Slow Down to Listen to Your Running Form
Running today made me think about a talk I attended last week, about a friend’s 70 mile kayak trip in the Florida Everglades. Someone asked him if he got bored paddling for that long, and a Florida native spoke up, saying if you learned to slow down and listen, the place comes alive; it is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. You might be wondering what this has to do with running. Well, today I went running with a group of friends I used to train with when I did more road running. They get together every Thanksgiving to go running at a local park, and end up at someone’s home for smoothies – it’s a great way to start off the holiday!
The day before, I had gone running in the mountains, so today I wanted a recovery run. I had a twinge of an old injury in my right medial tibia, and did not want to push it. So instead of trying to stay with most of the gang, I hung at the back of the pack with one of the slower runners, and ended up enjoying my run immensely. The slower pace allowed me to focus better on keeping a solid center and relaxed arms and lower legs. I noticed so much more at this slower running pace, as if my body was coming alive, like the Everglades! I could keep my posture and form in check much easier, and my leg actually felt better, which was amazing in itself, considering the wet and muddy conditions. With each hill, I got a chance to practice the new uphill technique, and really feel it in my body. It was all so effortless, I felt like I never got beyond the easy relaxed feeling of first gear, even on the steepest hills. My perceived rate of exertion remained low throughout the run.
In his blog, Danny spoke about the process of learning the ChiRunning technique requiring effort, and that the effortless feeling might not happen immediately. Many people (especially in our instant gratification-based society) don’t take the time to slow down and really feel it in their body. In the end, they get frustrated, possibly injured, and give up trying to get to that point where running can feel so effortless. One of my favorite phrases is “our bodies learn best by repetition.” This can be a double edged sword – if your running pace is too fast for where you are, form falls apart, you start repeating destructive habits, and the pain or injury that led you to seek out a better way, may return.
In some ways, for some of us, it takes effort to slow down and listen. When you do, as you practice your running focuses, you can feel your body come alive, and reap the benefits of good running form – less effort and increased relaxation. In addition, when the old habits do arise (and they may), they can be heard much easier, and you can make adjustments that are constructive, rather than destructive. As you become more adept in practicing the focuses and adjusting your form, your effort decreases even more, and speed becomes a natural by-product. In the end, running is no longer boring or something you have to slog through, because slowing down and learning to listen makes your body sensing come alive!