Tag Archives: Christopher McDougall

Mind Article : The Psychology and Heart in Running

Mind Article : The Psychology and Heart of Running

According to Christopher Mc Dougall, the author of the best selling book “Born to Run“, he mentioned that people set targets – a marathon to run and that they were running in a performance arena. In a race, there is only one winner.

So many people run with this kind of attitude – that if you don’t win, you lose. Then began the metaphor that life was a race, a rat race and that we have limited resources in. Life becomes a competition, and in a competition there are only other competitors and no friends.

We often take the competitive spirit and use this psychology to push us far, really far. And sometimes this makes us stronger but then we end up strung out and on our toes. Life is a race, but in the end this race is only with ourselves. We do not need to make up enemies to charge at in our pain and discomfort , to hardwire ourselves for a struggle when that is not the case.

Running your own Race – The Secret of the Tarahumara

One thing i found very interesting is that the Trauhumara tribe who were actually insanely good runners (super athletes to be exact), do not run to win – they run as a way of life. They run in groups not to race but to work (hunt) and play together, maybe life is not so much about seeing people as competition but rather working with each other to put our best foot forward.

Maybe that’s what makes them such great runners because they have a sense of joy and from that sense of joy there comes greatness, and when we stop screaming and start listening we become kinder and gentler to people and kinder and gentler to ourselves. They run not for victory or a list of accomplishments to boast of but for camaraderie and the sheer joy of using their bodies for a basic, essential purpose. And therein lies the secret power of the super athletes.

Run not to win but to be happy

I see some people run casually in the streets, they have this grim mask, that says “I must do this I must compete and beat myself, I must win” or “Not again, not another run”. They run with a certain kind of intoxication that’s dangerous (an intoxication with themselves), they usually are focused on the results so much so that the reason and joy of running is lost to them , they run not with a clear headed purpose and playfulness but drop dead seriousness as though this is a life and death run. That its part and parcel of their “discipline”, “must-do” and checklist of achievements.

In this kind of running there could be either two outcomes, that you fail to achieve or that you finally conquered yourself and you feel disappointed because the next guy beside you ran a 3 hour 59 minute marathon while you ran a 4.5 hour marathon.

Live life on your own term - Stop Comparing

There are no “must-dos” in life, but rather a choose to do. When you resign yourself to must-dos you resign yourself to giving up the self awareness and the joys of making choices that matter, instead you assign yourself a hard script which you have to follow.

In the end the race is only with yourself, are you going to enjoy the process of running are you there just for the results ? Do you approach your health and fitness (and life in general) with reverence and awe or as something that has to be accomplished and crushed under the sheer force of your indomitable will ?

Running with Heart

There is strength in compassion and a greater strength in ourselves than we believe in. Chris MacDougall recounts this story about, an Ethiopian woman named Derartu Tulu who turns up at the starting line in a race she would unlikely be able to win.

She kept up with the lead runners and was pitted against Paula Raddcliffe who won the New York Marathon four times. Paula had a hamstring injury crop up but Derartu encouraged and waited for her, while the lead pack blazed forward. While Derartu finally ran, she won the marathon, with alot of heart and compassion. The true epitome of victory.

Finishing Strong

The video above is that of Derek Redmond, an Olympic runner. He posted the fastest time of the first round in the Olympics, and went on to win his quarter-final. In the semi-final, his hamstring snapped. He hobbled and stopped and fell to the ground in pain. Medics rushed to help him, but he wanted to finish the race. He began to hobble along the track and was joined on the track by his father. When they crossed the finish line, the crowd of 65,000 spectators rose to give Derek a standing ovation.

A Hero in all of us

Kristen Koh

Never Give Up - Be Inspirational

The above picture shows Kirsten Koh. In a freak accident when she collided with a truck and was dragged underneath. She  fractured both ankles and femurs. Her pelvis was shattered. Her left shoulder, fibula and shin bones were broken. She went on to have 19 operations totaling more than 80 hours and was bed-ridden for 2.5 months.

Yet, she never gave up. The doctors did not give a good prognosis about her ability to walk, not to mention run. But she persevered, and in the article, she mentioned that it was very hard to keep going, when life everyday was a pain.  She drew her strength from stories people who have survived from accidents and come back stronger, but essentially i guess she drew power from herself – her inner hero. She would be in the Adidas Sundown Marathon, 42 km, completing the event from sheer heart and an ability to take life on its own terms and come out stronger and better – In short , she’s coming out a hero.

“Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them…cheer them…scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us…that keeps us honest…gives us strength…makes us noble…and finally allows us to die with pride”

Aunt May – In Spiderman

We all have that inner hero, the guy who tells us not to give up, it’s the hero within us that ultimately tells  us to live our lives brave and strong, and though it is not the easiest path but it is the most rewarding.

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Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part II (Final)

If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want — Why? Because
(a) you’ll burn all the calories you consume,
(b) you deserve it, and
(c) you’ll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway.
–Don Kardong

First off, humans are great when it comes to running. Author of the ground breaking book – Born to Run explains (Do take a few minutes to listen, if you are a runner this will benefit you immensely).

You are more than what you think. Far greater.

Running – Our latent potential

Running causes overuse injury and somehow we link running long distances to a sure ticket to chronic injury and pain. Yet if we were to go back 10000 years, running injuries were unheard of. And marathons according to some prehistoric tribes (which currently still exist) were no big deal when they were doing 100 mile runs for hunting and gathering. An exerpt from wiki pedia on our latent athletic prowess – Do note that the Tarahumara still exist as a tribe in North-western Mexico.

“The Tarahumara also use the toe strike method of running, which is natural forbarefoot running. The long-distance running tradition also has ceremonial and competitive aspects. Often, male runners kick wooden balls as they run in “foot throwing”, or rarajipari competitions, and females use a stick and hoop. The foot throwing races are relays where the balls are kicked by the runners and relayed to the next runner while teammates run ahead to the next relay point. These races can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days without a break.”

Why aren’t we great runners ?

In short we have awesome and kick-ass latent stamina. More so than we think we are capable of. So why do we huff and puff after a run down a block of steps or a short jog to catch a bus ?

Avoid running injuries, strengthen your feet

Because we don’t have to run in modern society and the pain we associate with running. Imagine in school when you were forced to run, in whatever gait possible under a certain timing which you never trained for in your sedentary years as a student, This would probably shape your perception of running, its painful and extremely tiring. And most of us would not run unless we are forced to.

Our  tendons and muscles are not developed from young, so our bodies are not well developed for distance. Running on concrete in high-tech shoes can change our biomechanics in running, increasing the risks of injury, so a marathon in heavily cushioned shoes and concrete floors with a weird heel-strike gait using heavily cushioned shoes is a sure ticket to messing up your body. This explains why we are not great runners, we are not trained and equipped to run long distances. So ……

Throw away your shoes

Have you ever seen a toddler walk, they probably would walk with a mid-foot strike, meaning that it would be the most natural form of running. Traditional running shoes create a problem of ineffective gait.

Yes, Nike and Reebok pulled a fast one on you. Their impeccable studies on running has actually led them to conclude that to protect the feet they decided on stiff soles and arch supports. Stiff soles and arch supports are great in encouraging heel strike and weakening your feet. Weak feet and heel strikes promote crappy running posture, when you land on the heel you over-pronate, it causes rotation on the tibia and causes pain on the knee (In layman terms heel strike causes you feet to rotate and grind your knees to injury).

There’s tons of literature on the evils of the heel strike. Yet, Nike, Reebok and Adidas are making tons of money promoting shoes that are meant to make running comfortable but end up making it very painful in the long run. That’s commercialisation for you, with expert knowledge thrown around like Godiva announcing that mil choclate reduces weight.

The advantages of throwing away your shoes or getting minimal shoes are many. Which include

Stronger feet especially in the arch. A healthy foot is a strong foot, one that pronates less and is less liable to develop a collapsed arch.

Develop strong feet and grace But try not to balance on your feet like that.

Less energy used. as the forefoot strike uses the natural springs in your foot and calf muscles more to store and release energy. Instead of pounding the muscles and making them act as suspension for the impact, use your body as a spring to efficiently recycle energy from each stride (its like bouncing on a ball).

Minimal forces on your feet, running actually becomes more enjoyable. Shoes weigh a lot, multiply it by the number of times you lift your feet and the wasted energy from heel strikes and it makes running like swimming with a tugboat strapped on you.

In conclusion, you do not need cushioning for your feet, when you barefoot run, you automatically reduce the impact that your feet makes with the ground (or your will learn minimise the impact to because its very painful). Forefoot running is optimal in reducing impact by using natural mechanics of your body provided you have sufficient protection from abrasions (use minimal shoes if you are not a sucker for pain, otherwise developing hard calluses is a painful process).

Perfect your form 

Essentially running as about cadence, posture and technique. Perfected running technique has been described as effortless, fun and playful. It is almost an ART-form and a beautiful expression of our physical prowess (No we are not born cubicle dwellers, we were once proud hunter gatherers who now dominate the world). Anyone seeing a ballerina dance would easily identify the grace that efficient and effortless running entails.

Cadence – I mentioned previously about cadence, which is important because if you take less strides per minute, you would probably be placing more force and friction on one leg, to minisie it, increase the speed at which you move your feet and minmise your stride.

Posture – Its important not to slouch because unless you are looking for a back injury, a arms relaxed shoulder blades back and straight posture would benefit you more in the long run, it also opens up your lungs when you keep a straight posture enabling you to breathe deeper.

Technique – Mid-foot strike leaning in to generate momentum. Running should feel more effortless as you perfect this (and you should feel like you are running on springs).

Here are a few good sites to learn more about barefoot running

Good Form Running – Intuitive and easy to understand, all in one diagram-type of explanation. Recommended.

Beginners guide to long distance running – A good and sensible approach to running when you are starting out.

The Human Body is built for distance – On why we are the most kick ass runners, and why people running on sandals had less injuries than us when they did twice the distance.

Balanced Running – Learn more about running from a professional physio. Sensible advice.