On Friday, for the first time in my life, I ran on the treadmill but did not look at the calories burned or the mileage accrued. Not once. Not even at the end of the workout. I discovered that running without perpetually staring at the metrics is oddly exhilarating.
Mindfulness is trending. One popular mindfulness exercise is the "Body Scan." During a Body Scan, you focus your attention on how your body is feeling; you scan part by part, starting with your feet and ending with your head (i.e. feet, ankles, calves, knees, etc.). During my metric-free workout, I discovered that mindful running is pretty interesting, especially with speed intervals. By doing a Body Scan at each speed, I was able to observe changes in my stride, posture, respiratory rate, arm movements, sweat production, and ease of concentration at different speeds. Metric-free treadmill running is akin to outdoor running (sans pedometer, heart monitor, or iPhone app to "track your progress") but without the urban scenery to distract you from your mindfulness. I love a good dirt trail or waterfront walkway, but you'd need super powers to navigate the side/crosswalks of Manhattan while mindfully running.
In addition to being an excellent mindfulness exercise, my metric-free run triggered an emotional awakening. In college and law school, I used to obsess over calories. I would stress-eat a bunch of sweets (e.g. brownies, Swedish Fish, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and/or Sour Patch Watermelons) and then run until I burned off all the calories. Worse yet, the caloric problem solving (tallying up all the calories consumed and then obsessively ticking off each calorie burned) made running mentally exhausting. For many people, running is a stress-reliever; for me, it added to my stress load. I was trapped in a psychologically and physiologically unhealthy cycle. In my mid-twenties, I finally broke out of the compulsive exercise cycle and swore off running, which I associated with the calorie control mindset. Through Friday's metric-free session, I was able to acknowledge and overcome the negative association. The experience was truly cathartic.
This inspiring incidence may prompt a running rejuvenation. I haven't been an avid runner in five years because, in order to heal, I needed to put running to rest (at least for a while). However, I recently realized that, although I love walking around the city, my pace isn't always fast enough to count as cardio, especially when I'm strolling and scrolling. Also, since I swapped Bikram for slow-flow, yoga is no longer a heart pumping endeavor. Mindful, metric-free interval sessions might be the perfect solution to my cardio quandary.