24 June 2012

Guest Post: TrainerJen on The Zen Art of Running Like Phoebe

A while back, in anticipation of an actual vacation, I asked a few online friends if they would be so kind as to "pen" a guest post for me while I'm away. I realized after the fact that the women I've asked all have voices that have become important to me - all for different reasons. So I'd like to share them with you.

I've made a lot of this #healthyme thing. And I could not have done it without TrainerJen. Jen, who owns Spitfire Fitness Arts as well as training clients at a local gym and teaching yoga at studios in the DC area, has been a rock for me. A rock that has taught me everything she writes in the post below. Case in point, the guy who "attempted to make gym contact" (you know the type) by joking that he thought I had lost a contact or something. I was doing bear walks and crab crawls across the gym floor. Here's what she has to say.

“…you don’t care if people are staring cause it’s just for a second, then you’re gone.” Phoebe Buffay, Friends, “The One Where Phoebe Runs”

Close friends, Rachel and Phoebe, meet in Central Park for a run. Phoebe tells Rachel to go ahead and get started running while she ties her shoe. “I’ll catch up.” Phoebe says.

Rachel has found her pace and breathing rhythm, when Phoebe passes Rachel shouting, “That’s not running! Come on!”

Phoebe flails and lopes away. Rachel drops her head in embarrassment.

This happens in a 1999 episode of the tv show, Friends. It has become such an iconic metaphor for doing something your own way.

In April, DC Celine wrote about the episode in her post, Style Challenge: Running in Central Park, Lion's Breath, and Spiders. Just a few days before that, I had posted a video clip of the episode on a friend’s Facebook page because he was heading out for a run for the first time in years.

Training for 10 years in DC gyms, I have seen so many people taking fitness far too seriously. I see people doing the exact same routine on machines day and day out They seem to have become machines themselves. Other people shy away from trying new movements because they are afraid of what others will think of them.

Phoebe has so much to teach us about living. Here are 5 things I learned from her running style.

Who Cares What Others Think
Humans are meant to evolve. In order to do that, someone has to try something unique. They must stand out. Concern with what other’s think stifles evolution and growth for ourselves and for the whole of humanity.

We can never really know what someone else thinks anyway, so we are concerning ourselves with something we cannot control. Doing our own thing is something we can control. Daring to stand out becomes the act of a warrior.

Running Is Natural
Kids, from the time they can stand, run as much as they walk. They would probably run even more if fearful adults stopped shouting, “No running!” all the time.

Kids don’t have to be taught how to do run. There is no hesitation or worry about doing it right. There is something or someone they want to get to quickly, so they just run. No thought --emotion compels kids to run. Phoebe runs because running is one of the most human acts there is. She celebrates her humanity.

Stop Working Out and Start Playing
Can you imagine a 5-year-old running on a treadmill? It would not take long before they either started to complain, play with the controls or make up games on the machine.

Sometime in grade school, play becomes work. All the life and liberty of movement is forced out. When adults get on a treadmill, we put on earphones, watch TV or read to distract from the monotony of working out on machines.

Back to our episode - Rachel finally decides to give Phoebe’s running method a try, she exclaims, “I feel so free and so graceful!” She is filled with energy and vitality – just like Phoebe.

Be Present with Your Body
I dare you to run like Phoebe and think about your to do list at the same time. The moment you start thinking about something else, you would likely fall into a mechanical, droning jog.

To maintain the Phoebe run you have to concentrate. You have to pay attention. You have to become present with what your body is doing and feeling.

Change Your Thinking
“You have to let it all go, Neo--fear, doubt, disbelief. Free your mind.” Morpheus, The Matrix

Lawrence Fishburn’s voice saying, “Free your mind.” often runs in my mind as a mantra. When, we become attached to what we are able to do/not do, we define ourselves by these limits. “I’m not a runner.” “I don’t dance.” “I can never sing.” We create our own Matrix.

Let go of your old ways of thinking. To run like Phoebe, you have to free your mind to create a new way of moving. When you begin to do that, you discover that you are far more capable of doing things than you thought.

In fact, you have your own unique way of doing things. “This is how I run.” “My dance style is about exuberance.” “I am a virtuoso shower singer.” might be your new thoughts.

Go outside.

Run like Phoebe.

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