The Psychology of Looking Up

I look down when I run. A lot. Maybe it’s watching the ground move beneath my feet that gives me a sense of progress. Maybe it’s my fear of falling. Maybe it’s just pure laziness. Whatever the reason on my 10 mile run weeks ago I really took note of what I was doing with my eyes while I was running. Most of the time when I focused on it, 90% of the time I was looking down at the ground. There could be some deep meaning behind all of this but instead of getting into that I tried something different. I looked up. Not way up like to the clouds up. I just looked straight ahead.

It was an easy day to look up of course. The temperature sat in the lower to mid fifties. Fall colors still hung from the trees. The leaves on the ground still carried their color yet to turn brown from the cold temperatures to come. The air was thin and the sky was clear. You could say that the canvas on the ground almost matched the canvas of the air. So I won’t give myself too much credit here. For the habit I was trying to break I picked some pretty good context to try and break it.

And I know. You may be thinking, “You idiot what else would you do with your eyes but look straight ahead while you run?” And you’d be right to think that. But with this simple change I began to notice something. Slight twinges of pain, tightness of breath, that soreness under the ball of my foot, negative things that often distracted me on the run, seemed to dissipate. Those things didn’t go away of course. My mind just wasn’t focused on them. There was less space in the mind for the distraction and more focus on progress.

I mention all of this to bring up a simple point of how a negative thought, as simple as soreness under your toenail, can affect experience, and possibly performance. I don’t think any of this is probably news to anyone, but it was a challenge to me that something so simple could have such a profound impact.

The turn of the new year brings reflection of growth and change. We set goals, resolutions, benchmarks, whatever you want to call them. This year I’m looking at the simple things that have profound impacts on myself and those closest to me. I’m glad I’ve found one, if ever so small. Here’s to finding many more small things that will make big impacts in 2018.

Brent

The Size Run is curated by Alex Warren and Brent Francese, co-owner’s at Runologie.

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