Monday, July 6, 2015
Run-On Thoughts on Running On
Around 58 years ago, I learned how to walk. Now, some 58 years later, I am learning how to run. I have a mixed history with running. In high school, I was one of four girls to go out for cross country when the high school athletic league ruled that if there was not girls team then girls could run with the boys. I did pretty awfully, but I did it. For the most part, though, I have thought about running without really doing it. There have been significant periods in my life when I did not run simply because I did not want people to see me run. I was embarrassed to be seen running, because I felt so gawky doing it.
When I started working out with SEAL Team Physical Training, people there started to offer me advice about running, "Did you know that your shoulders hunch over when you run?" "You need to straighten your back." "Don't look down. That decreases the amount of air you can take in." "Don't swing your shoulders from side to side and cross your hands in front of you." I tried to do the things others told me I should, but there were just so many of them that I wasn't sure where to start. Almost a year ago, the gym to which I belong for martial arts, had a special with a trainer whose specialty was running. I did about half a dozen sessions with him before a shoulder surgeon told me I should not be doing any activity in which I could fall. People at SEAL Team were starting to tell me that my running looked better. It very occasionally actually felt better to me, but I still most of the time felt very clumsy if that's an appropriate way to describe one's running.
I was unable to run while recovering from shoulder surgery; there were people who told me I should not even be walking given the effect of the impact on the shoulder. The sources with whom I checked informed me that walking was quite okay and asked why was I emailing them instead of taking a walk on a perfectly good afternoon. During those walks, as well as the ones with the family dog, I tried to do all the running things I'd been told or instructed to do. I figured getting used to doing them walking would make them easier to do when I got back to running. Toes up to help land mid-foot rather than on the heel. Feet picked up as I walked, and no scuffling my feet. Back straight to help my airway stay as open as possible.
I tried to continue to keep those things in mind when I was finally able to start jogging and, even more so, when I went back to doing SEAL Team run options in which we run for an hour, non-stop. I also signed up for a running clinic sort of thing (the gym calls in "Running Club") led in part by the trainer I worked with last fall. I've done eleven one-hour sessions and have five more to go. The warm-up exercises really focus me on getting my feel up, keeping my back straight, and keeping my shoulders back and square on to the front.
The epiphany, though, is that I am learning to run with my arms. I would have thought that the legs control how one runs. They are, after all, connected to the hips which constitute pretty major joints. The arms connect to the shoulders, which are not quite as major size-wise. There are various ways to think about moving one's arms back and forth while running. "Hips to lips" is the one that works for me. And it does work, in quite amazing ways. When I remember to start moving my arms hips-to-lips, my feet get lighter and no longer scuff the ground. I have played with this, and it is truly amazing. Move my arms faster, and my pace picks up. I can make myself run faster without thinking about it just by pumping my arms more. Who would have thought it?
I still enviously watch those people with long legs who make running look beautiful. I don't know that I will ever get to the point of thinking my running looks that way, but I at least no longer feel uncomfortable running with people watching. I still get advice at SEAL Team PT, but I also get comments on how much my running has improved. The moments in which I realize that I am getting it all done--feet, legs, hips, arms--are getting more frequent. I may never make my running look beautiful, but "pretty" isn't all that bad a way for it to look.