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Applied Infant Psychology for the Endurance Athlete

Trail running in the Italian DolomitesA few years back we found ourselves regular babysitters for a toddler, Sloan. Her parents would drop her off with us and then head out for some non-parenting time.

I vividly remember one night when they brought her over, plopped her down on our bed, and said we could just let her lay there and squirm. They explained that it was time for her to, “process the day”. As one of her parents is a psychologist I accepted this as fact, and somehow it stayed with me. Today, it all came back as I headed out for my late morning run.

My own head was filled with fragmented thoughts; an issue of a stolen photo, marketing ideas, managing 2 businesses with much to do, learning Italian, travel plans, etc… I think there was even a random AC/DC song as background noise. Internal chaos. As I entered the forest on singletrack, the external noise dropped away, it was just me, my foot steps and I. My only company was the occasional chirping of a bird. My head was turning everything over, 4 seconds on this before 2 seconds on that, and so on and so on. Then it struck me. Sloan, on our bed, processing her day.

While I was not horizontal surrounded in pillows, I was churning along with both my legs and arms just as she did. It is likely my face held a semi-blank stare at the trail ahead, just as she stared blankly at the Ikea light fixture on our ceiling. I realized that this time we give ourselves as athletes is critical for our development as adults, more so for our sanity in a busy society. Why should it be any different as adults? The individual endurance athlete who seeks solitude in their training is certainly also seeking the comfort that comes from being in their own peaceful world. Personally, I never return from my training in anything but a relaxed state of mind. I can leave agitated, but I always return centered.

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