Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dissociative Running

Alright, I’m not going to lie. Tonight’s short 5 mile training run pretty much sucked. I don’t know if it was the running in the dark, the sudden drop in temperature, the extra layers, the two pieces of fried chicken otherwise known as dinner I gulfed down at the hospital cafeteria just prior to coming home, or fatigue from last week’s extra miles that did me in, but my legs just didn’t feel like moving tonight. Even though the pace wasn’t all that slow, the breathing was labored and out-of-sync throughout. But the most disappointing thing about the run actually had very little to do with the run itself at all. Allow me to explain.

One of the things I like to do when I’m running, especially after a long day at the office, is to work out problems and resolve issues that I didn’t have time to attend to during the day. In fact, it’s become a habit of mine that as I’m lacing up my shoes in anticipation of a run, I’d pick out one or two problems to specifically work on while I run with the intention that I’d have the answer by the time I’m back in my apartment. It’s becoming clearer to me, more and more, that I am a dissociative runner (as opposed to an associative one). Now that I think about it, dissociation comes pretty naturally to me because I have a multi-tasking type A personality. As much as associative runners like to run because they like to take in the fresh air and enjoy the scenery, I love dissociative running because it allows me to work on other issues as the miles mindlessly pile up. The only caveat to my style of running is that the pace and the rate of breathing has to be synchronized and kept even. On a run like tonight, where nothing felt right, I was acutely aware of every breath, and there was never a chance for dissociation. So, in the end, none of my problems got resolved and I’m just as messed up and stressed out as I was before the run. Oh well, maybe some dissociative dreaming will help.

(What about you guys? I’m curious. Are you more of an associative or dissociative runner? Please leave a comment and let me know, unless you want to tell me that I have a mental condition for having such thoughts, in which case, you can keep the comments to yourself and talk to my shrink…)

All was not lost though running-wise. I think I’m finally almost about ready to commit to a summer marathon. I’ll spell out the details in the next post.


Non-Runner Nancy said...

Hey Lam, don't fret, all your runs can't be perfect. Sometimes there isn't even a reason. You're human, right? :D Although there may be something to be learned from the fried chicken?

Since I never solve anything on a run, I think I am more associative. I'm thinking about the run, the post that will follow, the view, how slow I am, etc, etc. :D

Ever notice you and I are practically the only ones up at this hour?

Christine said...

I'm not sure which kind of runner I am. I think I'm a mix of both depending on what the run is supposed to mean and what went on that day.

If I had a pretty rough day at school, or a tough time in the OR, or a difficult patient...I usually take it out on myself during the run. I try to turn that negative baggage into positive fuel to kick my own butt. Other days...I try to focus more on my run...esp yestrday because I was doing sprint intervals. I def need more focus for that.

Long runs- dissociative as possible. Try to think of everything BUT running...

Laura said...

I'd say I'm fairly dissociative. I always listen to my iPod and think about all kind of things when I'm running. Usually my only thoughts that are related to running are planning blog entries in my head after a long run. But generally, I'm not very good at noticing things like scenery - I've been trying to get better about that though.

bill carter said...

Hi Lam

I would have to say that I am a ... hybrid. I try to be associative when I am racing or when I am into serious training run. Most of the books I have read make the point that if you associate, you will have better control of pace, breathing, etc. Makes sense I guess. On the other hand, there is nothing better than a nice dissociative run where you can just lose yourself. That is what I did when I went super long last Sunday. I didn't really solve the problems of the world (or my own for that matter), but I did turn off my type A brain for a while and just be this sort of physical entity.. if that even makes sense.

Thanks for the cool post.

Jamie said...

The next run can only be better right?

I think I am a mixture of both, of course depending on the day and type of run. I definitely like to use my runs to get away and de-stress. However there are those more difficult runs that kick my butt and I can only think the immediate task at hand.

Reid said...

I don't think it's one or the other for me. And that is one of the beauties of running! You can take that time to think about all the things/problems/issues/mental conditions, etc. or about nothing at all. It is great to come home from a run having solved a specific problem, great to come home with a greater appreciation of nature and it's beauty, and it is also great to finish knowing you've met the specific goals of your workout. Each experience is worthwhile, and with that viewpoint, I feel, makes it that much more difficult to have a "bad run."

The Laminator said...

Thanks for everyone's comments!

Nancy - I'm not really fret. I fret only because you ROCK and I don't. Yeah, I run late and blog later. I really have to find someplace where there's more than 24 hours in a day.

Christine - I pretty much do the same thing. I always tell my patients that I'm running for them. I know most of them don't really care, but I tell them anyways...

Laura - It's hard to notice scenery when you're running in the same place, seeing the same faces, everyday. When I want to associate, I'll find a new place or a new direction to run, just to mix things up.

Bill - That's cool, what you said, about just being a physical entity and running. I remember feeling that way when I ran long at the peak of marathon training. It's such a nice feeling.

Jamie - Yeah, no where to go but up. Thanks for the encouragement. I know you face much tougher weather than we do in NYC. As a result, you probably have to associate more.

Reid - You have such a positive outlook on running. I love it. I'm trying to be slightly more optimistic about my tough runs. I know they are there to kick my butt and make my normal runs feel great!

Reluctant Runner said...

I would love to know why I sometimes feel just crummy on a run and then other times I feel fantastic. It's not always obvious.

Great question, by the way. I strive for that dissociative state when I'm on a run ... to make the miles melt away. My iPod helps me do that, or thinking about what I'll write in my blog or problem-solving.

However, lately I've been trying to spend at least some of my time on each run being very conscious of the state of my body during a run. I've been trying to focus on my technique -- stance, breathing, pace, etc., but also just be aware of what a marvel it is to be able to run like this. Mostly, though, I just think how much it hurts and wonder how much longer I have to go. :-)

Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

Clicky Web Analytics