Running. It is feared, dreaded, and even hated by some. It is the necessary suffering that takes top athletes and soldiers to peak form, at least that is what the cinemas would have us all believe. But beyond all that - running is a life skill, a hobby, a form of meditation and relaxation to some. And as much as some of us despise it, the fact is that we, as humans, were born to run. At the core of our primal selves, we are hard-wired to run in order to escape from danger and to hunt for food. So why is it that many of us find it so miserable, stressful and/or painful?
Most of us in the modern world will never have to run to hunt for our food in our entire lives, and few of us will ever have to run from serious danger. This lack of necessity has put most of us out of practice with the art of running. And if it isn’t necessary, than why do it all? The answer is simple: it is what we were born to do. It is still very much an important life skill, albeit one that you will only require in very rare but serious circumstances (think of an emergency situation like a first aid emergency or burning home, or of a child in danger). Beyond those circumstances, running is great for both your mental and physical health when done properly.
Drop the watch, get rid of the heart rate monitor, and throw away your Fitbit. Running is for you, and only you in that moment. If you get a sinking feeling in your stomach every time you think about running, it is most likely because you put too much mental pressure on yourself in terms of running. Pressure in the sense of constantly measuring distances, keeping pace with some pre-determined goal, or trying to maintain a set heart rate. All these tools have a place in the world of running, but first, you must remember to love running (this is important even for the most experienced of runners). I would argue that we all loved to run as children, we would run up the stairs, run circles in the back garden, and run loops around the block and into the woods. You weren’t measuring every step back then, so why do it now? Go out and run just to run. Run to explore a new area in your neighborhood, or run to catch a scenic sunset on the beach. Don’t look at your watch, but listen to your body. If you get tired or something starts to ache, stop and turnaround and enjoy the fact that you just went for a relaxing run outside.
Start easy. Most of us are so out of touch with the art of running that jumping back in with a full head of steam will lead to quick and debilitating injuries. Begin with simple stretches of jogging mixed in with your daily walks. Don’t overdo it, just listen to your body. Slowly over time, spend more and more of your daily walk on the run, when you get tired, transition back in to a walk.
Understand how your feet work. The foot is one of the most amazing parts of the human body. Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles. Both feet combined account for 25% of all the bones in your body. The shoes we wear today largely constrict the full function of the foot and eventually lead to gravely weakened feet. To rectify this issue, spend as much time as possible in your bare feet to strengthen those arches. Rolling out those feet will also help loosen the muscles that are locked in place every day from your shoes. Don’t jump on the trend to buy minimalist shoes, odds are that your feet aren’t ready for that yet. Transition to that style of footwear by strengthening your arches over the course of several months by training and walking barefoot, and slowly buying new shoes with less and less arch support.
Get off the treadmill. Running is a great opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air and vitamin D from the sun. Don’t waste that opportunity by staring at a wall or flat screen TV while you jog on a giant hamster wheel. The beauty of running is that you can go anywhere your legs can take you, you get to relax and explore the world around you. None of that can happen on a treadmill, not to mention that treadmill running can introduce and support bad habits in your running form.
Lastly, have a coach video record you running the next time you are at Tribal. Running form plays a significant role not only in making running easier and more efficient, but also in reducing the chance for injury. Sure, we were all born to run, and at one point in our lives we all knew naturally how to run with great form, but for most of us those days are gone and we have forgotten what great running form feels like. That is what the coaches at Tribal are here for, let us check out your technique and we’ll have you jogging through your neighborhood with a smile (and no watch, Fitbit or heart rate monitor) in no time.