Friday, June 27, 2008


The objective of this article is for the runner to download and listen to it on an MP3 player while exercising. This "running commentary" will assist especially those runners who need motivation and inspiration to get their legs and bodies moving in the first place.
Download podcast here.
Listen to podcast here, now.

Warm Up: Start your watch. Now stretch. Stretching is an important way to prevent unnecessary soreness after exercise. Think also what stretching implies: our reaching towards something previously unreachable. So it's with this mindset that we prepare for the run. We're going to improve not just our bodies and minds, but our selves. The whole person improves when you're propelling yourself through your neighborhood.

Start Running: Now as you start running, you'll feel your body feels awkward and stiff. That's one of the reasons why you're here in the first place; to flush out the stiffness, to push out the poisons that have accumulated in our bodies, even our thoughts, and to breathe the air. Exercise is how you feed your tissues with healthy amounts of bright red blood and oxygen. As you run, as you breathe, your body responds -- almost like flowers in rain. The color in your face, in your flesh, deepens. You begin to shine.

Don't resist the stiffness, or feel frustrated by it. Relax. Breathe. Now concentrate on each step you take. You shouldn't be running on the back of the foot, or the heel, or even the middle of the foot. Your foot should make contact with the ground somewhere between the midsole and front part of the foot. Landing on the heel leads to a heavy, energy inefficient style. Using the toes will soon hurt your calves and knees. And the middle of the foot is no better, because it just absorbs the momentum of each strike. Now, as your foot touches the ground, make sure it lands just past the middle of the foot. Do you notice the difference? Good.

Now your breathing needs to be smooth and calm. Don't gasp, or take shallow breaths or you'll get a stitch. By the way, if you do get a stitch, here's how to get rid of it. You'll need to inhale deeply and then, very important, exhale as completely as you can. When you do this, two things happen. Firstly, your breathing slows down, and second, if you exhale sufficiently, you'll interfere with the spasm in your diaphragm. It's a painful thing, a stitch, and exhaling as fully as possible won't be easy, but with some effort that knife-in-your-stomach-pain will ease. Of course it's better to not get a stitch at all, and to do that you need to breathe in relaxed, even breaths. Good. You're starting to move into your world once more.

It's these small controls we take over our bodies that are very significant. The more we run the more we're able to extend our control over more of ourselves. That means not only a physical command over ourselves but eventually deeper controls over the psyche and spirit, and this is how we first begin to reconnect to our sense of being. This is how we regain our power in the world. And as we begin to do that, we also connect to our very own personal power. And the feeling that accompanies our plugging ourselves back into present world awareness is simply this: good. It feels good. We feel alive. And each step seems to be a further celebration of this discovery.

One of the reasons running is such an essential activity is because it is reclaiming the power to move our bodies with our minds. You're probably finding that isn't easy to start off with. The mind is also a muscle, and with practice, the mind learns to endure, even enjoys the challenge of pushing the body. Moving the body over a road is also symbolic for the greater purpose that is our lives, and you'll soon learn, the further you run, the harder you're able to run, the better you'll run, and the better you'll organize and run your life.

An interesting premise for runners is this one, coined by Tony Robbins. He calls it the principle of "canI." C.A.N.I.. CanI. It stands for Constant And Neverending Improvement. While this can seem a daunting goal in especially your working environment, it's altogether achievable in terms of exercise. Start off by keeping your pace and exertion easy and manageable. Now have a look at your watch. Make a point of noting your time and position at five minute intervals. Your goal each week will be to improve either your distance (for the same period of time), or to run the same route at a better pace, not merely over the last or first section, but at each check point. This allows for a consistent effort. If you've just started running, improving distance should be a priority. Distance is also a good way to build up fitness, and lose weight. It's easier to be consistent running further at a manageable pace than to run hard one day, and be too sore or afraid to repeat the performance. By distance we're not really suggesting a certain number of kilometers (although obviously that's relevant), we're interested in how long we can be out there running. Thirty minutes should be a minimum, at any pace. You can always run 15 minutes away from your front door, and then turn around. You should then build towards 45 minutes, then one hour, and ultimately around two hours. The benefits of an hour run are not double a half hour run, they're probably triple. So, when you're able to be out there for two hours, you'll really feel light, like you're flying. That's where you want to be.

When you're able to run for two hours comfortably, it's time to add shorter, faster runs to your program, and other strengthening activities, like hiking or hill running. You'll probably also have noticed other runners on your route and tested your speed against theirs (and they've probably done the same with you). It's at this stage that you'll benefit from a race. A 10 kilometer race is a great way to start, but there is nothing wrong with being ambitious and trying, say, a half marathon (21.1km). A marathon though (at 42.2km) is a race of another order altogether, so let's leave that for the moment.

For a 10 kilometer run you should aim for a time of just less than an hour (if it's your first one), and then work your way towards 40 minutes. This implies a pace of 6 minutes per kilometer that you'll need to bring down to 4 minutes per kilometer. This is where running becomes such an interesting and wonderful experience. Initially even the 6min/km pace may seem a stretch. You'll feel out of breath and struggling. But as you implement canI, slowly and consistently, you'll notice an almost magical improvement. The body adapts, it strengthens. The pain you endure during each run is really your body saying: "I'm struggling, let's set up more systems so the blood can get around more quickly and efficiently in here."

Soon you'll be running at 5min/km and smiling inwardly to yourself, with thoughts perhaps along these lines: I can't believe I ran so slowly a few weeks ago. Now the 4min/km goal seems quite possible.

So you've just begun to explore your personal power, and as you get stronger, and move further, and faster, you'll be your own inspiration. Inspire yourself with interesting workouts. Try speedplay, what the Swedes call fartlek. Run one minute hard, then one minute easy. Try a different route. Race. Run cross country, or through a forest, or a along a beach. Visit a park early on a Saturday morning, get your run done, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. On a hot day, wait for the rain, then go running in it. On a cold day, run in the snow, blow plumes of hot air and listen to your footfalls crunching with each step. Running is about exploring the inner world as much as it's about moving through the outdoors. Running should sometimes feel like playing.

In this game, you make the rules, add dimensions to it. You decide how far, how fast, when and where and how. It's there for you to grow, and to move, and to flourish. You determine, every time you go out there, which level you'll ultimately get to. When you're done, stretch. The stretch after the run is more important than the stretch before the run. Stretch gently. Now stop your watch. Breathe. Look around you. This is your world.

More: Running for Your Life

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