30 May 5 Techniques That Made Me A Better Runner
I grew up being told, “we’re not runners in this family.” I believed it, and was even tested for asthma at a young age concluding the fact that my lungs weren’t equipped to handle the stride. Later in my life, being diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was told the Bleomycin in my chemotherapy drugs would permanently damage my lungs, minimizing the capacity at which I would be able to breathe for the rest of my life. Again, the voices from the outside telling me, “you can’t run.”
The “live free” rebel inside me started to ponder and vividly fight back, “Well, why not?”
I started running for peace of mind and as a way to explore cities when I traveled. It cost me nothing and it was a brilliant way to ground after flying and get lost in varying cities to explore best on foot. I ran for exploration, fitness, getting outside in my favorite pair of running shoes and to avoid being what was then a toxic environment at home and free my mind.
Five or so years later, and in much healthier and fruitful relationship, I married a former professional running athlete who’s run ultra marathons around the world and trained top elite performers and athletes to increase their running capabilities. Some of the basic tips I had implemented from teaching yoga all those years for posture and breathing combined very well with the tips my husband, Chad Weller, and soul “running” mate had shared with me.
Moving forward into the future or leaning back into the past, or somewhere in the middle just right. I do this when seated in meditation, but in running it’s better to have the chin over the knees and toes. I have to quote Chad on this one, as I had no clue and was mainly guessing on the feel.
With the human head weighing 8-10 pounds on average, like proper seating posture on a plane, office chair and even walking, the placement is everything. Especially when compounding the weight from running. Once taking this tip of keeping the chin over my knees in line with my feet, I noticed any pain in the upper back disappeared and I could breathe with greater ease, lasting longer in my mileage. Which brings me to my next tip:
I know how to breathe in yoga, but breathing in running? In and out, right? Well, it helps to use more than one orifice. Using the mouth and the nose at the same time with deep chest and belly breathing increase the lung capacity and overall stamina. Trying to find a rhythm to go with the pacing of the breath also creates an inner “song” and eases anxiety that I can keep my foot beat and motion to.
One morning running on the treadmills at Equinox Chad took a video of me running a 7 mile pace. Being the self improver I am (read: inner critic) I noticed my posture and form and said out loud, “well I know what I can work on here, my upper back posture.” He cordially asked, “can I give you a tip? Hand to hip.”
This made so much sense, as opposed to crossing my body with my hands and arms, the focus on keeping my hands and elbows going towards the hips kept them at a 90-degree angle just under my sports bra and allowed my chest to stay open for a clear breath way. I started having more rhythmic breaths, increased energy and overall better form with less upper back pain. Hand to hip, hand to hip.
CADENCE AND STRIDE
I lived ten years in Boston, and most years I’d watch the Boston Marathon online streaming or live in person. The best year, when I worked in the Hancock Tower overlooking the finish line in Copley Square from the ad agency I was working at at the time. When I watched the runners, seeing their strides, I thought I had it down to use my long legs for a cause and run big.
Later come to find out, the small the better, landing on your mid foot, and exerting mini steps helps to preserve energy, improves your posture and helps to maintain stamina for a longer period of time. The phrase “Baby steps” was born, keeping in mind the smaller steps in my run shorts to box in when running making mini steps for larger mile leaps.
This was probably the most powerful upgrade in my running skillset that I have taken on over the past few years. Being told I wasn’t a runner and that my lung capacity would be limited was my story I had told myself in my head (and others) for years. That because my story and therefor my lifestyle.
But, that simply wasn’t the case. It was a story, and I had (and have) the mindset power to change that. One morning running, I realized in a burst of tears that when I kept breathing through it I felt a letting go. That letting go led to a release of the tears but also a weight. In that moment, I had experienced a breakthrough that I know some other athletes have experienced in their flow, a realization that it was asthma, or a chemotherapy drug, or a family gene that kept me from running. It was anxiety, a belief and a story. And, I, the creator, writer, and lead in my life story, had the power to change it in a plot twist at any moment I wanted to. Which, was now.
“It’s physics and anatomy: many think running is active with overstraining and exerting yourself. It’s really just falling forward and catching yourself,” as my wise husband says. Sounds a lot like life, each and every day.