I love running. There have been times in my life that I didn’t, but I always come back to it. Running is a sport that’s accessible to everyone. All you need are shoes – or not. No special equipment is needed and truly, less is better in this case.
We can get all fancy with our running gear. An Ipod for music, a heart rate monitor, a gps, fancy shoes or shorts etc, but less is more. Running can be a meditation for our busy lives. The silence gives us time to process all our thoughts as well as become aware of our mental programs that limit us in life. The mental game in running, if you listen well, will reflect the mental game you struggle with in the rest of your life.
Once you combat your mental game, get your shoes on (or not) and get our there and start running, here are a few things you can do to help improve your running, and create a running style that you can continue for the rest of your life, reducing injury and stress on your body.
First things I like to look at when I’m running is my heart rate. Using the 180 method, by Phil Maffetone, in running, I keep my heart rate at a level of 180 – my age. Why? When someone’s heart rate is elevated, it causes a stress response in the body, and a stress hormone called cortisol is released. Once a body is flooding with cortisol, the risk of injury and damage is higher and cortisol will age a person faster overtime. As we keep our heart rate at a lower level, we allow our bodies to adapt with us and continue feeling great. This range also keeps our body in the fat-burning zone, which many of us are looking to do, along with the fact that it’s more sustainable as fat burns slower and give us energy for a longer period of time.
No heart rate monitor? No problem, focus on your breath. Focus on breathing through your nose at a rate of approximately 15-18 breathes per minute. By doing so, this will assure you are keeping your heart rate low and aren’t stressing the body.
Warning – if you’ve never used this method before you may notice your pace slow quite a bit, but if you stick with it, you will soon find that you are able to increase your speed, be back as fast, or faster than you were before and feel great doing it.
Another thing that keeps people from running, are their running shoes. No problem. Go Barefoot! What!!! Have I gone crazy? No. Many believe, due to great marketing, that we must have the most cushioned, comfortable shoes around. Let’s look at this. When we walk barefoot, we can feel the ground, feel the contact, feel the rocks, grass and other elements on the ground. As soon as we place shoes on our feet, they desensitize us from the ground. We no longer have the same awareness with the ground. This leads to us also not knowing how we are landing on our feet and we become disconnected with our gait and stance. The incline of the sole also alters our stance, by forcing a heel strike making us more prone to shin splints, knee issues, and back pain.
If we watch a child or animal run (or an adult without shoes), they naturally run on the balls of their feet and have a lighter stride overall. Check out the book Born to Run or the Pose Method for more information on this. It’s very fascinating. And over the years for some odd reason, we’ve been trained to heel strike and change our natural stride. This is what is hurting us and if we go back to the basics, we are always much better off.
When I run, I pay close attention to my heart rate and wear my five finger shoes or lems. Running is pleasurable, enjoyable, relaxing and I feel like I could go on for as long as I wish. With this technique, everyone is capable of running and enjoying staying fit and living a healthy lifestyle because in the end; health IS a choice.