I had planned to try a new running route today, and was so excited about hitting the road, I actually laid out both my route and my toastiest running clothes the night before.
A combination of looming work deadlines and hearing that this morning was the coldest in the past five years in Washington left me indoors for a quick, warm treadmill workout instead.
I’ve already moaned and groaned about how I don’t like working out inside, so I’ll move right on to coping mechanisms. I get past the boredom of treadmill time by doing speedwork. My typical workout is three 1-mile repeats at 8-minute mile pace. I usually get through this with a kick-butt playlist of six or seven songs (the best thing about a speed workout, in my mind, is the fact that it’s over pretty quickly).
The get-through-it nature of treadmilling makes it a perfect place to try to get into that elusive happy place known as flow. Endurance athlete Christopher Bergland, author of “The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss,” says this is “a key to making exercise a pleasurable experience, because it allows you to lose yourself in the moment–time flies, and you are totally engaged.” Some call it meditation in motion. Former Washington Post writer Walt Harrington writes beautifully about finding flow while hunting with his father-in-law in The Everlasting Stream. And today, on a treadmill that may or may not have been properly calibrated, I found it, too.
This is no easy task for me. My brain is, as Elizabeth Gilbert would put it, a “big, spazzy free-for-all,” where thoughts swing from tree to tree like so many monkeys. More often than not, it operates like a never-ending to-do list, always leaping to the next task
before I’m done with my current one.
So I started running to my typical gangsta-rap playlist. But after one Wutang Clan song, I moved on to a more meditative mix. I was sweating like a pig and panting like a dog, but inside, I was chill as I burned through three miles at 7:30-minute mile pace. I felt so good, I even turned it into a tempo run, nixing the jogs in between mile repeats (usually, when the mile is up, I all but punch the “stop” button on the treadmill to get a breather).
I can’t say for sure that the treadmill wasn’t calibrated incorrectly, like a pair of size-4 jeans you know should really be a size 6. I don’t care — for 21 minutes of the day, I was completely present and grounded, which is more difficult for me than any 7:30-minute mile.
Here’s the playlist that helped me find my flow. I especially recommend the last one on the list — let it wash over you while you’re running fast, and see if you don’t find energy you didn’t know you had.
Wutang Clan, Protect Your Neck
Dear Sergio, Catch 22
Two Step, Dave Matthews Band, Live at Red Rocks
Halleluja, Jeff Buckley
Moving to New York, The Wombats
How it Ends, DeVotchka