Rediscovering running

I used to love running. As a teenager, I would go for runs routinely. I wasn’t part of a team and didn’t compete. Running gave me a joy. It offered a strong sense of pushing myself. Generally that meant for speed rather than distance. I would run for an hour or so through the woods near home and try to improve my time for a given route.

I wasn’t religious about running. Sometimes I’d take off extended periods and frequently I wouldn’t run at all during the winter months. I never really enjoyed the cold air burning in my lungs.

Then I stopped running for several years when I would suffer significant pain in one of my knees. The pain developed very consistently at around the 1 mile mark. Just as I really hit my stride the pain hit. A doctor blamed uneven muscle development. Basically, my quad was stronger than the hamstring. That pulled my knee out of alignment. I stopped running and stretched instead. It was a couple of years before I resumed a light running schedule. The knee would get tight, but happily never to that same sharp pain that once almost dropped me to the ground. It wasn’t great though and I just kept the runs short and easy.

Then, two things happened which have me back to thoroughly enjoying running.

The first thing that happened were “five fingers”. Those low profile and minimal running shoes have changed my life. I have not experienced any of the knee issues which used to haunt me since switching my footwear. I will admit that they took some getting used to. It also took some practice to stop running on the heels. When you run on your toes you end up using the calves as the shock absorbers. I had a pretty sore calves for a couple of weeks, but that was it. Sore muscles are much easier to deal with than that knee pain.

The [five fingers]( can look a little goofy. There are other minimal running shoes which don’t force one to wiggle the toes into their own part of the shoe. I’m not sure what I’ll replace mine with when they give, but I’m sticking with toe running and minimal footwear.

Besides the knee issue I also suffered some crappy runs. Those were largely due to stress. Between an unending stream of thoughts and trying to run as fast as possible the runs had been frequently more chore than fun.

I had come to realize that physical exercise often requires focus to get the best results. I first figured this out during weight workouts. The repetitions were sloppy and rushed unless I really gave it my full attention. I could tell the following day if I had truly worked out or had just gone through the motions.

After reading the book [Natural born Heroes]( and being introduced to the [MAF-180 Formula]( rule I added it to my running. Rather than running against the clock I was now watching my heart rate.

It comes down to this: keep your heart rate below `180 – your age`. The human body prefers to burn fat, but that’s another story related to the myth around “carb loading”. As a rule of thumb the fat burning happens as long as the heart rate stays below your target.

Interestingly, when you go above your heart rate target the body switches to burning sugar and has to work harder. At that point the run becomes more difficult. I personally notice a change in my posture. For example, my head drops and I end up staring at the ground in front of me. As odd as it may sound, I am looking around and enjoying the run as long as I keep my heart rate low.

I have to admit that it takes a while to adjust to that kind of running. Until you get used to it, you’ll feel unbelievable slow. I had moments where my run on the uphill would slow down to less than walking speed. Talk about feeling goofy.

Now I just have to get over my sincere dislike of running in the cold.

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