Friday, September 02, 2016

Running like "L"

I am gearing up for my annual half marathon so this morning I was trying to think of a few things to keep in mind. As a more-than middle-ager I'm not interested in times or competitiveness. I run just a few days a week (between 2 and 4 miles) and one long run on the weekend. At this stage I simply run for enjoyment and hope to avoid injury. Gone are the days of running like a 'bat out of hell.' Now it's time to run like "L." This is how I do it:

LUMBAR (back) -
The first thing I try to remind myself of is to keep my back straight. The lumbar is the lower back, and keeping it arched helps me run better. I don't want to slouch, so I can breathe easier and fuller. I also don't want to lean forward, so I can keep a smoother stride. Keeping my back straight or slightly arched allows for more fluid movement, better foot strike, and might even give a mental boost - it's like keeping your head up (hey, we need all the help we can get).

LUNGS (breathing) -
Another important thing to keep in mind is breathing. A straight back helps in breathing deeper, from the lungs, rather than short chest breathing. The idea is to let my breathing emit naturally through my mouth, rather than blowing or sucking in with my mouth. I want to feel my mid-section expand and contract. I also believe it's important to establish a breathing "rhythm." I breathe out 3 breaths and in 2, and I sync my breaths with my foot strike. So each step I'm taking a breath in or out. This allows for a more relaxed and smooth pattern and helps me avoid hyperventilating or simply getting too winded.

LOOSE (baby) -
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the need to stay loose. I've heard that the best distance runners run like 5-year-olds. You know, they have fun. Watch a group of children run around the schoolyard. Their arms and legs are flailing, they're smiling and laughing, and it seems they can go on forever. It's important to stay relaxed when running a long distance. I try to concentrate on keeping my face loose, my hands, and as much as possible my legs. I usually keep my elbows bent at less than 90 degrees, but I want them to swing freely. Many runners say that after a half their arms and shoulders are more sore than their legs. It's probably due to tightness. Relaxing the jaw and hands usually helps the rest of the body relax.

So, these are three "L" words to keep in my while running: Lumbar, lungs, and loose. Hopefully they can keep me in love with the sport, lest I lose my legs and lull myself to... sleep. :)