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Mr. Payton Jordan offered the following advice at the University of California-Berkeley Masters Track Meet on 3 June 1983.

[About coping with back pain]

Like Sri Chinmoy, I too have to cope with severe back pain in my running. Some days it hurts so much I can hardly take the starting position. In fact, that is one of the reasons why I stand up too soon at the start of a race. When I'm down in the starting blocks, all the muscles that are working are pinched. As soon as the pain begins, I come right up. My back hurts while I'm coming up from the blocks, but once I straighten up, I'm all right.

This pain is something I have to live with, but I do try to get some relief from it. One thing that helps to reduce inflammation is aspirin. I don't want to take it all the time because it's hard on the stomach. So if you are going to take aspirin more than twice a day, you should take it with milk. Another thing that helps back pain considerably is soaking in a hot bath.

There are also several excellent stretches that I will show you. With the stretches you are counteracting all the tension that you acquire every day while sitting and standing. When you stretch, it releases the tension that you have in your back. Initially it may hurt when you do the stretches, but eventually the muscles loosen up and you don't feel the pain so much. The stretches also increase your pain threshold so that when you do take the starting position, the pain isn't enough to bother you. It's like pressing on a nerve that's sore. Pretty soon you can endure the pain. Then, when you let up, the original pain seems much less. In this way these exercises relax your muscles.

The main problem with the lower back is that many things that we do daily — such as sitting at a desk or riding in a car or an airplane — prevent us from relaxing and eliminating stress in that area. Basically what you are trying to do is use the opposite set of back muscles to release the tension. Once you do that, the hot bath and aspirin will also help.

Before coming here this morning, for example, I took a hot shower and also two aspirin. When I got here and started warming up, the adrenalin started flowing and I didn't feel the pain as much. I may feel it again after I'm through, but when the adrenalin flows, a lot of the pain goes away.

I understand that Sri Chinmoy has the same kind of back problem that I have. Two of the bones in the lower back are fused together. It's a fairly common problem that you just have to work around. You could have an operation, but you don't want an operation if you want to continue running. If you keep your muscles in shape, you avoid the necessity of having to undergo surgery.

So these are the things I would suggest: hot baths, some aspirin, stretching and whatever strengthening exercises you can do without hurting the back. Sri Chinmoy should do running, sit-ups and any kind of bending and twisting in a position that doesn't put great stress on the back. In this way he can recover from the pain and be a better runner despite it. Of course, the back doesn't correct itself totally, but you can do quite a lot to lessen the pain. The aspirin relieves the irritation and inflammation, and the heat relaxes the tension in the muscles, which cause the pressure on the nerves. Once you can do that, you can do your stretching. All these things should help.

[About concentration in running]

I find it's very important to have a little time before a race to focus your concentration. If you are distracted by different people or start thinking about something else, you lose your concentration. Some people cannot hold their concentration under stress. They can't block out all the extraneous thoughts and outer distractions to enter into a state of concentration. But before you compete or before you do anything, you need time to concentrate. I know it's hard for some people to understand. Yet anyone who competes or performs knows that there is a time beforehand when you have to stop and prepare inwardly. Performing well is not something that happens by mistake. If you watch opera singers or actors, for example, they become an island unto themselves before performing. You have to push everything aside and totally enter silent concentration so you can plan what you are going to do. You must plan ahead and use your concentration to make things happen. You can't always make them happen the way you want, but you can definitely come closer. You don't want to throw anything away by careless preparation before the race. You want to focus on the reason you spent the time-the long hours and the months-to be there. You throw too much time and too much training away if you don't watch yourself. You can't just suddenly perform without planning it out in your mind beforehand. You sense what's going to happen. You visualise the race and almost know how it will turn out.

So when it's time to collect myself before a race, I stop talking to others, even at the risk of seeming impolite. You can't just totally withdraw into a shell and never say hello to anyone all the time, but there are times when you have to concentrate.

Then during the race you are aware of everything around you, but you don't focus on anything except what you are doing. Focus and concentration really help you.