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Improving Your Focus on Running While Running - The Lunch Hour Athlete

Training Log For: 11/16/09

Rules to run by, the 10 rules you should always obey on the road. Click Here.

Posted by Matthew

This week is the beginning of when I seriously train for the LA Marathon this coming up March. I had planned on starting about a month ago, but injuries and increased extra curricular activities took priority and warranted a training schedule shift. I'm not really a runner, sure I "run" and "jog", but anyone looking at my short, thick legs would probably not automatically assume I ran. One of the problems of not seeing myself as a runner means that I also feel very self conscious and awkward when I do run.

Today's article is about the importance of listening to your body while you are running (or doing any exercise for that matter). During the years that I lifted weights I always read that in order to see the best results you have to pay very close attention to your form and the contraction/movements of the muscles. It creates this mind/body connection that helps utilize the largest percentage of muscle possible. Now that I am running and doing almost all cardio workouts I have noticed that even the slightest distractions while exercising can cause problems and waste much needed energy. Pain in particular seems to sap energy and focus if you let your mind concentrate on it. Now I am not advocating running while in pain and ignoring signals of an injury. I have read however, that while your run you should regularly take an assessment of your body.

The average person probably thinks of running as being very simplistic, you move your legs faster and swing your arms. In reality though there are very important considerations to running form and mechanics. If your stride is too long, your shoes too tight, or any other number of complications, you can find yourself running towards an injury or overall inefficient use of energy. I've noticed lately that while I run I tend to focus on feelings of pain or discomfort but rarely try to remedy the cause. If my shoulders or torso feel stiff or tense, I should take the time to relax my posture and correct the problem. When I start to feel tension in my knee or thigh, I need to examine my stride and my running form. Am I over extending my stride? Perhaps I am unknowingly exerting more force with one leg than the other.

Even while swimming I have noticed a constant need to examine my form and breathing. Breathing wrong can lead to bad form in order to take breaths at irregular intervals. This week I plan on actively adjusting my running form while I run to better utilize my energy. It's tempting sometimes to try and push through pain and tightness, but I have been running long enough now to know when tightness or pain is because of a lack of fitness, or poor form. Now that my legs are recovered from their injuries I plan on being more proactive in avoiding injuries and "listening" to what my body is telling me while running and exercising. If my body is saying I need to stop and stretch or just back off the pace more, that's what I will do.

The biggest lesson I have learned lately is that your sensory system is pretty good at warning you about what your brain is telling your body to do. Pay attention to the warning signs, if it warrants stopping and regaining your form (or breath) then do so. On the other hand, if it is a non-threatening pain (i.e. a muscle that may just be sore from under use), don't focus all your attention on that one area. Usually it takes several areas of your body being out of align before your muscles and joints start to complain.