NYC Pride kicked off this weekend, celebrating the journey of the gay rights movement. Several of my friends, colleagues, and Ninjas (clients) were part of the 5,414 that participated in the Pride Run, a 5 mile run through Central Park. It’s an honor to be part of a community that puts such emphasis on celebrating individuality and authenticity, and that uses physical activity to facilitate that happiness.
While the Pride Run is part of the larger NYC Pride festivities, I think it’s safe to say that most recreational and competitive runners are indeed proud of running. Many who identify as runners will have their list of personal records, from specific courses, training and race paces, or a list of their fastest time for any given distance. While it’s important to celebrate achievements that we’re proud of, we should note that these are all measures of capacity. How often do you celebrate movement capability?
Consider your running friends. When was the last time you saw a tweet or status update that read:
Set a personal record today for maintaining running mechanics for an extra 5 minutes before technique breakdown. Used technical failure to limit training duration. Proud of myself for respecting movement quality.
It seems rather silly, doesn’t it? Exactly my point. We express pride about speed or duration, but you’ll rarely see runners expressing pride about their technical ability. I’m sure it sounds biased, and if you identify as a runner, you may be thinking:
Let’s laugh about it. In every community we see degrees of performance obsession, sure. However, with the prevalence of recreational running, the way that society stresses aerobic activities, and the lack of education in endurance sports, running takes the cake. We recognize that gymnastics, dance, swimming, along with many multi-player sports require coaching, but with running… we assume we’ll do it naturally. As humans we have our own inherent ability to learn how to move, it’s what our brains are for but too often we’re left to figure it out on our own.
In THIS piece I answered the Cooper-age old question, Should you run? We looked at several statistics on running, and realized that the overall yearly incidence rate for running injuries varies between 37-56%. Of these, 50-75% of these injuries appear to be overuse injuries due to the constant repetition of the same movement, and that recurring injuries ranged from 20-70% of the cases. A related study found that among the modifiable risk factors studied, weekly distance is the strongest predictor of future injuries.Our intentions when we begin running come from a well-intended place, but we’re often one step ahead of ourselves when it comes to training performance. Let’s focus on proper running in the first place. There are a plethora of running technique systems out there, but my favorite two learning and practicing activities can be done just about anywhere.
Jumping Rope and Hill Sprints.
If you have an 8-10’ foot rope and a few square feet, you’re ready to go. Jumping rope is a self-limiting activity, meaning that when form breaks down, so does your rhythm. The rope stops, and you stop. Only with practice, and patience, do we begin to approach appreciable levels of aerobic fitness, with our ‘performance’ ability limited by postural control.
Interestingly, during my undergraduate career several of my exercise physiology professors regularly pointed out that jumping rope has a significantly lower aerobic demand (VO2) than running. I’d like to appreciate that difference because the self-limiting nature of rope jumping doesn’t let the user disrespect movement kindness as they do when they run. It may also be because these same professors were quite fond of their marathon and triathlon training… we’re all a little bit biased.
Let’s look at the hallowed hill sprint. Let’s be sure to start by refreshing our understanding of hills and sprinting. A hill isn’t a section of your race route that you’d like to focus on. A hill should be dauntingly steep, and you should be ready to haul ass up it like you’re running from a train. This probably means you’re going to have to actively search for a hill to climb, and if you’re sprinting for more than 30 seconds, stop. Why’s this so important?
Running uphill is a self-limiting exercise, just like jump roping. It naturally teaches you a natural forward lean, as well as how to generate force. You’ll reinforce desirable running mechanics while developing power endurance that can carry over to your racing. That’s what we like to call a two-for in the training world.
Jump, then Sprint
Running with less-than-desirable technique is easy to do. Jumping rope and sprinting hills with poor posture, that’s a different story. First begin my focusing on your ability to maintain form while jump roping, and make it feel as easy as possible. If you’ve acclimated to the cardiac workload of running, this is going to be easy for you. Let it be.. If your posture breaks down or your footing falters, you slow down, or stop. That’s the goal. We want to nail technique with the rope. When you feel comfortable, take that low-level plyo to the hill.
Sprinting up hill is like jump roping up hill. On one foot at a time. As fast as possible. The goal is to move as well as possible first, understanding that capacity will build will movement capability improves. Sprinting for 10-30 seconds at a time can teach or reinforce desirable mechanics, while keeping your in tip-top shape.
(There’s a) Time to Run.
When it’s race day, go haul ass. Perform. When it’s training day, however, accept your body’s ability to create movement that may be less desirable, and respect how you move in the now so that you may continue to move that way in the future. Let’s think less about miles and times, and more about appreciating both the short and long term effects of how we move. When we take pride in that, we’ll best realize our personal potential.