The Zone….I feel like it’s eluded me for most of my life but now….now…I’ve finally seen it, experienced it and it feels like the fog has lifted! It’s happened enough times that I now feel confident trying to harness at will rather than stumble across it by accident. It’s a curious thing The Zone, I’ve certainly heard of it hundreds of times before but I don’t think I ever really understood it until now.
A little while ago I came to the realization that there’s a point in my run where I literally zone out of all conscious thoughts and enter essentially the Twilight Zone. It’s a bit unnerving and amazing all at the same time!
When this happens, I no longer notice things or people around me, I tend to focus in and stare at something in particular like the road in front of me or the numbers flashing on the treadmill. It tends to come on slowly and builds quietly until I am full on in it. Then, I no longer even notice that I’m running, it becomes more like gliding or flying! It is effortless and beautiful and it is in this space that I can feel my body growing stronger and faster.
The Zone tends to come on after a particularly difficult section of the run, usually after I get passed the voices telling me to quit. Then the most irritating thing occurs. Often, as soon I realize I’m there, I lose it and fall back into the incessant noise and conversations in my head.
After experiencing The Zone during a run, I can see that there is a method and secret to this madness. I just need to harness it.
Similarly, I have been aiming to lengthen the focus periods that I have in other areas of my life. Whether it’s when I’m writing, learning a new skill, working on tedious administrative work or even creating routines for my dance students, I have been timing my focus periods with a stopwatch. Sounds a little crazy I know….
I defined a focus period as the amount of time I spent on the chosen activity without any interruption. Interruptions included the obvious like breaking for snacks, social media, answering the phone etc…to the obscure and much more difficult to measure, deviation in thought process on the assigned task.
When I first began timing my focus periods, I was at an embarrassing 5-10 minutes limit. No wonder it was sometimes taking me forever to complete a task from start to finish! I was constantly thinking of other things and doing other things at the same time. Slowly by slowly and literally minute by minute on the stopwatch, I have been able to extend these focus periods. The results have been amazing. I have been able to cut in half the time it takes me to do almost everything. Tasks I naturally enjoy literally take no time at all and tasks that are more tedious to me take half the time they used to and don’t seem so bad any more. Now I actually enjoy trying to complete a task and beat previous time records. This doesn’t mean I am rushing thought my work but rather I consciously block out all distractions and force my mind to only think about what I am doing. Much easier said than done for sure! Each time it require great mental effort. However I must credit yoga for being a great help in this area too. Yoga has taught me how to quiet the constant chatter in my head and really focus in on the thoughts that are central to what’s necessary.
All to say that The Zone during a run is very similar. It’s all mental. Training myself to get to The Zone and stay there longer all while knowing I’m in it, is the magical key to running further, faster and longer. Not to mention it feels amazing!!!
Even though I already ran this morning, just writing this makes me want to go out again and find The ZONE!!
How do you get to The Zone? Have any secrets to share?