Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tame The Monster Within - Step 2

Run with upper body relaxed!

   In Step 1 we addressed the mental side of taking on your monster. That little voice that tries to convince you what you can and can’t do, often times to the point of controlling what you actually do. In Step 2 we’ll take a look at how that monster lurks in your upper body and causes havoc when it doesn’t get its way.  By building anxiety and causing doubt in your ability it creates tension throughout your body. Tension causes your body to work against itself, leading to pain while running and even injury. Come on in and we’ll learn to tame your monster.

    Body scanning or taking inventory is a technique that looks at how your body is doing during your run.  Body scan was presented to me through several books but the one that made the biggest impact was “Chi Running” by Danny Dreyer. Parts of this post relate directly back to Chi Running and I need to give credits to the work that Danny Dreyer has done. For me it’s a recommended read and I’m giving you the Amazon link just in case you are interested (Chi Running Link). 
    For me it’s not mind over body as presented Chi Running. I watched Star Wars, but never have been able to get control of my Jedi Forces. I relate more too late little voice or monster within that is full of doubt in my abilities. For me taking on my monster came early in life through tasks I had to get done on the farm.  It seemed when I had no alternative I would take a deep breath and thinking through what I was about to do and just do it. However, you personally take on your monster doesn’t matter as long as you recognize when your body is working against and not with you.
    When the body is working against you we notice it as the areas of tension in your body. The key is to work at relaxing that area without breaking stride during your run. Often time’s tension is actually the result of muscles working against other muscles in your body and not with them. You need to step out and look back at yourself, once identified where the tension is you work to release and relax that area.
    For me the normal check starts upstairs and works down, that’s why we are starting with the upper body. There are five basic check points that I take inventory on in my upper body.

  1. Squinting your eyes – This can be one of two things; you need to get a good pair of sun glasses or you are actual focusing too hard through your eyes. The sun glasses should be part of everyday running gear to help you relax your eyes but to also protects them from UV rays. Focusing too hard can easily be relaxed and the squinting will go away; you can also check out the post on “sunglasses”.
  2. Locking your Jaw – I’m a mouth breather and don’t have issues here. However, remember your jaw muscles are as strong as any in your body, don’t let them drain your energy for 3 or 4 hours during a marathon. Make sure your jaw is relaxed and moving freely.
  3. Neck – How you hold your neck can effect breathing and lead to a very irritating neck ache. Remember, to look ahead and maybe slightly down.  With my bifocals I tend to look by head to low. Rolling your head and eye level too far down or up will affect your run. It’s a good idea to roll your head around your shoulders once in a while to relax it out. You know, like in the movie “Carrie”, it really freaks out other runners around you.
  4. Shoulders – Are you holding your shoulders up during your run? The shoulders and neck were major problems for me when I started running. I would get too the point I could hardly rotate my arms after a run and my upper back was killing me. My problem, I was raising my shoulders and holding them up while I was running, this along with locking my neck because of bifocals was really working against me. Remember to let shoulders hang as you run and not hold them in a raised position.
  5. Elbows & Arms – Are your arms and elbows locked in place or are they wildly swinging across your body? This is one of the areas I have recently changed and seen significant improvement from. You have to move arms to maintain rhythm & balance in your run, but don’t get to wild with it. Keep the arm swing down to about 5 or 6 inches and make sure it is mostly straight ahead. The key point that stepped up my running is keeping my arm swing towards the back of my body. Hands come back to the center of my waste and arms go out to the point my elbows are lined with the back of my back. This will help keep you leaning forward; leaning forward is something we well get back to in Step 3. Make sure you flex your elbows once in a while and shake it out from your shoulders to your hands; this will relax your arms and keep you circulation moving.
  6. Hands – Are you gripping your thumbs? Your hands need to be relaxed, flex them often while you run. If so that grip is your body working against itself and burning up critical energy you’re going to need at about mile 16 and on. Open up your hands and mentally grab an egg in order to relax your grip. Even though I have no idea how to play a piano I will flex my fingers as if I’m on a keyboard.

There you have it; Eyes, Neck, Shoulders, Elbows & Arms and Hands; your upper body scan.  Work on this and next post will take on your body core. You’ll be running like a pro in no time at all. 

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