Tuesday, 18 August 2015

On 15:08 by Victoria Stanham in ,    2 comments
Post originally published at www.joy4running.wordpress.com

Written by Victoria Stanham
Most of my non-running friends’ response to “Why don’t you run?” is something along the lines of, “I love the idea of running… I just hate the actual running itself.”
If we are all born with the necessary hardware and software for the task... why is running pleasurable only to a gifted few? Does it have to be this way? Can something be done about it?
I believe it can... and I have this great idea to share with you.
Just for clarity's sake, I’m not going to teach you how to go “from couch to 5k”, nor give advice on what shoes to buy, nor what training plan to follow, nor what to eat before a run. All these topics have already been exhaustively covered in other running-related blogs out there.
My focus here is not so much on the “externals” of running as in the “internals”. What you’ll get from me is ideas on how to manage your breath, body and mind so that they stop fighting each other and start cooperating during your runs.
What for?
Sheer running-bliss. No more, no less.
So what’s my running-mojo all about?
1.     Awareness and Use of Breath. Enjoyment of running is almost equivalent to your enjoyment of breathing. Do you enjoy breathing? Do you like how you breathe? Do you enjoy breathing even when your heart-rate speeds up? Or does it suddenly get all painful and out of control?
2.     Awareness and Use of Mental Processes.Out of control breath equals out of control mind… and vice-versa. Where does your mind wander off to when you run? Is this what your train of thought looks like? Most exhaustion is rooted in the out-of-control wandering mind; once you learn to bring it home to rest, more energy becomes available to you.
3.     Awareness and Use of Body Mechanics. The body is the resting place for both breath and mind. But, if pain and strain also reside there, you can’t blame breath and mind to try and go wandering somewhere else. To master the biomechanics of running, body awareness has to come first and excess effort must be let go.
Every complaint I’ve ever heard about running from would-be runners can be traced back to the downward spiral of a poor breathing pattern, fuelling an out-of-control mind, which engenders poor body-mechanics, which in turn hinders the breath, which exacerbates the mind, which tenses the body... ad infinitum.
The saddest part is we are not even aware that this is going on, we’re only aware of the discomfort and pain it causes to a specific part of us. So before you decide to tinker with your breathing pattern or your body-mechanics: STOP! You can’t change what you don’t know is there.
My first tip is this: Invest in heightening your awareness of body, mind and breath. Above all, become aware of how these 3 aspects are intimately related.
In future posts I’ll share some of the exercises that have helped me enhance my own awareness of these three areas and their interrelatedness. If you don't want to miss them, just register your email to receive notifications of new posts directly in your inbox.
Happy Running!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

On 17:50 by Victoria Stanham in , ,    No comments
This blogpost was originally published in my running blog at www.joy4running.wordpress.com

It’s winter here in Uruguay, and it’s difficult to start (or keep up) a running routine. No matter how much I enjoy the actual running, and the post-running bliss, stepping out into the cold and the wind is not always the most tempting prospect.
This year, however, I managed to keep the winter blues at bay. These arte the 4 keys I used to stay on track:

1.     Having a Fixed Date with a Running Group and/or Running Buddies

Nothing beats keeping me on my toes than the support and encouragement of my new running group: Trotamundos Running Uruguay , and arranging runs with my sister. There’s something about keeping a commitment with someone else that makes getting out the door easier.

·         fixed days and times for runs means I don’t have to decide when to go out for a run (I like keeping superfluous decisions down to a minimum, they use up too much precious energy)
·         the camaraderie and fun energy of a group makes going out for a run more motivating, even when I’m tired

     2.     Registering for a Race

Joinging a running group means I have 3 fixed running dates a week. This doesn’t mean I don’t ‘skip’ training days anyways. Sometimes I’m tired after a long day of work, or I’m just too lazy. The best solution: registering for a race that’s a tiny bit challenging for me and that requires sticking to a training program. With my sister we’ve set our sights on a sponsored 7k run in a month and a half. I’ve gone a bit further and started courting the idea of running the Nike Half Marathon in two months. Perhaps that’s crazy, but it gives me enough motivation to lace up and step out.

·         extra motivation not to skip training days
·         that great feeling of building towards something, even if I don’t reach my goal
     3.     Having a Training Plan

I get bored if I always follow the same routine when I run. That’s why I like to have a varied training plan. This also avoids me having to decide what to do when I’m out running: it’s there on today’s plan.

·         keeping things interesting and moderately challenging
·         keeping the weight-loss benefits (it’s been proven that doing always the same run, at the same pace completely undermines weight-loss goals)
·         not having to think “what should I do today?”
      4.     Setting up for Success

There are thousands of little, simple things I can do to make it easier for me not to skip a run due to plain laziness.  The ones that work best for me are: a) leaving my running clothes ready to jump into (either by my bed for a morning run, or in a bag if I’m doing a post-work run), b) writing in my running dates in my agenda, so as to avoid scheduling other stuff at the same time, and c) training near my house, (this one I learned the hard way, after joining a club once that required a half hour commute to come and go).

·         elminating excuses and obstacles
·         prioritizing my runs over other activities

What are your keys to keep the motivation going?

Let me know in the comments below… I can always use more advice in this area.

Happy Running!

Monday, 3 August 2015

On 13:34 by Victoria Stanham in , , , ,    4 comments
This post was originally published in my new running and Alexander Technique blogsite, at www.joy4running.wordpress.com

Every time I took up running in the past it lasted me for no more than a month. My main reason for taking up this particular form of torture was fairly straightforward: I wanted to lose weight and I’d read that running burned far more calories than walking.

So, for a few weeks, I would drag myself onto the Rambla a couple of times a week for a 30 minute torture session of walk-run-walk. Although I enjoyed the post-workout feeling of accomplishment, I hated every minute of going through the actual ordeal of putting one foot in front of the other as I gasped for breath and ached all over. This needless suffering was the main reason I would start skipping sessions on any semi-justifiable excuse.

The more I skipped, the harder it was to break the inertia the next time. Eventually some silly injury or nagging pain would keep me off the road for a couple of weeks straight and that was the end of my running spree. The mere thought of having to build up my endurance once again until 20 continuous minutes of jogging didn’t feel like a death march was a sure motivation killer.

I decided running was not for me. When the running craze hit Uruguay I congratulated myself for not being one of those self-torturing crazies on the Rambla, with the pained expressions, heavy footfalls and heaving breaths.

I had also decided I didn’t need running. Having found Pilates (which made me fall head over heels in love with movement for the first time) and the Alexander Technique (which got me hooked into understanding and thus moving how nature intended) I considered my movement needs more than adequately met. And so it was for several years.

But the funny thing is that Pilates and Alexander Technique made me so comfortable in my own body they inched me ever closer to enjoying all the movement possibilities available to a human being… and running is just the natural evolution of walking.

So when my sister, who used to be a running-hater too, started training for and completed her first 5k race, I decided to give running another chance. To my pleasant and ecstatic surprise I didn’t hate it AT ALL, I actually LOVED it. My training in Pilates and Alexander Technique had made me an extremely efficient exerciser; I had more endurance than seemed possible for someone who’d shunned cardio for years. What’s even better, I discovered that even if I skipped a couple of weeks of running, I could jump right back on track without feeling I had lost much training.

Seeing that running comes so easily and joyfully for me now, my sister has asked me what the trick is. It’s not so much a trick but a set of organizing principles that allow body and mind to be better coordinated. This results in the ability to maintain good form and a deep breathing pattern even at times of great physical exertion. The best part is we’ve discovered these principles can be taught and learned fairly easily, so she’s improved her running too!

I’m writing this blog to document my approach to running, in the hopes that it can help you too. My sister will be the one keeping me real with what works and what doesn’t.  I’ll be sharing all my tips and secrets which meet her one basic criteria for a run: take no more than 30 minutes.

Please, if you are at all interested in enjoying running, leave a comment, ask a question, suggest a topic for investigation. If you tell me what’s keeping you from enjoying your runs, or what’s keeping you from running altogether, I’ll do my best to figure out a way to get you a step closer to lacing on your running shoes.

Happy Running!