Originally posted this article as a "guest Blogger" on Katrina Bos' Blog documenting her transformation from a non-runner to a runner with the goal of doing a Marathon in 2012. I've been working with Katrina helping her develop a "Natural" running form, focusing on some barefoot running, but mostly using minimalist shoes and a "forefoot/midfoot" running form.
As is evident from K's posts on her blog there is an alchemy to running that is physical but also goes beyond simple cardiovascular & metabolic conditioning: subtle shifts in how we perceive the world we live/run in as well as subtle shifts in how we experience the body we live/run in.
I would completely agree with K, that running or any physical activity is not the exclusive realm of youth, but rather is fundamental to our lifelong existence. As we age our functional fitness is the real rate limiting step of our freedom and independence and we should be investing in this area of life as much as we do our RRSP
and Pension Plans. The degree to which we have become acculturated to the 'western' or 'modern-industrialized' cultural paradigm often relates to the degree of frailty we may experience as we age:Fitness as FreedomHealth of Traditional CulturesRacing Duathalons at Age 90
While running is not a panacea to all that ails us physically and metaphysically, it becomes a thread that when woven through our days and lives begins to reconnect our frayed interconnectedness with our natural world and our natural selves. I believe that smile and floating that K describes is in part the animation of this 'reconnect'. It reaches beyond the experience of our run or race and begins to influence how we move in the rest of our day, our relationship to the foods that 'fuel' our movement and life and ultimately our priority of investing in our natural functional fitness throughout our lives.
This has all come into greater view for me as I've been running less in the weeks that followed my becoming a new dad. While my miles may be less my investment to running has actually increased and I have realized what we do with the time between our runs affects our running as much as the miles we log. Danny Abshire
, founder of 'Newton Running Shoes' discusses this in detail in his book 'Natural Running' where he highlights that we must redevelop our capacity to run by reconditioning many if the small intrinsic muscles in our feet and legs as well as the larger muscles and systems that govern our balance, proprioception
(positional sense) and integration of movement within our core and entire body.
So while I have been at home hard at work as a 'dad', I have been spending more time reconditioning these areas primarily through the use of calisthenics, yoga and "CrossFit
" principles (constantly varied integrated functional movements and exercises in order to develop integrated functional fitness - strength, balance, coordination & metabolism). Low & behold, my running has actually improved despite the decreased miles. The improvement is related to the improved economy of movement (running form) as a result of this type of training.
And beyond the calisthenics and "CrossFit
" conditioning, the extra time at home has allowed for a greater emphasis on preparing fresh whole food meals. I have been able to further learn how to consciously nourish the development of healthy muscles & ligaments as well as the energy to fuel movement, conditioning and the motivation to attend to these areas of "health" while on the steep (and sleep deprived) learning curve of being a new dad.
So while running is often viewed as a means to an end to influence our weight and appearance; it can be a more pervasive element that informs almost every area of our lives: nutrition, rest/recovery, reconditioning, psychology, relationships, social interaction (including blogging) and the larger priorities of our lives....
It is this underlying pervasive alchemy that I reference when I use terms like "soul endurance athlete" or "soul runner"; which specifically reaches beyond the use of endurance athletics or running as a means to an end, to emphasize them as a thread that weaves throughout all the elements of our lives, subtly shifting their interconnectedness and re-animating our interconnectedness with the world we live in. It becomes a "practice" - something we do externally to influence ourselves internally physically and metaphysically.
I certainly won't disagree with anyone who chooses to run to drop a few pounds or feel better about themselves physically and emotionally, but I also believe when you find anyone that 'loves' running it is the soul alchemy they are experiencing. Perhaps seeing it this way & trying to describe it, I may help a few folks shift their perception of running as a twisted form of pleasure derived from self induced pain and punishment, and may be able to ignite their own "love" of running.
Running is a primal experience of who and what we are as living beings: movement, breath, energy, perception, awareness and motivation out under a vast expanse of sky. When we experience our own life on this intrinsic level aside from cultural/societal position, role, status, gender or function we are also experiencing the essence of what we all are as human beings. Not only does running reconnect us to our natural world, but further it reconnects us to each other.
Any races, marathons or other events no longer become 'why' we run, and are rather a lens to focus our motivation, time and priorities to keep us running and connected to our lives and life in its largest meaning.
So go ahead, take off your shoes and begin the first few steps of running. Take is slow and methodically, after all, you have a lifetime to experience it....