Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Be the change you want to see in the world

I realised last night that there's something about myself that I don't like. I tend to preach. It's easy to get excited about things you discover, and I genuinely believe that I have made some important self-discoveries of late that I think could help others. But that doesn't mean that I should be pushing my views onto them.

I intend to take a new approach. I recently read the quote from Ghandi I've used in the post title "Be the change you want to see in the world". I like it, and I think it applies to how I want to change my behaviour. Rather than try to convince others to try new things that you believe will help them, just set an example by behaving that way yourself. If they don't notice or don't care, or aren't interested for whatever reason, c'est la vie.

I'll offer my thoughts if asked, but otherwise I think it's best for my own sanity and that of the people I know to keep mum. I'm tired of trying to fight battles that can't be won. People will do what they want, even if it's detrimental to their own health or state of mind. Sometimes you have to bottom out before you seek the help of others, or they may not be ready for that change just yet, while other times it's just not big enough a deal to be a concern anyway. Either way, they're not going to listen to you unless they're already thinking of making changes. It has to come from within.

I don't think it'll be easy to modify a part of me that's probably been around for quite some time, but I'll sure as hell try to stop whenever I catch myself in the act. I'm sure Peita will appreciate it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Run for the kids

The run for the kids came and went yesterday. I completed it in a time I was happy enough with, 62-63 minutes give or take for 14.38km. I wasn't too thrilled with the way I felt though. The first 10km were ok, then I hit the wall and the last few kilometres I felt ill, which is a first for me. It was a strange sensation - I was not out of breath at all, but my legs felt like lead, and there was a sick feeling in my stomach which wouldn't go away.

I have had many runs where I was pushing it as hard as I could and wanting to stop, but they always felt good in a twisted masochistic kind of way. This was different. It didn't feel healthy and I have been feeling pretty crappy in the 24 hours since, which is another first. I am glad I finished without stopping, but this run has made me think about what drives me to run and what I get out of it.

For starters, I will be going barefoot for all my running from now on. I just feel that the vibrams (or shoes in general), as awesome as they are, are aiding me to run faster than I am ready for. Although a few weeks ago I was definitely running faster, backing off a bit of late has meant I should have dropped my pace in the run accordingly. I think that's a benefit of going barefoot I hadn't previously considered - your feet toughen up at the same gradual pace that your fitness improves, and you can't really overdo it without getting blisters. So everything will hopefully stay in sync from this point onwards.

I have also realised that although it's fun to push yourself against the clock, I don't know that I'm really all that interested in posting personal bests any more. I get far more enjoyment out of our cruisy runs on the weekends, and I think I'm fit enough now to not be too concerned about times or miles. It feels like pushing it too hard in races is the ego talking, and unhealthy both in mind and body. That's not to say I won't be trying to improve my speed, but I think that will come naturally and gradually as my fitness improves, and the times can fall where they may.

It's a completely different philosophy of running compared to my approach so far, but one that I think will be a lot healthier and much more enjoyable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Put the shoe on the other foot

A little while ago I was searching around for some info on barefooting and stumbled across a podiatry forum. Intrigued by what podiatrists might have to say about the subject, I had a look at some of the topics around the "barefoot running debate". Well my immediate impression was that there is some serious anger on both sides of this so-called debate!

I won't go into detail, but to summarise some of the posts I read, they didn't seem to be against barefooting, yet attacked barefooters with a zeal usually shown by David Koresh wannabes. I engaged a little with them and came to the conclusion that it was a natural defensive mechanism, as they feel that a lot of the "barefooting community" (I'm sure there are communities out there that are barefoot, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to label a few barefooters here and there as a community) attacks them personally, and that some skew the results of research to suit their own argument.

I'm not doubting this happens for a second, but it seems a little sad to me that we are reduced to such an unproductive "us vs them" mentality. Some remarked "bet the barefooters will hate this!" in response to some research which indicated certain people would benefit from motion-control shoes, and had nothing to do with barefooting at all. My problem with this (apart from the unjustified schadenfreude response) was not that the research may be incorrect, but that it merely addresses the symptoms.

I think this goes back to my rant last week. Instead of addressing the real issue (in this case it was people with over-pronating feet), the research attempted to establish the best corrective shoes for people who over-pronate. The obvious question goes unanswered - why the bloody hell are they over-pronating in the first place? Where is the research to determine if this is a natural state, or something that results from their footwear or other factors? Has anyone conducted any studies of children's feet at a young age to determine if a significant percentage of people naturally over-pronate, over-supinate, or are these occurences rare? Why do we make the assumption that there is something wrong with us?

Why not start from the other position - that nearly everyone is able to walk with a pain free gait, and that something else is causing high incidences of poor walking form? It seems to me that 2 millions years of evolution has gone into the way we walk and run, and that's it's a pretty stupid assumption to make that all of a sudden in the last century or so, a significant percentage of a species that relied on its mobility to survive now can't walk without motion correcting shoes or orthotic supports. I know that in some cases people will either be born with issues that require correction, or accidents may cause a loss of motion or mobility, but surely these are the exception.

Continuing with the theme of there probably being nothing wrong with us, I think I have found the cause of my occasional left knee pain. On our hump day run I made an extra effort to observe my running gait, and tried to detect any differences between the way my left and right legs moved. It paid off, and I discovered that I needed to make a slight adjustment. It immediately felt better, although it also felt quite strange, as it is something that I think has been ingrained in my running style for a long, long time.

Another win for going barefoot. I can't prove it, but I don't think I ever would have figured that one out while wearing shoes, or even the vibrams.

I think back to the problems I have had with my feet over the years. When I was a teenager I played a lot of golf. About the age of 16, I started getting real problems with flat feet, to the point where I could hardly finish a round due to the pain. My parents took me to a podiatrist, and they gave me some orthotics. These definitely alleviated the pain, and I was able to get moving again, albeit still with some discomfort at times. I wish I knew then what I know now - I could have saved years of intermittent achilles and plantar fascia problems, thousands of dollars on shoes, and a lot of the pain I experienced when I started running if I'd just gone au-naturale.

Treating the symptoms didn't resolve the underlying problem. It rarely does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday I've got Sunday on my mind....

It's Wednesday and I'm looking forward to the run for the kids on Sunday. Feeling fighting fit after taking it a bit easier the last few weeks. That probably means I'll run like turd on the day :)

Jack and I went for a run in the dandenongs last Sunday, and it seemed like the forest had been reserved exclusively for runners. After the awesome storms we had, not too many were keen on hitting the trails...except us and a bunch of other runners we saw. I guess we're either a little nuts, or everyone else is a little soft. Not that I was complaining, it was good to have the trails virtually to ourselves. The forest seemed to light up after all the rain, and with some fallen trees requiring some delicate negotiation, there was some climbing adventure to boot.

I am rapidly becoming a fan of those chilled out trail runs at a pace that you feel like you could sustain for hours and hours. I'm sure reality would be different and at some stage a wall will be hit, but it seems like good prep for a marathon and further. And considering I want to progress to some ultra marathons, that can only be a good thing.

It makes me wonder if I'm really all that interested in getting faster, or whether I would just rather be able to run longer. I guess if you can run faster, then it makes running at a slower pace much easier, so maybe they're not mutually exclusive.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Finding the balance

So I realised the other day when I went for a run that I've put a few kilos back on, or at least it feels like I have, and my pace at the aerobic threshold (around 146bpm for me) has slowed noticeably. I am happy with my weight now, and I don't want to be too slim, so I face a dilemma - drop a few and run faster, or be more comfortable with my weight?

It's tempting to get a bit leaner for next Sunday's run for the kids to maybe shave a minute off my final time, but really, is it worth it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The band-aid society

This is not a post about running, but something I've been mulling over for a while and I thought it was worth musing over in print.

A few things here and there that I've seen or heard recently have triggered in me the belief that we are the architects of our own demise. That's probably not a huge revelation, but the manner in which I believe that we inflict troubles on ourselves boils down to one simple thing - we like to treat the symptoms of our problems, rather than finding the real cause and addressing that. It's a quick fix with immediate results, but almost always ignores the real problems, which will then manifest again in one form or another. In short, we're lazy. I'll run through a few examples that spring to mind.

A big one first - global warming. Now I'm a sceptic of this for starters - I think there are far bigger issues we need to address first, and whether or not we're making the globe 1 or 2 degrees warmer is up for debate anyway - but how are we looking to address it? By putting taxes on everything and anything that our governments can think of. And we all go along with it (I'm generalising) because it means we don't have to think about it. It's someone else's problem to come up with a "scheme" to reduce our carbon footprint. How about looking at our lifestyles and the amount of crap we consume and spew out into the atmosphere that is causing the (alleged) global warming? That will never happen, because it would mean we have to look introspectively at our own lives. We're too lazy for that.

Take obesity - a pretty large problem, pardon the pun. How do we address it? Fat pills, stomach stapling, liposuction, wonder drugs. How about turning off the TV, getting off your arses and doing something about it, like eating real food and doing some exercise? Of course not. We look to fix the symptoms, never the causes.

High blood pressure, cholesterol issues, type II diabetes, most cancers, all problems that stem from a piss-poor diet and lack of exercise. The solution? All sorts of wonderful drug concoctions, invasive surgery, and who knows what else. Where does the responsibility for your own body come into it? It's the only possession you truly own! If the average person caught their children treating their material possessions like TV's / computers / whitegoods with the same disdain we treat our own bodies with, they'd be mortified, yet the same behaviour towards their own bodies goes unquestioned. I find it baffling.

I know this is one hell of a rant, and anyone reading this could be forgiven for thinking I'm in a state of constant anger if this post is anything to go by. I'm not at all. I just think we're capable of so much more, but we're our own worst enemies. I find it sad to think because of all our technological advances, we are becoming a lazy species so out of touch with ourselves that one day we'll reach a point where the majority of the population is relying on technology just to survive - not live, survive - day to day.

We put ourselves in a constant state of stress, and somehow manage to convince ourselves that it's all good, that we are happy. Got a problem? Put a band-aid on it, that'll fix everything. I'm not sure what the point of this essay is, but I know that more of the same is not the answer. We need a new approach.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Call me Zola...

I went for a well needed run at lunch time today, 4 days was too long a break. My knee was aching again this morning. I think it's channelling my sub-conscious and telling me to run Forrest, run. So it was 3 times around the tan or thereabouts for 12km. On the third time round a guy caught up and called me Zola. I'll take that as a compliment. I guess not many people see someone running barefoot around the tan. This was fairly evident from the countless quizzical looks I got from most people running the other way.

We got chatting and he is in training for a half-ironman in Hawaii in June. He did a full one in China last year and is now just getting back into it. So we were running together and chatting for about 10 minutes and I realised how much more quickly the time passes when you're running and chatting at the same time. Before I knew it Dave the Scot (I should have asked him how Annie Lennox is these days) was off back to work and I found myself around the other side of the tan.

Time to find a regular running partner on some of these longer runs. You out there Jack? Let's pick up the distance :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bizarro World

I went to a 21st on Saturday night where there was no music from post-1990, the oldies were the ones getting munted and falling over on the dance floor, and all the youngsters were well behaved. Welcome to bizarro world.

I had another bizarro world moment yesterday. Sitting down watching a bit of TV and my left knee started aching. I had forgetten it used to do that (a lot) before I started running about a year ago. So that's what happens when I don't run for a few days. It starts complaining!

I had occasionally been worried that the increase in running I had been doing this year might cause me problems with my left knee. It needs an operation to fix stretched ligaments to stabilise the joint (old war wound / basketball injury), but I don't have the inclination to be out of action for several months while it heals and I go through rehab. So I put up with it, and most of the time I don't even notice it. On the odd occasion though, it does ache a little while running. Not enough to stop me, but enough to be a mild concern.

Well after last night, I think the concern is greater if I don't run. I got a subtle reminder of what happens when I laze around.