Filling in the Gaps: Mental Stimulation

12583953_10156502712160512_315852126_nI am almost a month into this term where I’m not enrolled in any classes, and running full time. I write this to you from the land of SUN in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m here for a two-week training block where I’m getting some warm weather to accompany my running and speed-work sessions, and also enjoying some isolated focus in between races.

Now that I’ve settled in and have accepted how my life will be structured for the rest of the winter and summer, I have noticed a few things. What scared me so much about taking a term off school was the low energy I would feel from being ‘mindless.’

What I love about school is the challenge of keeping your brain active, always expanding your knowledge, challenging your comfort zone academically, and staying accountable to deadlines. While mid-semester I have many moments where I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed or stressed, when the term is over I still am so glad I went through it all. I love learning, so I took it upon myself to get that done while I tide myself over until I return in September.

The purpose of my taking a year for training is to give myself the best opportunity to succeed in my sport. Sitting at a desk hunched over with my head buried in my hands is not the most ideal position as it puts a lot of stress on my back and hips. Students, take note to take breaks to walk around or stretch if this is the position you often find yourself in when spending extended periods in the library. I now do all my work in a more casual manner, standing if I can, lying down on the couch, or getting up to walk around a lot if I’m sitting in a chair.

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Beautiful Arizona – my playground for running these last couple weeks!

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Enjoying coffee, a book, and company with my friends while in between training sessions!

I’ve also learned the importance of keeping your brain active. What I miss the most about school is having a push to consistently learn, so I have taken it upon myself to simulate that by reading as many books as I can with a wide variety of genres and topics, working on becoming fluent in French through Rosetta Stone, and journaling/writing every day.

Mental stimulation is important, it helps improve concentration, and has given me something productive to do in between workouts so I don’t feel that dreaded low energy boredom (all without having to be on the go just to keep myself busy – not ideal for training when recovery is the goal!).

I’m trying to get the most that I can out of this semester off of school, and I believe that pairing mental stimulation with training full time is the best way to do that!

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