Awareness and Reframing

When we hear someone say they were on ‘auto-pilot’, most of us assume that the individual was not ‘mentally present’ while they were doing something. We’ve all had this experience one way or another, whether we are driving several hours on the highway or going for a slow, long distance run. We just ‘zone out’ and drift away into the ether in the same way we wander into a dream without being able to remember when the dream starts! As a professional within the field of sport psychology I would contend that there are times where being on autopilot is necessary but that it is always best to train and plan to be on autopilot as opposed to just finding yourself unconsciously checking out. One way to do this is to train your mind to increase your sense of awareness. But before we discuss skills you can practice to increase your awareness, we need to define what it is and how it affects our performance.


According to researchers in sport psychology, awareness is the athlete’s perception or recognition that they need to regain control over their psychological disposition. Conversely, absence of awareness usually involves the individual being over-focused on either the past or the future. Symptoms of lack of awareness in endurance sports can include but are not limited to experiencing unhelpful levels of anxiety during pre-race activities, irrational fear of failure or injury, and decreased focus on execution of movement mechanics. Obviously, these characteristics are antithetical towards achieving peak performance states and must be dealt with consistently and aggressively in order to achieve our desired outcome goals. This is important because at the end of the day, sport competition is about having the athlete solve a problem in the most efficient way possible (e.g. the athlete needs to solve the problem of running 26 miles as fast as they can), and in order to solve the specific problem, the athlete needs to maintain composure and the ability to make strategic adjustments, which require a heightened sense of awareness . So regardless of what the environmental or personal circumstances are that affect awareness, athletes need to have strategies in place to help them avoid going into this so called ‘autopilot’ mode.

One method that I like to introduce to my clients is what I call Process Goal Awareness (PGA). PGA is a multi-step process that helps the athlete gain a higher sense of awareness and move closer towards increased focus by staying in the moment rather than perseverating over the past and/or future. The first step of this strategy requires the athlete to identify what their process goals are (process goals are small action steps that need to be taken in order to accomplish the overall outcome goal, an example would be during a marathon having the athlete focus on keeping their arms loose in order to maintain proper running biomechanics). Once the individual has identified what their key process goals are, they then need to create some sort of reminder that is symbolic of those process goals. I usually recommend that athletes tap into their physical awareness by wearing an arm-band that they can write important process goals to focus on.


Having some type of physical token is important because when the sporting environment becomes psychologically overwhelming the athlete will have a physical reminder that will help them be more aware that they are losing focus, triggering them to shift their attention back to their process goals.

Ultimately, successfully completed outcome goals are the result of hundreds if not thousands of completed process goals. You can’t run a marathon without completing each individual stride to the best of your ability. So whether you are a coach or an athlete, use this method as a way to both increase your awareness and maintain your focus. Remember, it is not enough to just tell yourself that you need to focus, you need to train your mind and have a plan to put you in the best position to succeed. This is a skill that will take time to develop and craft in a way that works best for you, so I encourage you to start training your mind using this strategy as soon as you’re done reading this article!

Ben Foodman specializes in providing mental performance services, holding two masters degrees in sport psychology & motor behavior and clinical mental health. Ben is a licensed mental health therapist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. For more information, visit his website here.

July 08, 2020 — Aiza Leano
Round Rock, TX (November 4th, 2019) – Orange Mud, LLC and CEO Josh Sprague, makes the Entrepreneur 360 list for 2019, by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Round Rock, TX (November 4th, 2019) – Orange Mud, LLC and CEO Josh Sprague, makes the Entrepreneur 360 list for 2019, by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Orange Mud, LLC and CEO Josh Sprague, makes the Entrepreneur 360 list for 2019, by Entrepreneur Magazine.   
November 04, 2019 — Beth Sprague
Round Rock, TX (October 30th, 2019) – Orange Mud athlete Jake Jackson and Team USA win the 24 Hour World Championships in Albi, France.

Round Rock, TX (October 30th, 2019) – Orange Mud athlete Jake Jackson and Team USA win the 24 Hour World Championships in Albi, France.

Orange Mud athlete Jake Jackson and Team USA win the 24 Hour World Championships in Albi, France.  
October 30, 2019 — Beth Sprague
Orange Mud celebrates 7 years of the HydraQuiverTM.

Orange Mud celebrates 7 years of the HydraQuiverTM.

Orange Mud celebrates 7 years of the HydraQuiverTM.
October 28, 2019 — Beth Sprague

Not just fun and games

A fantastic guest post by Greta Goetz!

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Not just fun and games

My last favorite running game I played during gnat season, when I would hum under my breath as I inevitably inhaled them: I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, I guess she’ll die. My new game is equally as absurd: I try to come up with insane and random things that can be compared to running. Like, how randomly deciding to double up mileage on a run is like trying to crochet with rags: it can be done, but with a little finagling.

As I write that, I hear the sirens of coaching services approach, as such games of exertion are said to be diametrical to smart training, which involves planned mileage loads. Personally, I pay little heed to such guidelines except to keep them at the back of my mind, as spice to throw in, without exacting, precise measurement, as much as I feel up to them. Just like that style of cooking known as “rustic”, which is the fancy way of saying “eyeballing it”.

There are many things I don’t eyeball. Like, the words I choose when I translate. But maybe this is my point: that in our lives, there is more than one aspect of ourselves that needs exercising. Even great minds have found this to be true.

Once upon a time in Cambridge – if you’ll humor me for a moment as I digress, the exams set for mathematics students (the Tripos) were so difficult that many of them suffered nervous breakdowns, or lost their health. Even the great scientist James Clerk Maxwell felt a blank dizziness when taking them. This led them to practice sports, as summed up in Leadership and Creativity: A History of the Cavendish Laboratory, 1871-1919:

To alleviate the inevitable stress of daily studies, most Cambridge students took some regular physical exercise in the afternoon by rowing, swimming, walking… “This exercise,” Andrew Warwick pointed out, “became the recognized complement of hard study, and students experimented with different regimes of working, exercising, and sleeping until they found what they believed to be the most productive combination.”

That’s a great passage because it acknowledges the importance of physical hobbies, and suggests experimenting to find a fruitful symbiosis with tasks that can otherwise run us down.

There’s more to physical activity than just fun and games. Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn popularized Plato’s idea of training through the body, not training of the body, and building physical fitness for the sake of the soul. In the iteration that Hahn promoted, physical fitness was to focus less on developing innate strength and more on overcoming innate weakness.

Overcoming weakness is a measurement a Strava stat can’t always give us. It’s true that for some, lack of speed is a weakness; but for others, weakness is also a lack of tenacity in pursuit, a want of an undefeatable spirit (I take those phrases, too, from Hahn). The point here is that not all weaknesses are defined by a faster time on a stop watch. In defense of the “selfish pursuit” of sports is the idea that athletic activity can make us better people, beyond a single speed or metric.

No cliché is needed to defend the fact that the soul needs stoking. And games are never a waste of time if we know why we play.

Trails for trials

After a difficult phone call and a restless night of sleep, I woke up the next morning with a weird kind of determination: I need to tell the forest about the phone call, I thought. I’d heard from my brother, who since serving in Iraq has suffered from PTSD, which is threatening to become physically terminal. (I say “threatening”, the doctors say “is”; I say it’s never over ‘til it’s over, there are always exceptions to rules.) I’d told some trees, along a different run before, about his and my childhood, and hid tears in sweat. Nobody’s life is easy, but some lives begin complicated. What are you going to do, sit down and cry over what people call destiny or free will? No. (Most of the time.) But going for a run and thinking about them brings them into a stretched out landscape, which can bring release.

I wanted an answer to the pain of the phone call, and even though the run I was determined to go on was too far away, it was not even difficult to chug uphill to reach the myriad leaves that sounded like an ocean in the wind. I took the steepest incline to the top, and halfway up spotted a jay staring at me. It was so poignant (as if birds have expressions, but they don’t!) that I stopped in my tracks and looked at it as it watched me, now turning one eye to me, then the other. Some days, the forest just opens up and all of the animals and birds spill out into view, not caring that you are running by.

I caught sight of the sky from between the trees. Everything seemed so big. Encompassing, even. So, I thought my brother into that landscape, and explained away his human fallibility, and brought into view all the good things he has done, and my heart justified his life to all those creatures and breathing trees, and I caught a glimpse of the victory of his life in persisting as he has, and all the friends he has gathered around him a testimony to a life well-lived even as it is threatened; I told this to the trees and they replied in moving air, or was it me breathing hard in the wind, not even noticing the uphill anymore.

The wild, free woods

So many associations can come to mind on the more scenic runs where there is more to see to think about. I thought of that today while passing horse manure on the trail: reminding me of my equestrian childhood: Pony Club prizes, riding bareback at camp... (Anyone ever used an Orange Mud quiver on a long ride?!) That in turn brought to mind Colonial America, and James Russell Lowell’s poem “The Pioneer”, which in 2018 would be more aptly named, Hymn of the Dirtbaggers. It begins (if you have the patience for it):

What man would live coffined with brick and stone,

Imprisoned from the healing touch of air,

And cramped with selfish landmarks everywhere,

When all before him stretches, furrowless and lone,

The unmapped prairie none can fence or own?

It’s not like one has to be permanently in the wild to make associative leaps in the mind, and feel boundless. Charles Dickens came to his great ideas by perambulating leisurely, and not always in nature (he practiced urban hiking before it became a thing!) Mihailo Petrović, known for his work on differential equations and phenomenology, and for inventing a prototype of the hydraulic analogue computer, came to his ideas while fishing. In fact, he took and passed a fishing master exam – which at that time was viewed as a serious craft that could be undertaken only by skilled artisans who had passed through requisite apprenticeships. Fishing masters not only had to field practical questions but to prepare fish well to earn that title (imagine a cook-off as a prerequisite for a fishing license!) Petrović, a great scientist, viewed the river as his second office. Outdoor activities stimulate the mind.

Among Petrović’s works – and not to dwell on the one with perhaps the most intriguing title, Novel of the Eel – is one called Metaphors and Analogies, in which he writes that true poetry and science both seek to discover and make use of similarities among disparate elements and facts.

If you’re looking for a challenge on your next foray outdoors: what can you observe; what similarities of the visible does it bring to mind; what can you discover? As Lowell writes in “The Pioneer” (or, Hymn of the Dirtbaggers!):

What man would read and read the self-same faces,

When there are woods and un-man-stifled places. (…)

Here, life the undiminished man demands;

New faculties stretch out to meet new wants;

What Nature asks, that Nature also grants (…)

Ideas will be found in the outdoors, it’s a fact. There’s no excuse to not get outside and discover when we can conveniently pack food and drink in one of the many hardy Orange Mud packs. Or just throw water and a few condiments into one of them and, like Petrović did, prepare and eat freshly-caught fish in our second office.

Tough and Tougher

One of those “spiritual tales” told in the country where I live is about a man who is complaining: his life is too hard; he’s had it; he sees no reprieve in the foreseeable future. Maybe you’ve heard this tale before.

His friend tells him to hold his arms straight up over his head. But the complainer argues at how ridiculous that sounds, though he eventually gives in, because, frankly, he’s fed himself up with all his whingeing. So, reluctantly, he raises both his arms, until his gradually heavier and heavier arms feel like lead, and he barks at his friend, “I can’t keep my arms up any longer!”

“So drop them,” his friend says. He does. His friend asks, “How do you feel?”

“Better, now that I’ve dropped my arms!”

“So, you’re better now than you were when you were ranting!”

I’m going to guess that all of us reading this blog who do some form of exercise can relate to this. As much as we (might!) love our exercise, the day will definitely come when even exercising seems too hard, but if we’re able to stick through it, relief does come afterwards, if for no other reason than for that extra task coming to an end.

Maybe by doing sports we know that on some level, by doing it, it becomes part of “what we’re made of”: endurance, fortitude, that kind of thing.

But if we’re having a tough day, we can grab our Orange Mud handheld or quiver, and take a jaunt around the neighborhood or paths or hills. Then we can ask ourselves, like the friend in the tale, how we feel, now that the extra agony is done with!

Blog post by, Greta Goetz, senior lecturer, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, Serbia

October 25, 2019 — Josh Sprague

Material Tech Session: TPU, what is it made of?

The bite valves and bladders of our packs are made of a TPU based compound. We've received many request about whether they have rubber in them, and the answer is no.

Most rubber allergies are generally latex based. Latex is a naturally derived rubber which is known to cause skin irritation. Some of the agents that often cause allergic reactions are thiuram, carbamate, and mercaptobenzothiazole or proteins in latex. 

TPU is rubber like in durability, flexibility and smooth, but is a synthetic thermoplastic elastomer, not a rubber based material.

As always if you have an allergy we suggest researching further as you could have a TPU or synthetic compounds in TPU allergy.

Cheers!

Josh

Josh Sprague is the designer and CEO at Orange Mud. Designing packs and other gear is at the heart of his passions and Orange Mud as a brand. Making packs that are light, fast, functional, and always important, durable....is a major focus in his designs. 

 

July 29, 2019 — Beth Sprague

Podcast Episode 61: Sanjay Rawal - Director of the movie “3100: Run and Become”

If you don't get a hair cut during your race, you're not racing far enough....3100 miles of running over 40 to 50ish days, around a city block, in the summer, in New York. Yikes!
July 25, 2019 — Josh Sprague

4 Things I learned from running my first 100-mile race

It’s been a few months since I completed my first 100-mile race at the 2018 Angeles Crest 100 and thought I would provide a follow up to my previous OM blog post about preparing for my first 100-mile race. I learned an awful lot during this race which I did complete in 31:47 (Cutoff was 33 hours). The weather was brutally hot with bad air quality and half the field ended up dropping from the race. Although I really feel my training went great and I was very well prepared for the race, there are definitely some things that I’d do different so that’s what I’m going to focus on in this post.

 4 Things I Learned From Running My First 100-Mile Race

Photo: Ivan Buzik

 1) Don’t go out too fast! I ran the first 25 miles from Wrightwood to Islip Saddle a few times before the race but ran it the fastest in the race… The photo above is around mile 11 of the race and I was feeling great! I felt like I was running without too much effort, but in hindsight I feel like I pushed the pace a little too much at this time of the race because I was feeling so good. I’d definitely run it a bit easier if I had to do it again to save some extra energy for middle portion of the race.

 2) Bring food that tastes good when you don’t feel like eating! I’ll definitely have my crew bring a few more food options that are easy to get down when my stomach isn’t right. It was getting very hot by mile 25 and I ended up feeling pretty nauseous from miles 38-70, which slowed me down quite a bit…. I had plenty of food with my crew, but nothing was really hitting the spot except the Fresh Citrus drink mix that I always use from FLUID Nutrition. I was able to drink it without any issue but real food, gels, etc., weren’t sounding very good during this time of the race. I was at my low point at the Red Box Aid Station at mile 60 (see photo below), my crew gave me some soup and some avocado to try and get me going again. The avocado totally hit the spot and helped me turn things around within 10 miles. I also had some bacon at the Idlehour AS (Mile 83) and it tasted amazing! I grabbed a big handful of it and kept pushing up the last few climbs.

4 Things I Learned From Running My First 100-Mile Race

Photo: Cindy Carlson (Red Box AS)

3) Keep pushing on because things will get better! I was amazed how good I felt from miles 70-100. As I said, I felt pretty bad from miles 38-70 so I slowed down a lot to avoid the big DNF. I had no idea how good I would feel from miles 70-100, my pacer Sparky Sparks and I rallied from miles 70-75 which set me up for a great last section which is known as the toughest 25 miles of the race. In hindsight, I would’ve pushed a little bit harder in the heat to save some time. There were some downhill sections I could’ve ran slowly instead of hiking etc.… The last 25 miles were tough, but I never felt sick again even though I finished the race just after 12pm on the 2nd day, which was hotter than the 1st.….

 4 Things I Learned From Running My First 100-Mile Race

Photo: Paksit Photos

 

4) Don’t waste time at the Aid Stations! Looking back, I think I wasted too much time at three aid stations (miles 50, 60 and 70). I was feeling pretty poor, but I should’ve been a little quicker to get moving once I got some food down. I put myself in jeopardy of missing some cutoffs because I wasn’t leaving those three aid stations until I felt better (which didn’t really happen). I rebounded big time after midnight at mile 70 at the start of a long downhill section to Chantry Flat (mile 75 AS) and got back to getting in and out of the aid stations quickly.

 

I really feel that my time would’ve been 2-3 hours faster if I would’ve made a few of these changes. Live and learn right?!... Thankfully I’ve got absolutely no regrets, it was a very tough first 100-mile race and I finished it which was the only goal. I still can’t believe it, even after all these months! This was such a special finish and these photos mean so much to me. My family was there along with my awesome crew and Orange Mud Teammates Sparky Sparks, Elliott Bruce and Lawrence McDaniel. All of my friends that trained with me for months were also there and it was amazing to celebrate together, something I’ll never forget!

 4 Things I Learned From Running My First 100-Mile Race

Photo: Ivan Buzik

 

Gear & Nutrition Notes:

1) Orange Mud VP2 2.0 Pack worked awesome, two bottles are the way to go at the aid stations and keeping track of how many liquid calories are going in.

2) Orange Mud Arm Sleeves work awesome in the hot conditions, love the ice pockets!

3) FLUID Nutrition “Fresh Citrus” Performance was a huge key to me staying in the race when I was having a hard time eating food.

4) Altra Olympus 3.0 Shoes and XOSKIN Compression Gear/Socks are awesome!

 

4 Things I Learned From Running My First 100-Mile Race

My awesome family!

December 05, 2018 — Kevin Goldberg
When did the porta potty become such a familiar part of my life?

When did the porta potty become such a familiar part of my life?

I know how weird that might sound to most people but if you’re a runner you’ll know what I mean.

Before I started running, roughly 8 years ago, I didn’t have very many encounters where I would need or want to use one. They usually aren’t very clean and obviously don’t smell all that good so I would avoid them at all costs. It wasn’t until I started running and especially after I started racing that my outlook on them completely changed. I am sure most runners have experienced, at least once, the joy of having to wait in huge lines before a race to use one. Not something to be proud of, but when the weather is bad before a race who hasn’t camped out inside one just to keep warm. Lock that door and you’ve instantly got your own personal stinky hideout. And who hasn’t gotten at least a little excited to be the first to unwrap a fresh roll of toilet paper knowing that there was a pretty good chance that nobody else has used it yet. During the race they are an absolute savor. Their location is almost as important to know as where the next aid station is. 

Outside of racing knowing their location is equally important. I have found myself driving around in areas of my local neighborhoods, where a public restroom isn’t available and making a mental note of them.  Maybe at a spot where road work is being done or a house is being built. You never know when you might find yourself in a pinch and trust me when that time comes and you’re too far away from home to make it back, the sight of a porta potty will be like a pot of gold.

Running hasn’t been the only place my exposure to the “blue box” has occurred. Being a truck driver for the past four years I’ve had my fair share of their use. Truck stops, customer locations and the railroad yards are all common stops for me throughout my week. The biggest difference between the running porta potties and the truck driving ones is the colorful writing and pictures added to the inside walls. Not to mention runners seem to make a whole heck of a lot less mess!!

Love them or hate them, your best bet is to just hold your breath and get in and out as quickly as possible. And please make sure to lock that door while you’re in there 😀

By Jake Jackson

Dirt Unit Elite BEAST

@ultra_trucker

October 10, 2018 — Kevin Goldberg
3 Ways to Get Better Sleep as a Runner

3 Ways to Get Better Sleep as a Runner

Being an athlete is physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. Of course, there’s the highs – when you’re in great shape, when your mind is clear and when you remind yourself just how much you love to run. But there’s also the lows – when you have or are recovering from an injury, when you’re trying to get fit and it’s really hard and when all the extremes of bad weather and bad terrain are getting in your way.

So how can you ensure that running is more about the good times and less about the bad? Well, there are 3 key things we all need to do in order to be healthy. One is getting enough exercise (which, I trust, you do already). The second is eating the right foods: a very important one that involves cutting down on caffeine, sugar and gluten while loading up on leafy greens and oily fish.

The third one might be the most important as it’s something that involves every aspect of your health; both mental and physical. It stops you from experiencing that “draining” feeling I mentioned earlier, plus it prevents injury and improves performance.

What is this magic formula? Well, it may come as a surprise but it’s actually something quite simple. It’s sleep.

Getting enough, good-quality sleep is essential for our health and our happiness. It strengthens our immune systems, so that we don’t fall victim to every bug going around. It gives us the energy we need to train and to challenge ourselves, without pushing ourselves too far. And it keeps our motivation high, urging us on and improving our performance.

If you’re a runner, you should be doing whatever it takes to get a good night’s sleep; whether you’re in great physical condition or dealing with pain, sleep will always make things better. So follow these quick tips to dreamland and enjoy the results!

1. Respect your circadian rhythms

If you don’t sleep well at night, chances are it’s because you’re not listening to your circadian rhythm – that built-in body clock which means you get sleepy as darkness falls and become more alert with the sunrise.

And if you’re getting to bed at midnight, then rising at 9am… sure, you might be getting a decent amount of sleep but it’s not at the optimal time. You’ll wake up groggy and disoriented, feeling lethargic and definitely not in the mood for a run.

On the other hand, if you get to bed early – say at 10pm – you can rise at 6 or 7am, with the dawn chorus. You’ll feel energised, upbeat and – dare I say it – like a morning person! By becoming one of these mythical beings you’ll be able to get that 10k run in before breakfast easily. The day that follows will seem less stressful, and guess what? You’ll sleep better that night as a result.

2. Eat sleep-promoting foods

Ok, so you might already have a healthy eating plan in place. If so, good for you! But did you know there are foods out there that can actually improve your sleep? Well there are. And by chowing down on the likes of bananas, kiwis, almonds and sweet potatoes, you can kick that insomnia to the kerb.

Enjoy these foods as part of your evening meal or for a pre-bedtime snack and sleep sounder for longer.

3. Get into meditation

Of course, you might see running as a meditation exercise all on its own. A chance to escape the hustle and bustle of life, to clear your mind and to focus on the breath. But the bad thing about running is, it gets us all hyped up. That rush of endorphins is lovely, true… except when we need to settle down at night, we often find that we can’t.

Instead, we find our pulse still racing, our mind busy and our bodies far from relaxed. This might not apply to everyone but in my own experience, evening runs always left me feeling this way!

One way I solved this post-run wakefulness was to have a bath before bed; I don’t do it every night for environmental reasons but love a good soak when I’m feeling especially wound up. Another way I love to relax after running is to do a guided meditation exercise. My favourites are ones where you focus on tensing and relaxing each body part; I find that it soothes both my body and mind when I need it to most and that afterwards, I always sleep like a baby!

Don’t think you can sit still for long enough? Give it a try… I did, and it really worked for me!

Well, that’s about it! Hopefully these tips will help you to get that R&R that you need and deserve. Meaning you can enjoy each and every run the way you should!

Guest blogger,

Sarah Cumming

August 02, 2018 — Kevin Goldberg