By now anyone reading my blogs knows that I use the gym to prepare myself for strenuous hiking, especially in these months leading up to summer. However, a recent question from a cohort of mine brings to light a specific component of working out, that question being "how can you run on a treadmill without music or watching something?" Well, the answer lies in the title. I've had many people tell me they couldn't spend much time on a stationary bike or treadmill because they become bored. However, in order to train for past ultras by taking advantage of layover time in my job, I've spent up to 6 hours on a treadmill with no entertainment. The secret behind this is kinetic meditation, where the mind can detach from the body and essentially ride along as a passenger, occasionally checking in to make sure the engine has gas, the mechanicals are lubricated and the pilot is not asleep at the wheel. A vital component is a body that is just fit enough so that the mind is not distracted by pain, but I have found this is only a problem for me when I am grossly out of shape or when I am shocking my system by going substantially longer than I am recently accustomed. For instance, this week I did a 9 mile run and haven't done this distance in quite some time, so that the last mile was less meditating and more hanging on. However, the first 6 or 7 were nice and relaxed and I was quite enjoying the ride atop the bod.
I've done this for so long that I have no quick answers as to how to arrive at this state. However, there are a few tips I might offer, the first being don't read a magazine or a book while working out. After that I would lose the TV or iPad watching. Music can be a good accompaniment, however, and selecting tunes you enjoy can help maintain a certain pace as you unconsciously try to match the beat of the music. At some point I stopped listening to music and arrived at that glorious state where I can go for long periods of time with no distractions or props, where the rhythm of my body allows my mind to turn inward; I have actually subconsciously worked through problems in this state, or written music, or worked out details of design, or had lightbulb moments. I consider it an essential part of the mind/body connection that allows me to work through suffering or pain when I am out in the field. In this respect kinetic meditation has a direct correlation to real world activities and in the past has proven a vital component in finishing races or fastpacking in difficult conditions.