Sunday, May 31, 2015

Emotional Intelligence and Body Language

I recently had the opportunity to hear Laura Arellano, Senior Leadership Trainer for CHG Healthcare, give a keynote presentation on emotional intelligence in leadership.  As part of her presentation, she confirmed that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned and applied to leadership, particular to leading volunteers.  My takeaway from her presentation, however, had nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with body language.

I’ve always had trouble controlling my physical reaction to being startled.  The best example is when I am riding in the passenger seat and something that is happening on the highway startles me.  I literally jump.  This in turn startles the driver (usually my husband) who has been known to react to my reaction by chastising me for reacting. 

But that’s not my only body language faux pas.  That same week I was accused twice of being nervous when I felt no nervousness at all – at least, not consciously.  From my vantage point, I was merely standing and patiently waiting.  Apparently when I stand and patiently wait, I appear very anxious.

Fortunately, I’m doing OK at controlling the verbal outbursts that often flood my mind after being chastised for my body language.  Why are you yelling at me for something I can’t control?  Be calm??? You might as well tell me to be six feet tall. Here’s where Laura’s message comes in.  She gave what she called a Profound Statement:  The job of the Subconscious Mind is to do what the Conscious Mind tells it to.  She then went on to say the brain follows the body.  The two statements almost sound counter-intuitive, but when you think about it, they can be complementary.  Calm the mind – calm the body AND calm the body – calm the mind.

It’s not that I can’t control my body language.  It’s that I haven’t tried.  Those of you who know me personally know that the word calm and my name are never used in the same sentence.  It’s time to try to fix that.  And the fix will need to come from both calming the mind and calming the body. 

So I’ve been practicing.  I’m trying to move a little more slowly.  I sit in the car with my feet on the ground and my hands folded in my lap, and I’ve noticed that just that posture has helped me control overreacting to what’s happening around me.  I’ve tried to sit quietly and take deep breaths to calm myself.  Is it working?  Time will tell.  Hopefully I will not only take Laura’s lessons to heart, but to mind and body as well.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Red Rock Relay Moab

Last Saturday, May 9, team Girls Day Out ran their third Red Rock Relay together – this time in the Red Rock country surrounding Moab, Utah.  The decision to run Moab was pretty much made for us when Red Rock Relay canceled the Dixie run for 2015.  We were a little bit nervous about the course, but the thought of a girls’ weekend away and running together again far overshadowed the anxiety of a more difficult course.

Our team has become known in Red Rock Relay circles as a team of “experienced” runners, referring more to life experience than to running experience.  Our oldest team member was 70 years, 11 months and 10 days on race day.  And while she may not be the fastest runner on the team, she is by far the most inspirational. 

And not only to us!  When we approached the exchange for Helen’s second leg, a much younger runner saw her coming and said out loud.  “This lady coming in is my hero.  Whose team is she on?”  Of course we claimed her in a nanosecond and told everyone her name.  So when she came in, the entire group of runners who were either waiting for their teammate or for the bathroom cheered and shouted her name.  Way to go, Helen!

The course, combined with the weather, did present its challenges.  Our first runner had to hop two fences to get back on course after a large group of early runners were misdirected.  And nobody told her about the steep switchbacks on her second leg.  The difficulty rating of leg 7 was seriously underestimated. 

The runners on the high elevation legs 7, 8, and 9 got the treat of running in snow.  It was light and not sticking to the ground, but it was SNOW!  So as I waited for my final leg, 11, I put on a long sleeved shirt and a jacket.  Too soon!  When it was my turn to run the sun was shining and the temperature was in the low 50s.  Off with the shirt and jacket.  Toward the end of my 8 mile run I was really wishing for a little of that snow.

Warning – this is the place where I seriously brag about our team.  We finished the 61 mile course in 10 hours 21 minutes for an average pace of 10:09, which was well under the 11 minute mile pace that we had predicted.  A few of us, me included, set personal records for speed over distance.  We all felt good after the race.  We finished early enough for some great photo ops before we had our traditional Mexican food dinner (with margaritas, of course,) and champagne at the hot tub. 

In the end the course was far more difficult on paper than it was in real life.  And while before the race we were thinking about what new relay to run next year, after the race we are seriously considering running Moab again.  Go Girls Day Out!