Friday, March 31, 2017

New habits

One of my colleagues at UT-Austin, Dr. Pratik Mhatre, recently published a blog post on Maximizing Mental Agility.  He included a bit about habits, which is a topic I've been thinking about recently.  I'd like to start healthier habits in my eating, exercise, and use of time.

As Pratik notes, "Two things primarily create a habit:

  • Repetition i.e. you just have to do something over and over again to get it to stick.
  • Consistent Mapping i.e. deliberately thinking about your actions on how you want things to be."
I think it's most useful to focus on doing one thing really well, versus doing a bunch of things poorly, so even though I've jotted down about ten new habits I'd like to start, I want to restrain myself and only try to institute one at a time, and give it enough time and repetition to make it actually stick.

In terms of ultrarunning races, I already have several habits -- some good (e.g., reflecting and writing in my journal about how I'm feeling about an upcoming race), and some bad (e.g., not addressing issues such as chafing right away, before they become bigger problems).  One new habit I'd like to start is going back to my lists of what went well/what didn't from a previous race, to make sure I'm learning from my mistakes and not repeating them over and over again in subsequent races.  With a race coming up tomorrow, this seems like a perfect opportunity to begin establishing this habit.

I'll be running the Hell's Hills 50M tomorrow, and I'm not excited about it at all.  I've been having knee pain that's brought my 6-mile training run attempts to a screeching halt lately.  I suffered through a 50M race a couple weeks ago that I should never have entered, as I was drained and over-raced.  But I've committed to this race, and I want to bring points to my team, so I'm going to start and do my best.  At the very least, I can make the race useful by practicing my new good habit.  

So what did I learn from my previous race that I can bring to tomorrow's race?  1) Grasslands was a sandier course than I expected.  I really benefited from wearing gaiters.  The Austin area got a lot of rain earlier this week, and the RD's email said there will be stream crossings.  That could mean mud in my shoes, so I'll pack and wear gaiters tomorrow, too.  2) Perseverance pays off.  At Grasslands, I was moving terribly slow, but I kept moving, and ended up with a 3rd-place finish.  I know that when I start walking, my knee feels fine, so I can definitely finish tomorrow's race, even if it means walking.  I just need to remember, Relentless Forward Progress, and not give up.  3) The 2Toms Sport Shield wipes I used worked great, so I'll be sure to pack some in my vest and use them before and during the race.

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."  -- Will Durant

Ironically, in practicing this new good habit, I've also fed a bad habit, which is reading my work emails and then going off through a rabbit hole . . . Okay, back to work!