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Running: Dis-running dynamics

Tactics to maintain energy, health while increasing running distance

Published: Monday, September 5, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

Highlighting the benefits of a dynamic and healthy lifestyle, this wellness blog serves to educate Texas A&M students about smart food choices and strategic exercise.

Dis-running is established when we, as runners, repeat a cycle of motions and choices that eventually destroy, not only our physical well-being, but can also pick at our mental state. Throughout the years I've been given many spiels on people's philosophy on running. The prophetic consensus is: Running is 70% mental and 30% physical. I've had the experience that, to become a better runner, you have to become educated (and acquainted) to the science, conditioning and consumerism of running. Before you train your body, you must first train your mind.

Just because you can pick up your knees and condition yourself aerobically does not qualify your actions as running or your status as a runner.

Foot placement, speed and rhythm are a few of the many dynamics of running that need to be understood before labeling yourself a runner. Understand these and you'll be able to legitimately improve your running ability.

Foot placement:

Foot placement is widely regarded as the single most valuable tool a runner can have. Let's introduce foot placement by a quick exercise that exemplifies all forms of foot placement. Try the following: Jump up as high as you can while standing on your 1) Heels, 2) Toes, and 3) Balls of your feet. Reflect on which placement is the most comfortable and powerful. For those who are unable to do this exercise at this time, the test shows the balls of your feet as being an outlier in both comfort and power. This is the ideal foot placement and here are the facts: Your lower extremities receive less impact while you are propelled further and further each step. Running on the balls of your feet strengthens muscles in your legs that are otherwise dormant and, in particular, it is an accelerative means to strengthen calve muscles. Running on the balls of your feet does not come immediately but through practice comes muscle-memory. The next time you are running try it out. (This link is a great visual.)

Speed:

If you're training for a half-marathon, that's one thing.  If you're using running just to burn some calories, you'll be happy to know that speed has little effect to the amount of calories burned. If you want to run an 8-minute mile, run an 8-minute mile. You will still burn the same amount of calories in a mile as if you had run a 7-minute mile. Plan on conserving your energy so you can include more mileage in your workout!

Rhythm:

As we run, our bodies are naturally in rhythm. Therefore, let's take it a step further and breathe in rhythm. Rhythmic breathing seeks to do two things: 1) Reduce your chances of getting cramps and 2) increase your focus as you maintain a pace. You will no longer be that person gasping at every step. Removing this occurrence conserves your energy, gets rid of cramps and allows you to run longer distances. (For more information, let me introduce you to your diaphragm here and remember to tie that in with running to prevent side stitches.) Rhythmic breathing is also a sufficient means to distract you. Just as equally as you can remember me saying, "Running is 70% mental," you can probably remember yourself running and thinking, "I have to stop. No, 5 more minutes—no, 3 more minutes—I'll just stop!"

Use your breaths as if you were meditating and it will detach you from the physical world allowing you to hone in on maintaining a pace and a rhythm. Remember, more distance equals more calories burned.

Tip:

My trick is to coordinate my inhale-exhale with my running steps. I breathe steadily and count on both feet to place on the ground one time with every inhale or every exhale. Breathe in (left foot-right foot), breath out (left foot-right foot), breathe in (left-right), breathe out (left-right). Do you see the rhythm? Find what comforts you and adapt to it.

Stay tuned for another running post in weeks to come.

Joey Roberts is currently the 800 meter school record holder of Texas A&M's track team. Upon achieving his bachelor of science in civil engineering in May 2012, Joey plans to explore a master's and doctorate's degree in environmental engineering.  As an avid runner, Joey is passionate about his wellness, which sparked developments in his personal attitude, fitness, and diet.

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