In restraint there is beauty

The Owl Trail near Muir Beach

I’ve been thinking about restraint lately.

And with 2 months off for a debilitating achilles injury owed largely to a lack of restraint, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.

As is often the case, I had a moment of clarity on the subject during a run on Friday, my second since returning from injury. Focusing on form, light steps, freedom of movement, it was pure joy. And with the late afternoon sun warming my back, and Mt Tam beckoning overhead, i just wanted to keep going. But i stopped after 10 minutes, did some light drills, some dynamic stretching, and went home.

Restraint. My new mantra for 2012.

By restraint i don’t mean to suggest that less is necessarily more. On the contrary, i think high volume is critical for the kind of endurance races I enjoy. More training stimulus = more adaptation, there’s no getting around that. The caveat of course, is that the stimulus must be balanced with recovery, and the optimal ratio of this balance is highly dependent on the individual. For me, I’m beginning to understand that i need to tilt the scale more towards recovery than I have in the past. This is where restraint comes in. It’s not going for that Monday morning run when the achilles is still sore from Sunday (even when it’s a gorgeous day and every other part of my body is begging me to go). It’s not running too hard on an easy day, even though I feel up for it. It’s saving some gas for the next day, because having a next day is so important.

The other aspect of restraint that occurred to me, is that it does not suggest limiting love or passion or creativity. Rather, it’s channeling it more effectively, with greater care and attention to the desired outcome.

I think about this a lot with cooking, where i believe every ingredient should have a specific purpose in a dish. It takes restraint to not add that extra vegetable to the salad sometimes. But if you’re already using fresh picked greens from the farmer’s market and maybe some chopped herbs from the garden, adding anything else besides lemon juice and quality olive oil would only detract from the vibrancy of the flavors. Of course, this is only true if you’re using quality ingredients to begin with.

The more I think about it, the more I can see how restraint benefits almost anything where there is a creative process involved.  Product design, architecture, cooking, parenting (!), and yes, running.  So here it goes.  The 2012 running season starts now, a clean slate, with as much drive and passion as i’ve ever had, but hopefully, with a bit more restraint.

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3 thoughts on “In restraint there is beauty

  1. “The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive. To be, in a word, unborable. It turns out that bliss–a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious–lies on the other side of crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find, and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Constant bliss in every atom. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

    – David Foster Wallace, “The Pale King”

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