Wednesday, May 18, 2011

For the Love of Running - Part 2

If you want to love running, you need to embrace the fact that it’s in your nature to do so.  The challenge I find with my patients, friends and family who want to find a love of running, find it either difficult to run (hard work) or find themselves hurt every time they try.  That stems from the fact that many of us have adapted out of our natural running form because of basic social pressures of the Western World.  Two things in particular confront us at just the wrong time:  Being forced into wearing shoes as a child and being forced to sit our growing bodies in a chair during our adolescence/growing years.  How many young children WANT to wear shoes?  Of course, most of us don’t listen to what they are trying to tell us: shoes don’t feel right, they aren’t natural and kids are more comfortable barefoot.  By the time we’re old enough to be in school, we understand that it is our responsibility to sit down in chairs, so rarely do any children put up a fight.  But fundamentally, and I have explained it in prior articles and blogs and will continue to do so in future articles and blogs,  we changed the way we learned to walk into a type of walk that adapted to poor posture (from sitting) and shoes (allowing heel striking).  It’s why most of us remember being able to run effortlessly as kids for hours on end, yet now struggle to make it up the stairs or out to the mailbox.  It's the same reason I've never had a 4 year old present to the office with Shin Splints!  For those who struggle to run and/or get hurt doing it, it is important to recognize where your body is at now, and try and get yourself back on the path you started on when learning to walk the first time around.  It will take the help of a skilled practitioner to identify where exactly the body has adapted to and what it will take specifically to get you back on track.  It will take even more effort to find the motivation (a.k.a. focus, discipline, will power, mental strength) to try and correct or undo the many years of those adaptive habits.  For those who feel they love it though, it will be worthwhile.  Just start out slow (remember, we learned to crawl before we learned to walk, and learned to walk before we learned to run), run relaxed and smile...For the Love of Running.

Friday, May 6, 2011

For the Love of Running - Part 1

Some people HATE to run.  Some people LOVE to run.  Some run to get in shape, stay in shape or to achieve a goal they think may be rewarding.  Because I am writing this, and because I LOVE to run, I will explain why it is that I love to run. 

For those who have read my experience of running a 100 mile trail race last July, you should have a pretty good idea of why it is I love to run.  It connects me to my youth; the happy times.  I can feel myself as a 10 year old running through the woods of Sharon, Massachusetts or around the lake or through the golf course near my childhood home.  Though my body and experience have changed over the years, it’s the same eyes, the same mind, the same lungs and the same feeling of becoming one with the world.  It was then, and continues today, an escape from the daily rigors that life brings; it’s my “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” 

It begs the question; why is running so fulfilling for some, and such utter drudgery for others?  The answer is complicated, yet compelling.  Those who love running almost universally find that it helps them clear their minds.  It’s an escape from the stress of life and a way to help keep a healthy frame of mind, or mind state.  It’s why there have been amazing success stories of people who have been able to go from inner or external turmoil (cancer survivor, overcame obesity, drugs or crime) to marathoner.  It all begins with the mind state.  To love running, you have to WANT to run.  It’s not enough to want to run to lose weight or get in some exercise.  You can choose any activity to accomplish that.  Think about the things in life that are truly important to you, and to what means you would go to get whatever it is that’s important.  If it’s something you really want, then you will have the right mind state to get it.  If you just want to exercise, then that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to run, so there is no real underlying desire to run. 

If you’ve figured out that you truly want to run, then you have to understand the proper mind state of the runner.  We don’t think of it as boring.  It’s not.  It’s fulfilling in every way imaginable, and that is why we love it.  Is it fulfilling to go to the gym and hop on a treadmill?  I can’t think of any runner I’ve met over the years who loves running and loves running on a treadmill.  We are not hamsters and we are not programmed to run in place.  Running is supposed to connect us with our childhoods, our past experiences, even our ancestry.  We are a hunter gatherer species, and, if you’ve read Born to Run, persistence hunters in particular.  We evolved in large part, due to our ability to run long distances!  We all have the same ancestry, and therefore, we all have that cultural legacy inside of us.  I scoff when people say that we weren’t meant to be upright or run.  We wouldn’t BE if it weren’t for our ability to run.  It’s in our nature, and it’s what those that truly love to run are tapping into.  So why fight it?  It is obvious to all that treadmills are not the natural place where running was meant to be.  Treadmills, typically in basements and gyms, are a way to exercise at a time and place of your choosing that occurs in a very controlled environment.  That last phrase is key: controlled environment.  That is NOT nature and that is not natural to humans.  The Earth has texture and the air has a spirit that you should feel.  The Earth provides natural challenges and obstacles that need to be felt, experienced, and overcome if necessary.  The treadmill is like a prison.  The roads are an improvement over the treadmill, but asphalt and concrete aren’t embedded into our past.  You can love running and never set foot on dirt, but I would find it hard to imagine that those who are honest with themselves would opt for Main Street over a nice open space in the hills somewhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to love it!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sometimes, I just think I'm Crazy...

Though, of course, it's running that probably keeps me sane. I snapped this photo towards the end of the run.  Good thing too, I may have had to cut it short!  Pineland Farms 50 miler is on the radar in just under 4 weeks.

Rebuilding the Distance - Leominster State Forest by thefeldys at Garmin Connect - Details