Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Watch Our Watch...

I did one of my favourite NYC runs yesterday—up to the little red lighthouse under the great grey bridge (i.e. the George Washington Bridge). I’ve done the run too many times to count, but still I put on my watch to measure how long it was going to take me. I suspected I was going to be slower than usual, because of some chattiness in my hamstrings and IT band.

I felt good. Halfway through I thought to myself, “I feel pretty fast today.” Then I looked at my watch. Nope. I was so happy to be doing the run, I didn’t care; except that small piece of me, that watch watching part, kept murmuring, not as fast today as usual, are you?

I’m not a professional athlete. I’m not training for anything in particular. Why even wear a watch? Those numbers could get a girl down if she’s so inclined.

And then there’s this…in a yin yoga workshop yesterday, the instructor told us that it wasn’t how stretchy we were that mattered (thank heavens for that), rather it was our “intention and effort,” which defined our progress. So, in my case, the fact that I’m sitting completely upright, while everyone else is folded in half, head to knees, isn’t relevant. What’s important is that I’m intending to fold in half, and I’m working as hard in that direction as is safe with my less-than-Natalie-Portman-like hamstrings.

On my run, intention and effort were present; it was just the usual pace that wasn’t. And while I whole-heartedly agree with the yin instructor’s view, I still think the watch bears watching sometimes. Not as an old communism-style tool of self-criticism, but as a reality check. By which I don’t mean, be real you’re not as talented as you think you are. Rather, as a guide, a signpost, to let you know how things are in your body, so that you can know what reasonable intention and effort are for that day or that week. Your body is talking to you, if you listen. The watch helps you listen. I’m tired. I need rest. I need more stretching. I need a slower re-introduction to running after two months of xc skiing (that’s what mine was saying).

Me and the couch spent some quality time together as a result.

As for my watch, I’ll still wear it. But it’s not the boss of me. It can’t tell me if I had a good run or not. That’s something my body and my heart get to decide. I had a great run up to the lighthouse.