Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Shoes! A (sort of) Book Review

Last week I decided it was time for a new pair of kicks. My GelExcel33's were well past their prime with 550+ miles on them - I was through the soles and actually wearing into that white stuff in areas - yeah, not so great to run in when you're in the throws of marathon training. I'd been tossing around the idea of going minimal.  If you're not familiar with the term, minimalist running is supposed to mimic running barefoot; minimalist shoes contain no arch support, no cushioning, and no large chunk of material under the heel. This, supposedly, promotes a good mid-foot strike instead of a heel-to-toe rolling landing/push-off; also, apparently all of the muscles in your feet and calves will become balanced as they will now all need to work in synch to keep you moving. So it sounds pretty good, right? Run better, stronger, and with less injury.

I walked into a new local running store excited to try out some minimalist shoes.  The gentleman working that afternoon, who turned out to be the owner, asked me what I was looking for, and when I said I wanted to try something more minimal that what I was currently wearing, he asked me why. Having not expected this question (and therefore not prepared a carefully crafted response) and feeling a bit defensive, I offered, "Well, I just read Born to Run." This was apparently not the answer he was hoping for, a look of complete annoyance crossed his face. Great...this shopping experience was off to a fantastic start.

I was surprised, really, at this comment from the owner. My impression of Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall, was that it was incredibly interesting and inspiring; a very well written account of the author's personal experiences with tons of factual information blended in.

The book describes a tribe living in the canyons of Mexico, separately almost completely from modern civilization. This tribe, the Tarahumara Indians, run.  All the time. At all ages. For crazy long distances. Without shoes. This last bit is the key to their beautiful, injury-free running form - no shoes.There are accounts of the Tarahumara coming to the US to compete in famous ultra-marathons, sponsored by shoe companies. They would start the race in their flashy new shoes, and after several miles, remove them and finish barefoot! 

While McDougall describes his experience traveling to Mexico with several US elite runners for a race with the Tarahumara, he also looks into the history of the running shoe, how and why it evolved as it did, and goes further, into the history of human beings, and how we may have evolved the way we did just so that we could be distance running machines.

Born to Run is fascinating. It's a must-read for every runner, offering a prospective on the sport that will get you thinking about your running style and keep you motivated for a long time.

So back to my shoe-buying...

Willing to oblige me, the owner brought out several pairs of shoes, each with a varying degree of minimalism, and our discussion started as he helped me into the first pair:

Point: "There are more running-related injuries today than 30 years ago."
Counter-point: "There are more runners today, the percentage of injuries is the same." I had to concede here because I couldn't remember the actual statistics - darn, I'm usually really good with numbers.

Point: "Wearing a shoe with tons of support stunts the development of muscles in your feet and legs and causes imbalance."
Counter-point: "People cannot move from a highly stabilized shoe to one without any stabilization - this will lead to injury."

And so it went on for a while and, I have to admit, I was completely impressed with the owner's knowledge, not only on subject of minimalism, but also on each shoe that he had in his shop. In the end, we agreed that minimalist running is all about progression. Moving from a highly stabilized shoe to a minimalist shoe may take years, with many intermediate steps down in stabilization. Minimalist running is about understanding your body, knowing when you are strong enough to make the next step without risk of injury. For me, I started with a pretty chunky shoe in August 2010. By Spring 2011 I wanted something lighter, and then I got rid of my arch suppport in Winter 2011.

In talking with the owner, I hadn't realized that I was running in basically the lightest version of Asics out there. I tried a very minimal Inov-8 shoe, but decided instead on the adidas Boston 3's. Making a drastic change to complete minimalism in the middle of marathon training, maybe not such a good idea; changing from cushiony Asics to the adidas with more feel is good enough for now!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running, an Individual Sport

While there are ways to make running a team sport, such as relays, track meets, and cross-country teams, it is still by its very nature an individual sport.

To me that means that I am responsible for what goes into my running, and I get all the benefits of what comes out.  I can't go out and run awesome and feel great if I don't put in the time to train and practice.

Another similar individual sport is golf.  The thing I like about golf is that if you put in hard work, you will see results.  While you may have good days and bad days, if you are a beginning golfer you aren't going to go out and shoot under par on 18 holes, because there is not that much luck involved.  You need to be a skilled golfer to do that.  This is the same for a beginning runner, you will not go out run 6 minute pace in your first 5k.  You have to train and improve your skill to reach that level, you don't just get there from being lucky.

The one thing luck can give you is people that positively influence you, or train with you as a partner or team.  Even then, it is ultimately up to you to put in the practice and training necessary for you to improve.  And when you do improve or achieve your goal, it is OK to feel good about it.  It isn't selfish to feel good about your accomplishments. That good feeling is the motivation to put in the effort to get there in the first place.

So go out there, put in the work, get the results, and feel good about it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You'll feel better when you're done!

I hate running! A common thought among beginners and even those that have been running for years. It's hard. Some days a mile feels impossible.

But you don't quit. You keep pushing, find the energy to take the next step, and finish your run. And it's an amazing feeling that is all your own.

Growing up, I was always around fitness.  If I got up early, I would find my mom in our basement, working out to recorded episodes of classic 80's workout TV. I watched my mom teach aerobics while I ate my Happy Meal and played in the kids' room at our local fitness center.  I even sometimes joined in her summer afternoon water aerobics class, splashing around to Calloway's "I Wanna Be Rich" ( you know you love it).

But growing up, my family wasn't runners.  We played tennis, and instead of running cross country or track, I played on the high school tennis team.

I didn't start routinely running until after college, after gaining the "first year of real work, along with a commute" 15 pounds, and finding that I needed an efficient way to get in, and stay in shape. I had run a few 5k's, and maybe a mile or so on the treadmill once a week, but I didn't consider myself a runner, and definitely didn't think I had the physical makeup of a distance runner.  I'm shorter, with an stockier athletic build, not long, lean muscles that seem so perfect for running miles and miles. But I started slowly, walking a mile to warm up, and then running a mile or two, and walking again as a cool down.  I found a 6 mile running trail nearby, 3 out, 3 in, and fell in love with it.  Most days I would walk at least half of the 6 miles, but when I was feeling really great I would run 4 or 5.  The first day that I ran all 6 miles I remember feeling invincible. I think this is when my addiction began.

But I'm not saying I'm always jumping out of my pants, barely able to contain my enthusiasm to run. You've heard of Catholic guilt? Well, I've got it, but in a slightly different form.  On days that I'm exhausted and would rather pour myself a delicious beverage and sip it slowly, my mom's voice is inside my head: "Get out there. You'll feel better when you're done!" Surprisingly, 9 times out of 10, I do. And to that 10th time, I say, " Pour me another glass, I've earned it!"