11/7 Daily What: If you want to lose all external awareness, try this one weird trick

This is what an (almost) empty track looks like at 5 AM, even after Daylight Time ends. It’s a good place to get real with yourself.

This is what an (almost) empty track looks like at 5 AM, even after Daylight Time ends. It’s a good place to get real with yourself.

As I write, election returns are not yet in. With an intensity not seen since the Fortnight of Brett Kavanaugh, the impulse to refresh and refresh and refresh fivethirtyeight.com’s live blog has taken me over. It’s hard to get to sleep at night because the uncertainty has taken hold of my brain and won’t stop screaming at it.

Thank goodness, then, for a good old track workout, of the type that would make you question all the choices you ever made if only you were capable of actually thinking about anything but the sensation in your body. I’m talking about a workout called Dust Bath (coach has a thing for wild turkeys and their fascinating habits this month) that involves a slow warmup, then 4 intervals of 1K (2.5 laps of the track) at 5K pace (the not-puking-yet-but-gimme-a-minute pace). One minute recovery jog between each one First interval: okay, this feels fast. Is it too fast? It’s not? Okay then! Second interval: hey, found the pace right away this time! Wow, it feels like we’ve been doing this a long time! Third interval: if I can finish this one, I will have ONE LEFT TO GO. Fourth interval: I am literally panting and yelling at myself to hold on. And now I’m done. Thank goodness it’s pitch dark and no one’s out here to hear me grunt (said to self right as casually-running-8-minute-mile guy floats past my left shoulder).

That is all I can think about while running at this effort: how am I feeling? Where am I feeling? Am I on target? If I get distracted or try to dissociate in any way from 5K pace, I lose 5K pace. I have to be thinking leg turnover, two steps to every breath in and two steps for every breath out. Foot on the accelerator, bearing down. 5 minutes and 8 seconds is a long time to hang onto an effort that is truly taking me to my edge. If I let any thoughts intervene, it’s all over.

Track workouts are glorious when you need to overrun autopilot for just a little while. And if your autopilot right now is refreshing the news in your browser, maybe you should find your equivalent of a Dust Bath. Find something that makes you fully, fully present in your body, where you have no choice but to pay attention to it, receive the signals it’s giving you, and keep a tight grip on all that sensation. When it’s over and let go, you feel weightless, even if just for a little while.