I'm a runner. Sometimes I place in my age group but I'm not setting any records out there. But that doesn't mean I don't have an ego that's competative gets off on praise and validation. And that ego, that competative and reward dependant ego, likes to call the shots and set the pace or milage or duration for my runs.
And my egos no dumb-dumb. It studies. It likes to peek at the speeds of fellow runners in my orange theory class. It likes to look at course records and race results for marathons and 10ks. It likes to people watch at the park and analyze what all the speedy kids are doing out there. It likes track my time on a course on strava and delights when I can beat that time. It can get caught up in the latest article or study on "the ten best ways to breathe" or "the new way to tie your shoes that will improve your vo2max" that grace the pages of facebook running blogs and runners magazines. Oh, its no dummy!
But it has blinders on. It doesnt see, doesnt listen to, or doesnt rioritize my body. It doesnt like to think about how I may be stressed at work or maybe didnt sleep or I ate too much or too little or I have this little niggle in my ankle. "F*** it!" My ego has a plan to keep, a record to beat, a person to impress. Which is fine. Those arent bad things. They just cant be the only thing.
This may be western thinking and idealistic, but our ego brain and body operate best as a democracy. Each having its own say and right to free speech, but working for the good of the whole. It does not work out well when the ego (one muscle in our body) tries to be a dictating tyrant. The oppressed body always, one way or another, stages a revolt to overthrow the mean over-lord. This often comes in the form of fatigue and/or injury. Or the overlord gets drunk with power and developes a neurotic addiction to exercise, food, calorie counting, isolating, panic disorder, etc.
So what do we do? How do we stay competative and improve and not let the ego (literally) run us into the ground!?!
Answer: Mindfulness. Mindfulness of your body and mindfulness of your values.
Most of us got into running, at least partially, for health, for energy, for the love of moving. But we lose sight of that. Too often, I see friends, clients, and fellow runners ending up sick or injured, too tired to socialize, and dreading the next long run. Its time to come back to values and let your run serve you instead of you being a slave to your run.