Running Right

“Laura, stop running like a bimbo!” This is the phrase that popped into my head on my Saturday morning run.  These exact words were yelled by a choreographer during the first modern dance piece I performed in college and 14 years later (no need to do the math people) they still make me giggle.  It was the first and last time I have been called a bimbo, at least to my face.  Ever since then I’ve wondered, is there a right way to run?

The jury is still out on proper running technique.  Are runners better off with a more cushioned shoe, less cushioned shoe, or no shoes at all?  Is it preferable to strike the ground with the heel or the forefoot?  The studies are mixed and though according to Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hours theory I might be a fitness expert I don’t consider myself an expert on running.  I do, however, enjoy it very much, or at least enough to hit the road most days of the week.  I am, like many people, a late convert to running and don’t do it competitively but rather because I like the way it makes me feel.  Coming from the flatlands of Chicago to the mountain town of Charlottesville my runs became more challenging but also more frequent.  Despite its hilly terrain I’ve grown to love running this town.  This is partially due its more temperate climate, partially due to its inherent beauty, and partially due to time of life.  The following is my personal recipe for a delicious run:

1 part inspiring music: The ideal running tempo is 180 bpm but concentrating less on the beat and more on choosing music that suits your mood makes for a much more satisfying run.  Sometimes “workout” music is just the thing but other times it will drive you crazy.  If you aren’t in the mood for base-pumping club beats put on something you are in the mood for.  Listening to music is a powerful way to validate even the most difficult feelings and in this way it can act as a kind of therapy.  If you run to work through difficult emotions adding an emotionally poignant playlist can be very powerful.

1 part solitude: Running alone and uninterrupted can turn a tedious bout of cardio into a moving meditation.  Finding a time if day when the roads are quiet, such as a weekend morning, can contribute to a more peaceful session.  If you live in an area where the roads are never quiet finding an out of the way trail route is another option.

1 part adversity: Stress by its very nature is fuel for action.  Running is a great way to burn off excess energy whether you’re going through major emotional turmoil or going stir-crazy from sitting at a desk for too long.

1 part nourishment: After burning off all that excess energy refueling is essential.  Along with rehydrating, refueling with the appropriate amount of carbohydrate and protein will leave your body happy and energized.  Since there is a 60 minute post-workout window during which the body is primed for glycogen production it makes sense to consume something within the first hour of returning home from your run.  My favorite post-run treat as of late has been a protein smoothie with one or two tablespoons of raw cacao powder.  The mood boosting properties of raw cacao compliment a runner’s high nicely.

I am pretty sure I’ve stopped running like a bimbo but whether I am running the right way is still up for debate.  When I was working out during pregnancy Jed would always joke that I had the power of two.  I loved this idea because in a way having Eve did make me feel stronger instead of weaker.  The pain of losing her is largely what fuels my runs but I like to think the motivation goes deeper than that.  Einstein famously said “energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”  Judging from her formidable punches and kicks I know that my daughter had a great deal of energy and it is this energy that remains inside me, somewhere, propelling me forward.