Thursday, June 10, 2021

Mind and Body: How to Run Longer Distances

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Kristen Susiekna. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome tips. Take it away, Kristin!

Running, just like writing, is a trick of the mind. It’s a form of endurance few people decide to tackle. Like writing, running invigorates the mind, stimulates the senses, and pushes us to learn along the way. But how do you train your mind and your body to cover new ground? How do you go from running a mile to running 26.2 miles or more? Like writing, does it get better with practice?

In my opinion, to run longer distances, you should concentrate on three aspects:

  • Strengthen your mind
  • Strengthen your body
  • Strengthen your determination

Together these elements can help you achieve running success and enjoy a longer run. Read on to learn more about the process and ways to achieve a new distance goal.

Strengthen Your Mind

Research shows that to run your best you must have focus. Without it, you may cross a finish line, but maybe not in your goal time or with your mind and body feeling fueled and fulfilled.

I’ve experienced this often in my running journey. When I first started, I never thought I could run a mile. Five miles felt astronomical, a half marathon a dream, and a marathon truly impossible. Anything beyond that? Well, people didn’t run that far, did they?

The main issue for me involved the idea of being in my own head for so long uninterrupted. Sure, scenery helped break up the monotony of my thoughts, but what could I possibly think about for that long and longer to make it worthwhile?

However, the more I learned about running, the more I realized that to run longer distances I needed to think of my mind as a tool. It could help me, if I let it.

Sometimes, it would stab me or force me to quit. Other times, it bolstered me on my run and helped me achieve paces and goals I never imagined myself doing.

But how do you strengthen your mind? It comes down to focus and taming that little voice in your head.
In my running, I like to distract myself, divert my attention from the act and think about other things. I find I can do this pretty easily when running with a friend. Conversations flow and make the miles fly.

However, when by myself, my thoughts become less positive and more centered on every little nuance — my breathing’s too fast, my footfall isn’t midfoot, my arm swing’s too stiff, I’ve only run a quarter mile … the list goes on.

When I’ve reached this point, I try to bring out my inner cheerleader, picture myself reaching milestones (a branch, a lamp, a house, etc.), or focus on time. These steps allow me to ground myself and motivate me to keep going.

Another big help for me in strengthening the mind involves speed work. Putting myself in uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing situations forces me to focus on what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and dig deep. Also, when I reach a cool-down stage, I make sure to congratulate myself on pushing past a limit.

If you want to strengthen your mind to run longer distances, make sure you’re taking steps to do so. Try to focus on certain parts of your running, run with a friend, or set small goals for yourself throughout a run.

Strengthen Your Body

Your mind is only part of the deal, however. If you want to run longer, strengthen your body too. My favorite way to do this is through speed work, bodyweight training, and planks. 

We’ve already covered speed work. To summarize: it offers a good avenue to strengthen your muscles, increase your pace, and endure longer mileage by breaking it up into chunks. 

Bodyweight training, however, works your muscles in other ways. What I like about this type of exercise is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. You just need yourself and about half an hour. Focus on running-related exercises, such as lunging and balancing. Yoga also helps strengthen and relax your muscles. 

Planking develops your core strength. You might not know it, but building a strong core can lead to big running gains. You use your core throughout your run. It’s the main body part holding all your other parts together. If you strengthen it, you can become a stronger runner for longer.

Strengthen Your Determination

Finally, to secure your path to longer running, make sure you have the determination to do it. Determination is another element of the mind, but it’s also so important to sharpen if you want to meet your goals and endure longer workouts. 

Try strengthening your determination through:
  • Breathing
  • Reading
  • Meditating
All of these activities motivate you and help you during your run. For instance, you can use breathing techniques to tackle anxiety that rises up in tough moments of your run. You can read inspirational words from athletes just like you and think of them as you run. You can invent a mantra from meditation to help you focus. Ultimately, if you have the drive to succeed, the focus to keep going, and the strength to dig deep, you can achieve great things — including running longer distances.
Kristen Susienka is a freelance fiction book editor and content writer. Her articles have appeared in publications like Fleet Feet Journal and Prime Women Magazine. When she’s not working, she enjoys tackling marathons and mentoring other runners. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter: @kristenseditor and Instagram: @kristensedits.

What are some of your own writing and running accomplishments? Click here to share a comment.

Keep on keepin' on...


Friday, June 4, 2021

How to Revise Your Story and See it With Fresh Eyes

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Alyssa Colton. Thanks so much for sharing. Take it away, Alyssa!

Many writers and editors use the terms “revise” and “edit” interchangeably, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between the two terms, even though there is certainly some overlap. First, check out the word revise. It literally means “to see again.” 

How do you see a piece of writing “again”? We tend to think of revising as “fixing it up,” but it might be more helpful to think of it as getting in the muck and playing around. “Revision means making a mess, not straightening up,” advises Heather Sellers, author of Chapter After Chapter. She thinks of revision as simply “making new versions.”

Many writers and editors use the terms “revise” and “edit” interchangeably, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between the two terms, even though there is certainly some overlap.

Revision Tip #1: Take Some Time

Take some time. This time-honored technique works because if you’ve been working on a draft closely for some time, taking some time away from it can give you a different perspective. Resist the urge to just get it done and out there. Put it away and do something else for at least a week. In On Writing, Stephen King recommends taking at least six weeks: “Your mind and imagination--two things which are the same, but not really the same--have to recycle themselves, at least in regards to this particular work.”

Revision Tip #2: Start Over

Start over. What? I have to completely rewrite it? No, not necessarily. After you’ve taken some time away from your work, DON’T go read it. Instead, think about or journal about what you are trying to do. Think about the major questions, like what your character wants and how she or he goes about getting there. What’s the conflict? What’s the resolution? What are you trying to say? And then start over. If you go and read your work, you might get too caught up in the words on the page. Instead, start a new scene, or perhaps use a different point of view, or just start your first chapter in a different place and see what happens. It’s important here that you don’t just go and edit what’s already there--this is just tinkering. You need to REVISE. At the very least, even if you decide not to keep the new bits, it’s likely to give you some insight into what you’ve already written.

Revision Tip #3: Map It Out

Map it out. This is kind of a reverse-outline. Go through and briefly summarize all the scenes. It can be really helpful to do this visually, with index cards or post-it notes on a large board that you can easily move scenes around. I’ve also found using a spreadsheet helpful when trying to figure out how to structure a novel that takes place in two different timelines. If you’ve already done this in the pre-writing stage, now is a good time to take another look at it and see if there are any changes you might make.

Revision Tip #4: Imagine Your Story

Imagine your story or novel as a play or a movie. What would you change? What would you keep? This can help particularly with plotting, if that’s something you struggle with.

Revision Tip #5: Read Other Writers

Read other writers in your genre. This can also give you ideas of how to change your novel if something isn’t quite working. Take several examples and study them. How do they begin? How are they structured? What are some commonalities? What might you “borrow” from another writer for your own work? A way of employing point of view, a structural device, a way of handling exposition? By honing your skills in “reading like a writer,” you can learn from the masters. Just play, and see where it takes you.

Top Revision Tips for Writers: RECAP

As a quick recap, the five main revision tips to re-see your story are:
  1. Take some time. 
  2. Start over. 
  3. Map it out with a plot
  4. Imagine your story. 
  5. Read other writers in your genre.

What are some of your own writing and running accomplishments? Click here to share a comment.

Keep on keepin' on...



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