Be Present

Concept 2 Life #2: Be Present

You have to have a target in mind. It is based on past performances, but it is only a target. You can remember your past, but you can’t live there. When you are on that machine, you have to be wholly there in the moment.

You can’t even look to far ahead. You can imagine the next segment. You can envision completing the work and what the results will look like in the future. But when in the saddle, it is only the next stroke that matters. All there, right now.

I first learned this lesson running on trails. Definitely no looking back. You can look ahead a bit, but you better be sure of your next foot strike. And though the headphones might help some zone out, I prefer not to do it. When I am on a trail in the woods, I want access to all my senses, especially my hearing.

Being present when rowing, running, or engaging in any exercise, is great training for being present in life. It is frustrating when you are speaking and you see the lost look in the face of the person you are conversing with. Imagine how they feel when they see that same look in your face. Now imagine when nothing else matters but that present moment. No distractions mentally, no interruptions from the outside. Just you present, able to listen to your partner, children, co-workers, or friends. Able to get the most out of your meetings, the most out of life.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. –Lao Tzu

3 Take-A-Ways from an Ultra Runner

20 years ago as I soldier, I could run at a 6:30 minute-a-mile pace for about 20-30 minutes. It wasn’t great, but it was a whole lot better than what I can do now. I don’t know if I will ever be able to hold that pace again, though I going to work toward it. Today, I did 6 intervals at that pace for a little over a minute and a half. I have a long ways to go.


On occasion, my mind is firing with all kinds of thoughts while I am running. If I am lucky, I can remember one or two of them after the run is over. Today, I was fortunate to remember a few of them thanks to a Fathering Podcast I listened to yesterday evening. On the March 15, 2019 episode: The Ultra Running Mindset with Rob Irr, Rob mentioned his three biggest take-a-ways from running:

  • You can always give a little extra. There is always more in the tank. This became my mantra as I got near the end of each interval. Push a little harder. You’ve got more. Get to the end. The temptation is always there to pull up a little short. But even though my body may still reap some benefits from a shortened workout, my mind will not. Pulling up short will not help me overcome adversity in the future. If I start making allowances for not getting to the end in running, where else will I make allowances in life?

There is no person living who isn’t capable of doing more than they think they can do. –Henry Ford

  • Whatever you practice on consistently, you will get better. I want to run faster. How do I do it? I practice running faster. I don’t think there is any other way to put it. Want to do hard stuff? Then practice doing hard stuff. Do you want to make better food choices? Make better choices. Don’t buy the garbage to begin with. Don’t put yourself into a situation where your diet can be compromised. Tell your friends and family that you want to eat better. Ask them to hold you accountable.

Once you recognize that you are off the path, then you should only have one objective. Get back on the path.

The only way I can improve on anything is through consistent practice. It is the message I tell my son. It is the message I tell myself daily. Practice. And then practice some more.

Practice, the master of all things. –Augustus Octavius

  • Sticking with it. Rob’s final point was to finish the race. He talked about seeing some competitors nearly completing the race but being unable to finish. It led me to my own question: Can I finish? Can I finish the training? Can I finish the races I sign up for? All the things I set out to do, the goals, the dreams, the higher quest I feel like I am on, can I finish?

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

These are the life principles of an athlete who has the ability to run races over a hundred miles. They are principles that go beyond running and can be applied to any endeavor we choose to pursue. Its effect on me was almost immediate. I hope the value extends to the reader as well.


I have been running with the Charity Miles App for a little over a year as a member of the #0445Club. If you are a runner or a walker, consider downloading the app. It is a great way to support a wide variety of charities around the world.

Why I Am Running: Mental Warfare

I’ve started running again. Not dabbling as I have done before. Seriously running. I am still trying to figure out why. I can’t go very long. I am not very fast. But for some reason, I feel compelled to run.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

This morning, I woke up at 3:45. By 4:15, I was out the door. My goal: to run 4 laps in the neighborhood. Each lap is 1.3 miles. If finish it, I will have racked up over 5 before the rooster has even started crowing.

Every morning, I go out with a goal in mind. In order to achieve that goal, I have to follow the plan. It starts when the alarm goes off. 

 Get dressed.
 Drink water.
 Lace up the boots.
 Get out the door.

One misstep throws off the timing. One moment of indecision and the plan could go by the wayside.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. –Abraham Maslow

Getting out the door is the first step, but it is not the hardest one. The real test comes during the run.

It is early. It is quiet and cold. I am all alone with the exception of a few early morning commuters. There is nobody here to push me. Nobody to tell me to keep going. At any moment I could stop, and none would be the wiser. Along my route, the opportunity is always present to take the next turn for home. There is a hundred reasons why it would be okay to stop, a hundred reasons to call it quits.

There is a war raging within me on every run. A battle between running and walking, going and stopping, persisting and quitting. My body doesn’t want anything to do with it. My mind says buck up and learn to do the hard things.

The war rages between my body and my mind. The same war that began at 3:45 when my mind told my body to get up. It is a war that has been going on my entire life. Will I do what the body wants to do, or will I obey my mind?

If you are ruled by your mind you are a king; if by body, a slave. –Cato

I have a picture in my mind. It is a version of myself that is faster and has the ability to conquer long distances, all while injury-free. Without this belief, I would never run. But I do believe, and so, I run. I am willing to find out if that which is in mind can become reality. Can my mind truly conquer my body? And if it can…

What else could it conquer?

Imagine a king. What the king wills shall be done. Within reason, a good king could go anywhere, could do anything. A king is like the mind. A good mind, within reason, could go anywhere, could will the body to do anything. Would you be king or would you be ruled by the body?

We all have it within us to go out and be the conquerors of our own bodies. To do so is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. You do the work. Every day. You don’t give in to the desires of the flesh. You choose differently. You take the courageous step to be different. And if your mind wills it, the body will obey.

By the way, 5.2 miles this morning before the first of the cock-a-doodle-doos.

And Step…

Sometimes I tell myself I love running. It’s a lie. I hate it. I’ve always hated it. Running in my teenage years was hard. I was out of shape and really didn’t know how to run properly. In the Army, I got faster and could go longer. But it was never comfortable. I only got better because I had to run every day.

When I got out of the Army, I told myself I would never run again. That was another lie, one that lasted four years. These days, almost twenty years out of the Army, I try to get about ten miles a week. Some weeks I exceed my goal. Other weeks, I don’t even clock one mile. Regardless of the results, running has become so ingrained into my life that I always set a weekly mileage goal.

Running is monotonous. It is also very frustrating. My brain, powered by the activity, goes into a creative mode with no outlet. All these ideas floating around and by the time the run is over, I can hardly remember a single one to write down. But if don’t run, I don’t have those types of thoughts at all.

So why do I even run? It isn’t the best exercise out there to get the physique I desire. Compared to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), lifting weights, and other aerobic activities, running often takes longer to burn the same amount of calories. It is also harder on the joints. And yet I do it. Why?

How many times have I gone out for a run and told myself to go a little farther? How many times have I wanted to stop and give up and yet pushed just a little longer? Every time I have gone out, I have at some point wanted to quit. Every time, I have been confronted with the decision to walk. Some days I take it. But like it was in the Army, the more I run the better I get. And the more consistent I am with my training, the less power that desire to quit has over my body. The more I run, the more I learn about myself. Just what am I capable of? How far will perseverance and persistence take me? How much courage can I muster?

The steps are the same, every one of them. One foot in front of the other, over and over again. Each step getting me closer to my destination. If I want to reach the end, I have to keep going. It might take longer if I walk, but even walking, as slow as it may be, gets me closer. How far will I go if I am standing still? How far if I never make it out the front door?

In whatever venture we choose to pursue, we only have one course of action to reach our destination.  We have to take that first step. If we can take that first step, well who knows, we might just be able to take another.

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Battling Hills, Fighting Weakness

There are five hills on my usual running route. Four of them are only 100-200 meters in length with a moderate incline. When I get to these hills, I attack. I pick up my pace and run them as fast as I can. The fifth hill is different. It is about four times longer and has just a slight, barely noticeable incline. This hill is deceptive. It is stealthy. The end isn’t visible at the beginning. Running up this hill, I find that my intensity wavers. My focus will drift, and soon I will notice my pace has slowed down.

There are some battles that are easily won. They are not drawn out, and the damage is minimal. Then there are some battles that have no end in sight. They drag on and the attrition begins to affect the mind. The long drawn out battles are dangerous as the intensity wavers.

We don’t decide to be weak. We allow it to creep into our lives. We justify small decisions without considering the long-term consequences. In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink explains this well:

We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will- it chips away at our discipline. We sleep in a little later. We miss a workout, then another. We start to eat what we shouldn’t eat and drink what we shouldn’t drink. And, without realizing it- one day, you wake up and you become something that you never would have allowed.

That one hill is a reminder to be ever vigilant. It reminds me that without a constant focus on every action, I am susceptible to allowing weakness to creep into my life. Some of those choices may seem miniscule, a mere drop in the water. But who is to know the lasting ramifications they can have? Who is to say that slight detour doesn’t take you along a path just slightly different than the one you should be on? As Miyamoto Musashi said, “There is no end to the path of discipline.”