aware that following this running programme or that running programme have the external measures of time but perhaps the holistic sense of activity is not being answered or even asked. In other words, they arrive home from a running training session in a more stressed state of mind because they have not achieved the specific outcome. In ChiRunning the process and signposts of running technique are as important in raising your awareness of the present. Your running furrows become deeper: you appreciate metaphorically and physically each step. ChiRunning improves mindfulness, enhances your quality of thought and gives a sense of balance. This is above and beyond the physical benefits of running which there are plenty.

What I would say to those people who are performance based or at an elite level may need to reexamine the question of training. The benefits of mindfulness coaching and meditation together with exercise create, in my view, a more resilient and focused athlete.

In my previous article I discussed the term Dis-ease. Our constructed society focuses on the next thing, the qualification to enable you to …  the coaching certificate so that you can … almost a sense of badge collecting. Find a crafts person making something, drawing something, watch their focus on the exactness of that moment, they realise that each part of the process depends on the previous action. There is no ego attached to this; the whole process is an act of giving yourself up entirely to the creative process. Think about treating your running as learning a new skill. It takes time to apply the ChiRunning focuses and develop a sense of craft to this but as your senses develop take in each moment; then the act of running becomes a form of meditation.   

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