It's amazing what a complete disregard for speed is doing for my running. Working only on increasing distance, which I am doing very slowly, has allowed me to focus on other things while I log my target miles for the day. Like my form, for example.
When I first started running a year or so ago, I wanted to be one of those gazelle-like runners with long, powerful strides -- legs reaching out strong in front of me and stretching long behind me. Well, a couple of shinsplints and a jacked-up knee put the kibosh on that pretty quickly. My injuries forced me to do some actual research and I found out that I was going about it all wrong -- my stride was way too long and I was landing on my heel, which apparently is a no-no, especially for old broads with creaky joints. Like me.
I've been trying to pay more attention to my form ever since, but as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not a multitasker. Like, at all. If I'm trying to focus on distance and speed and interval times and whatever all at the same time, I am not only completely failing to do that, I also don't have any brain juice left for anything else.
So during my runs so far this month/year, with nothing to worry about but logging a set number of miles on any given day, I've really been trying to focus on my form -- taking shorter, lighter steps, and landing on my mid-foot instead of my heel. And I'm trying to watch my posture as well -- I tend to lean forward, tense my neck and shoulders, and sink too low in the hips when I'm tired or really trying to push. Fortunately the simple act of taking shorter steps and landing mid-foot seems to have corrected a lot of this already -- I've noticed that my back stays straighter and more upright and I don't swing my hips as much when I'm paying attention to what my feet are doing. As long as I remember to relax my upper body, I'm good to go!
I'm noticing a couple of benefits from doing this. One is that, as I had hoped, I'm not getting as much hip/knee/shin pain post-run as I was when my form was all sloppy and weird. The other is that I'm finding it much easier to get into the "zen" of running once I'm in the correct form. Maybe it's like that yoga thing where you pay attention to your breathing? I don't know, but when I'm taking those shorter, lighter steps and my back is straight and my shoulders are down where they belong instead of up around my ears, I kind of feel in the zone. I forget that I'm running and my mind just wanders, or I enjoy whatever music I'm listening to, and I don't think about how fast I'm running or how far I still have to go or what my time is.
Yes, that's right. When my form is correct, I am One with the Treadmill. Nirvana can't be far behind, right?