It is the mornings when it’s cold that are the hardest. Showing up to the track, your breath visible in the air. The warm tingle of sleep and bed sheets trying to pull you back.
If your track is the pavement, there is a strange heavy quiet to the pools of yellow below the streetlights. If your track is the grass, you arrive in a trail of crunchy footstep islands in the morning frost.
We are there because we know that the laps we do in the cold that have the biggest impact. The first few strides come with the usual creaks and cracks. Our body loosens up, and the first few laps feel a bit stiff. We try different things to remember how everything works. We move sideways, we windmill, we skip.
But then we come alive, we get into our stride, and the warmth starts to come. It starts in the big muscles, but soon our pistons are working up steam in the morning air.
At the end, we settle. Hands on knees. Wondering if it will take all the air in the world to help our lungs feel normal again. It passes, we stretch, and feel good within. Satisfied in body and mind.
Laps are practice, and we have done it again. We put the hard work in, on the mornings that count. We pushed ourselves, we honed what we have. We won the morning. It is meditative.
Don’t we too often do it alone?
Don’t we too often do it at one, steady, speed?
Within our comfort zone.
Don’t we sometimes wonder why we’re doing it at all?
It is easy to forget that laps are practice.
In our work lives, our emails are laps. Our meetings. Our days are filled with laps. They can be one-tempo, or they can be dictated by the invisible deadline, that chases us round the track.
It does not feel like we are achieving, but we can. And instead of doing our job, we can be practising. Finding new ways to do things better. Turning up in the hard moments.
Thinking in this way can challenge your view of the laps we do each day, maintaining our groove. The days when we try to fit more in. When we sacrifice doing others things to do more of that one thing. More of the same, in the hope that more laps will move us forward.
More emails, more meetings. An extra conference call, because this might be the one gives us something different. An extra few emails in the hope that it will bring the feeling we’re looking for.
In our life, our relationships are practice. The things we say to people, how we see them. Whether we see them. What we say next.
If we realise that everything can be practice, we can unlock fulfillment. Our laps might be the way to make progress in a way that was more fulfilling than we could ever imagine.
Kindness can be a practice. It is a hard one, because the world does not feel very kind. It is running into the wind. It is one that makes you feel new muscles the next day. I am trying to practice, and this is a journal of my practice. Some days I do not feel kind, and these are going to be the days that count. These are the cold mornings.
I have found already that practising kindness gives the ache of progress in ways that I didn’t imagine it could.
By why publish it? And if I’m honest, the reason is more selfish than you might think. It is to remind me that the best laps are when others are pushing you. Known or unknown, when there are others around you, when there are eyes on you to keep you accountable.
I hope that I find people who are at once vulnerable, challenging, stretching and generous. People who ask me to practice with them too on their thing. Who invite me into their lives and bring ideas in the hope it’ll make me better, not them. That are kind without being insincere, and tough without being unkind.
Or, it can sometimes be gentle laps, shoulder to shoulder. Because the biggest secret of all is that the magic happens, when you do laps together. When we practice together.