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Friday, January 21, 2011

Beats That Keep My Feet Beating The Ground (Or Treadmill)

So it has been over a week since I last updated this, but not to fear I have definitely gotten my running in!  Have you?  If not, get to it!

Now that I finally feel like I am in decent running shape, I have been seeing the goal of running a half marathon in 2011 seem closer than ever before.  I ran 4 miles yesterday and I must admit I kind of copped out (granted I had 2 new and absolutely adorable puppies to take care of, so that was part of the reason), but I stopped running at mile 4 when I felt completely fine and not tired at all (where as a month ago, 4 miles and I felt about done.  That 10K on Thanksgiving was rough, I won't lie).  But even though I felt guilty for a second because I cut my run so short, it also made me realize hey, at mile 4 I felt awesome, I could probably at least crank out 6 miles maybe even 7 if I feel super motivated and in the groove!  But what keeps us in the groove while running?  Is it listening to the pounding of our feet on the pavement/treadmill/track/some tangible surface?  Is it that feeling of sweat coming over your face and dripping on the back of your neck and realizing hey, I am totally burning off that cookie from last night?  Is it the rhythm of your heart beat in sync with your breathing patterns?  Or is it just a really awesome song/inspirational and up beat mix of music that somehow causes you to run 5 times better than if you were just running in silence?  For me, it is definitely all of the above; however, I must admit that if I am listening to an amazingly up beat and fast paced song, it keeps me going every time.  The pounding of my feet in tune with the beat of the song while simultaneously in sync with my breathing pattern and knowing that hey, I AM burning off that chocolate I ate yesterday, or today (or both), it is an incredible feeling.  When you get all of those elements just right, its as if nothing can stop you.  You are so relaxed and in the moment, it is almost as if you are meditating (which I swear I am sometimes).

But alas, concentration like this does take some time and focus.  It rarely comes right at the start of your run, or even when you first start out running.  Getting there takes some work but when you find that moment of Zen (does that mean being at peace with your mind and body?  Thats what I am trying to convey) while running, it is beautiful.  So I am going to attempt to help you reach that goal with a few tutorials on Stride, Breathing, and then a list of some of my favorite tracks to listen to while running (which for those of you who know me, will be surprised by my music choices!)

1.  Stride:  Ahh yes, its all in the stride (or all in the hips as they say in Happy Gilmore).  It seems like something pretty basic and easy, everyone knows how to run, right?  Just go for it!  It's not that simple if you are trying to put the least amount of stress on your body as possible.  Posture, foot position, leg extension, arm placement, hand placement, it all plays a role in the stride!
     First Posture: You should definitely NOT be slouched while running, this will cause your run to be so much harder than it needs to be.  And you may not even realize you are a sloucher (the first 2 or 3 years I ran, I didn't know I was a sloucher until my mom-who isn't a runner-had to tell me how silly I looked while running).  Keep your back and torso as straightly aligned as you can, try to keep your shoulders back as far as you can while still being relaxed; this will automatically help you stand up straighter.  Get lazy with your shoulders and you will soon start to slouch which can not only make you look silly, but can hurt your back, and not give you the same lung capacity while breathing or the same abdominal workout while running!  So stand tall and straight people!
    Second, Foot Position:  I know you think you are supposed to hit heel than toe, just like when you walk, right?  Wrong my friend.  I used to do this but turns out, this can put much stress on your Achilles Tendon (that realllllly long Tendon that runs straight up the back of your calf).  Injure this, and you will be a hurting (this is one of my greatest fears, I feel it would be so incredibly painful...)  Run just on your toes though, and you are now a sprinter!  Sprinters run on their toes mostly, but they also run short fast distances.  You, are not a sprinter you are a long distance or medium distance runner, we do not rely on our toes alone!  Instead, try to land on the middle of your foot.  Almost around the balls of your feet, and spring forward.  This will definitely be more comfortable and reduce injury.
    Third, Leg Extension: I always see pictures of runners on so many websites and their legs seem to be so far outstretched it is ridiculous!  I have extremely long legs but surprisingly I don't feel I have an extremely long extension.  I extend my foot in front of me almost to where it is close to straightening out, but I do not kick it high and back behind me, it usually kicks more up than out.  Really wide strides like this, where you kick back really high behind you (almost like you are doing a back kick) is more for sprinting as well but not for a long distance, this will tire you fairly quickly.  So keep those extensions as relaxed as possible, it's going to be a long ride.  Usually I base my stride on my breathing, 1-2 1-2 (I sometimes count them in my head to make sure I am consistent in my timing of hits on the ground).  I don't count as much any more but I used to before, give it a try I bet it will help!
    Fourth, Arm and Hand placement:  This is pretty basic, but if you are running a long distance, and you are pumping your arms like you are Usain Bolt (if you don't know him, pleeeaase google this man he is awesome) you are doing it all wrong.  There is no arm pumping in long distance running, unless you are finishing the last 1/4-1/8 mile of the race!  If you pump your arms, you are wasting precious energy, energy that your legs would be glad to use up.  Trust me, they would be very glad.  Instead, keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle so that your forearms are hanging out around your hips.  Keep your arms as loose as possible, tighten them up and you are wasting energy and stressing yourself out for no reason.  Same goes for your hands, do not ball them into fists, this will put stress on your mind, body, and waste more energy (I tell ya, every ounce of energy counts!)  Keep your hands loose, try to loosely touch your thumb to your middle finger if you need to stop yourself from making fists.  You are not about to go attack anyone, so take a chill pill, don't look so aggressive dude!

2.  Breathing:  This can make or break a run.  I know I say that about so many aspects of running (it is more complicated than people realize) but this is probably #1.  Healthy lungs and good breathing pattern play probably THE MOST important role in your running adventure (followed secondly of course by your legs).  But in turn, other factors affect your breathing such as lung health, endurance, the amount of shape you are in, weight, etc.  But just for the heck of it, lets say you are already a healthy individual who DOES NOT smoke (and hopefully never will, it is a nasty habit) so you have very healthy lungs, you are of a weight that is not considered obese, and you are in decent physical shape.  How should you breathe for your runs?  First trick is, breathe with both your mouth and nose.  What?  Yes, mouth AND nose.  It is weird at first, it took me some time to get used to it, but it not only can reduce the tendency of getting cramps, but also helped you get the most amount of oxygen possible to those wonderful lungs of yours.  So when you breathe in, just try to take in air through the nose and mouth, but when exhaling, just through the mouth is fine (you need to release the air as quick as possible so you can take your next oxygen rich breath ASAP).  Next, try to find a pattern. I have been told it is somewhat similar to how women practice breathing through child birth (I wouldn't know anything about that but I have read this on several blogs and journals).  When you feel your heart rate elevating, take two quick breaths in, and one nice long exhale.  Keep that up, and you will acclimate your body quickly to your elevated heart rate.  And also, every once in awhile (especially on longer runs) take a really nice deep inhale and long exhale.  I wouldn't do this too often (maybe once every 7 to 10 minutes) but my Dad actually taught me to do this and it feels nice and helps relax you a little more.  Before I close this section of the post I would just like to say you cannot be a smoker and a runner.  The two just don't mix.  So if you do not smoke, please stay that way and take care of your wonderful lungs.  And if you do smoke, then try to find support to quit, I know people who have done it (like my Mom!) so it is possible!  And if you have smoked and quit, good for you never go back to those icky things.

Finally (sorry this is a much longer post than I had anticipated!) a sweeet running playlist!  Be prepared people who know me, you won't find any Beatles or Radiohead on my mix (those are my 2 favorite bands!)
You need songs that are upbeat and motivating.  Some people like rap music, I personally do not really enjoy rap music but I do enjoy some good techno-esque sounds while I run, such as Daft Punk!  And yes, I do put some other pop music on there haha.  Here it goes!

My Top Running Songs (I can add more as I think of them in later posts)
Daft Punk - One More Time
Daft Punk - Around The World
Daft Punk - Musique
Daft Punk - Face to Face (Cosmo Vitelli Remix)
Daft Punk - High Life
Kesha - We Are Who We Are
Black Eyed Peas - The Time
Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Fedde Le Grand - Put Your Hands Up For Detroit (and all remixes that go with it)
The Chemical Brothers - The Boxer (this is a pretty awesome motivating one!)
The Knocks - Dancing With The DJ

These are just a few examples, I don't have my iPod on me right now so this is all just from memory!  I can extend this list in my next post when I have my iPod with me!

And Finally, a running food for you to all enjoy!!  This time, I was inspired by one of my best friends, Michelle.  She told me about these awesome Waffles last week and I am totally hooked on them.  So my food for you is, Whole Grain Waffles!  I bought the Kashi kind, but I know Costco has Kirkland ones and I am sure there are several other brands out there!  Full of whole grain, Omega-3s, protein, and healthy carbs, two of these waffles only set you back around 150 calories!  I would personally not put syrup on them, but instead try peanut butter, almond butter, or even some greek yogurt mixed with preserves of your liking (tastes like flavored cream cheese without the fat and the guilt....absolutely delicious!)  On a side note, that last recipe is also courtesy of my friend Michelle, she told me about it, I tried it, I fell in love.  Yum!!!!  These keep you full for hours before your run, or a great after run meal, full of all the goodies your body needs.

So get out there and run people!  It is almost February, get those legs a movin!  Hope all my advice has helped you all so far, let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Peace out!


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