Is there a Right Way to Run?
Are you in your comfort zone? If so then far from being complacent, you've found the right way to not only enjoy running but ensure that you make progress both in terms of fitness and endurance.
It is surprising how many people feel discouraged from continuing to clock up the miles, or even stop all together, because they feel uncomfortable both during and after a run. Why is this happening? Simple, their posture is wrong, and they are simply trying too hard.
Let's deal with these two aspects in reverse order because it is the latter that results all too often in the former. During the formative months of a running programme, an individual is understandably eager to not only make progress but see evidence of it. As a result, they may begin to up the pace at which they run, recording their time over a particular distance and striving to shave seconds or even minutes off it week upon week. Unfortunately, the body simply doesn't respond to order, preferring to take things at its own pace, which is both natural and absolutely sensible.
Limbs Frantically FightingAnd it doesn't matter how hard you pump those arms and thighs, or demand an extra inch of space from the lungs. This is where the bad posture begins to take shape. Not only are the limbs frantically fighting their way through the pain barrier but the neck is probably folded into the shoulders, which themselves are hunched and tight, and the jaw and face muscles are set in an expression of grim determination. With the upper body out of alignment, the lower back and hips will be taking more strain than is natural. This in turn will affect the thighs, knees, calves and ankles. Sounds bad doesn't it? Well, it would be even worse if you had the luxury of seeing a video of it because you would be presented with an image of a body at war with itself. Now does that sound like the ideal way to run? More to the point, does it sound like fun? Because if, as is inevitable, the answer to both these questions is no, then what is the point? Bad posture means your running is becoming an unhealthy pastime, as opposed to what it is meant to be, and all that physical and mental misery means that it is anything but fun.
Natural BalanceSo stop. Forget all that nonsense about beating the five kilometre world record inside three to five weeks and relax. The next time you run, follow up the stretching exercises by taking a moment to stand still and close you eyes, feet apart and in line with your shoulders. Then close your eyes and let your body find its natural balance. Feel the neck begin to separate from the shoulders as the latter relax. Now you're ready. As you run, you should feel your body settling into a rhythm, both legs and shoulders moving smoothly as a unit, stepping, as it were, into each stride. The upper body should be relaxed with the head up and the shoulders open to allow the chest to expand with each breath. Cramping your shoulders, thereby restricting the chest means that the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is being limited; depriving them of the fuel they need to allow for efficient forward movement.
Make a Focal Point for the EnergyBe sure to keep the jaw relaxed - if tension starts here, you can bet it will begin to creep down the neck and into the shoulders, and the problems will begin all over again. If tension does continue to be a problem, transfer it down and out of your arms by placing your thumb against the first two fingers of each hand - this will make a focal point for the energy and ensure it doesn't interfere with the upper body movement.
Once you have relaxed into this rhythm, you will naturally be in your comfort zone, less concerned with going too fast, too soon, and more concerned with enjoying the moment. The miles will simply fly by.