STAGES OF RUNNER ACTUALIZATION: RUNNING LESSONS AND LEARNING CURVES
There are levels to this sport. I find that, in running, the more you know, there more you find out that there is more to know. This is the beauty of our sport. It is simple to explain and to perform, yet complex in the way it involves so many different elements. You start by putting one foot in front of the other and covering your first miles. It then becomes a little easier and a little more enjoyable, so you do it more because you now see improvement. Then you begin to understand what to do in between the runs, how to take care of yourself and prepare for the next run. Soon you find yourself racing and setting benchmarks, discovering tools and gadgets to help you along the way. Then you start to track your progress and share it with others and that takes on a life of its own. You buy books and watch videos to help you understand better running biomechanics and training methods and you ultimately find out that there are levels of involvement in the sport and really, your only limitation is your own curiosity. Here are a few more things to keep in mind in your journey with the sport.
Nobody is born a perfect runner.
Every runner has an imbalance; a weaker leg, less range of motion in one hip external rotator, less flexibility in one ankle, uneven arm carriage. This asymmetry may be important and beneficial in other sports (ex. soccer or golf where it is tied to accuracy and body control) but it is much less so when it comes to running. Understanding your imbalances is a natural part of learning how to become a better runner and in fact, complete symmetry is both impossible and unrealistic. Asymmetry doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage. Jay Dicharry, a renowned physical therapist, running biomechanics expert and author of Anatomy For Runners, believes that it’s not as simple as asymmetry equals injury. The key is identifying the degree to which it exists and how that impacts performance. He adds that while every runner has asymmetries, ignoring the more obvious differences may be a recipe for injury. “It’s not OK to simply take note of these differences,” Dicharry stresses. “Runners should take time to improve them if they hope to influence injury risk and performance.”
Everyone gets injured.
This is a running fact, not just conjecture. Even as you improve on one aspect of your running, you may still find yourself having to deal with an injury. They are so common in running that I wrote a piece about them in order to help runners cope mentally with this reality. Injuries happens to everyone so if you’re in this situation, rest assured that you’re not the only one. It’s not IF it’s going to happen, but rather how you will deal with it WHEN it happens.
Running is a continuous process of discovery.
The process which allows you to determine what kind of a runner you are and what race distance suits you best. How you respond to different workout stimuli and training methods. All of this takes time and experimentation. It also takes the right guidance and plenty of patience so the key is to be patient and to trust in the process.
You evolve as a runner.
You may prefer to run alone, then later on realize that you are more comfortable running in a group. Or vice versa. You might start off your running journey being very data-driven and numbers-crazy then find yourself more interested in keeping things simple. Or vice versa. You may start off doing most of your running on the roads, then discover that you have a passion for trail running. Or vice versa. As your running knowledge grows and your running mind evolves, so does your value system and attitude toward the sport and over time, this can transform you into a different kind of runner.
There is always more to learn.
Ask anyone who has ever looked at the web browser on my laptop and you'll find out that I have about a dozen tabs open at any given moment. I am constantly learning about the sport and finding ways to satisfy my curiosity. A curious mind is an open mind and, in running, it helps to be open-minded. Once you understand the running basics (proper form, recovery methods, nutrition and hydration, running apparel basics), you may find yourself diving into the numbers a little more. What is your optimal easy run/long run/recovery run pace? How does your cadence affect your vertical oscillation and ground contact time? What heart rate zones do you train in? As I mentioned before, your understanding and involvement in the sport and in your own training is limited only by your curiosity. Running is a lifelong sport and there is truly always more to learn. Some of it takes time to understand and appreciate, but if you are seeking answers they are always out there.
Run better. Run Smarter. Run for life.