Taming My Monkey Mind

Not to sound sexist, but as men we are raised to not admit nor bow down to any weaknesses, be it physical, but even more so, mental. This post will address the latter, at the risk of sounding weak minded to those of you who see me as a God Amongst Men. You know who you are 🙂
In the Chinese vernacular, a Monkey Mind is one that jumps from thought to thought like a monkey jumps from tree to tree. It’s almost impossible to focus on one thought, which in turn invokes anxiety, and panic, if you cannot learn to control it. The Monkey Mind distracts us from the present. We all, as triathletes, runners, cyclists, etc., feel this often. Try to remember what goes through your mind when you are running.
“Did I leave the oven on?”
“Man I have to get that report done tomorrow morning!”


It’s almost impossible to not let your mind wander while running. But running, in its essence, should be a way to free your mind of life’s troubles and just … run. If your mind is cluttered with this day to day minutia you cannot enjoy the present, the now, of what you are doing.

There are supposedly ways to fix this, though every way I have tried has proven to be unsuccessful. It’s probably why I have yet to experience the “runner’s high” I hear so much about. Running still hurts for me. Granted, it is better than it was, but running as a heavy guy can be jarring and painful.

I have fought anxiety issues for years. I was on medication for a short while in my 30’s, but it actually made me feel worse, so I stopped taking them and have been “self medicating” ever since. It comes out of the blue more often than not, and usually at times where nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. I get my normal nervousness pre-race, but this is different.

And it is not fear. There is a difference between fear and anxiety. Fear, according to Freud, is a primitive alarm in response to a present danger. The key word there is “present”. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a state of nervous vigilance that is targeted as something in the future. Fear and Anxiety are both linked, in that it provokes the same basic response physically or mentally, but it’s target is where the difference shows up. Fear, though, is something easily handled, even beyond the flight or fight response. Fear about something is usually something you can see, or you know is there. Anxiety can be present without even knowing what the hell is causing the feeling. Anxiety affects you in every way; physically, emotionally, cognitively.

Anxiety is also something hard to describe to someone who has no issue with it. You will hear people say “I am really anxious over this job interview” but it’s really not the case. They may be nervous about it, or excited about it, but if they were truly feeling anxiety over it, it could cause them to stay in bed and miss the interview altogether. Not by choice, but by the physical inability to get out of bed.

Luckily I have not had an episode like that in over 12 years. It’s not a feeling I ever want to experience again.

I also love it when I say to someone close to me “I am feeling off” (which is my code for anxiety) and get the inevitable response of “Why??”. If I knew why I would be able to deal with it correct?

I have learned to deal with it, for the most part, over the years, either by plugging into music, or running, or just a hot shower. It has actually lessened since losing much of my weight, probably because much of me anxiety was over the fact that I always felt like I was fighting for air.

As I said in the beginning, it’s not normally a thing a man admits to feeling, but if you know anything about me by now you know I am forthright about most things and say what I feel. So, if in the future, you are training with me, or racing with me, or talking with me, and you notice that I am drifting or wandering, and I tell you I am feeling “off” (some of you may have heard me say this already), you now know what I am talking about.

Go easy on me 😉

Swim Calm
Ride Strong
Run Steady


One thought on “Taming My Monkey Mind

  • May 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

    My mind jumps around constantly!!!! I think that's why I love running because sometimes I get a glimpse of just peace.

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