Monday, 22 April 2013

Running - You're Doing It Wrong!

You guys!  The weirdest thing happened to me today.  Like, this evening today.  That recently.  It shocked me to my very core.  I'm not even sure if I'm ready to share it with you because it's just so monumental in its...massiveness.

Okay, I am.  But that's only because I'm a pathalogical blogger who needs to share every waking thought with the Hive Mind....The media use that term to scare us internet dwellers, but I quite like it.  Makes me feel like a bee.  Bzzz.  Anyway, bees aside, here it is.  Deep breaths.

I did a run, and I liked it.

I know!  I know!  And if you didn't read that to the tune of a popular Katy Perry ditty, then you are either older than me, cooler than me or both.  Congratulations, you.  For three years or so, I've been doing this love/hate (translate: obsess about/weep about/binge eat and start the whole sorry process again) thing with running.  I have more or less "run" at least a couple of days a week since I started, but bar from the occasional inexplicably enjoyable jog, I have HATED every single teeny tiny second of the actual exercise.  It's a hot, boring, sweaty and stressful thing to do.  Especially when you know you could be at home stuffing cake into your fat face. 

Don't get me wrong.  The things that kept me going out on my little (for distance aint my thang, and neither is speed) jaunts all these years were:

- Guilt.  After building up enough "runs" to be able to tell people I'm not a couch potato all of the time, I felt as though it's not something I could ever ever give up now because I wouldn't even have that miniscule bragging right any more.

- The runners' high.  It's real.  And it's gooooood. 

- Being able to totally justify smothering everything that goes into my mouth with cheese and/or icing.  Because a two mile stop-start thing makes it okay, right?  ....Right?

So you see, the main reasons that I begrudgingly slap on my trainers on occasion are a combination of bitter guilt and wanting what comes after said trainer slappage.  Nothing to do with the run itself, which could only ever be horrible, horrible, horrible.

Until yesterday.  When I learned to my... I don't think my to my slight pause in between battenburg bites, that for three years, I've been running all wrong. 

I bought a book - Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (so good!!!) to devour on my Kindle app on my post-accidental-night-out kind of a Sunday.  I read it in a few short hours.  It was ruddy marvellous.  A lady writer's true recollections of learning to run and eventually developing quite a knack for completing marathons.  Right up my street.  It wasn't until the end of the book - in the bit that gives rather bloody good tips for both beginners and experienced runners - that I had it pointed out to me in black and white where I'd gone a bit boobs-up on the running front:

1. I was tiptoeing my routes - sounds weird, but it just means that instead of hitting the road with the middle-ish bit of my foot so I'm getting the most out of a simple stride, I've been alternating between doing these overstretched tinkerbell-types steps (Tink toes!!) and doing these big, clumpy, clumsy heel-to-the floor things, where I overcompensated and ultimately ended up hurting my muscles more than necessary (especially that weird one that keeps bothering my between my leg and my bum).

2. I was running towards something - Heminsley's best bit of visualization advice was to imagine a kindly person gently guiding you forward, pushing you along the route and holding you up, instead of imagining yourself running towards or after something.  This made the world of difference to me today.  It banished the "awh, fuck, am I still that far away?!!" feeling I often get.  Magic trick! I imagined that the kindly person was my grandad, who took me out on my first runs while I was still living at my mum's.... He's the ex military, no-bullshit, work hard and eat even harder kind of grandad.  So my imagination gave me a figure that was sort-of kindly but mostly just wouldn't take any of my lazy-ass crap any more.

3.  I was too bouncy - I thought that good running = enthusiasm, and so I tried to gee myself up by taking bouncy, bouncy tigger-steps wherever I went.  Small wonder I had to stop so often - I was using twice as much energy in pogoing up and down at the same time as running, instead of skimming the floor and landing comfortably on the middle of my foot.  It made every few feet feel like a mile.

Result?  I ran my usual 2.5 miles, which isn't far.  But I did it without stopping even once to "check my phone" or "do my shoelaces" or "look at the interesting thing that no one else can see but is suddenly very important and mystifying to me", which is a massive achievement for me.  I always, always have to walk a little while to find my breath again.  The whole thing felt like less effort, and I was faster! Faster with less effort! Considerably too!  Just... My mind is blown! So pleased.

I hope these tips get read by some other people who also think/thought they would be crap for ever and ever at running.  Three stupidly simple things I had no idea I was doing, and now I realise I'm better at something than I thought I was.  I'm hardly a hardcore athlete, but I'm far from terrible.  Now that I'm doing it properly, I can just concentrate on enjoying myself after and during.  Happy bloody days!  Thanks, Alexandra.  You are my new mentor-who's-never-met-me!

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