Thursday, July 4, 2013

it's not always running that helps me become a better runner...

So my challenge for July is to work on core and strength training.

Yesterday was an abs and arms day, and I took a Pilates class.  I didn’t love the class.  I didn’t hate it either.  But it was not the kind of class I like best, where I get really warmed up and sweaty and I really feel like I'm working hard. 

This instructor was all about the details.  “Articulation” she called it.  The whole class was slow and focused.  Very small, precise movements.  It was a LONG hour.  And she warned us, she was gonna come around and lay hands on us to make sure our form was correct.  WAY out of my comfort zone, right there.  Deep breath.

I was actually doing fine until she had us focus on getting our core into a “neutral” position.  (I probably won’t even be able to explain this well because I’m just figuring it out myself, but I’ll try.)  I’m fine with my hips, pelvis, and lower back/abs, but apparently there was something wrong around my rib cage.  This was not entirely news to me—when I’m in class, I’m constantly checking the mirror (Yes, I’m that person standing right next to the mirror.  I like to know if things are lined up!) and I can always see that my rib cage seems to be “up”, not flattened like almost everyone else's.  I thought that was just the shape of my rib cage.  Let me tell you, nothing will open up your rib cage like carrying huge babies!  I figured that’s the way I was built—you can’t change bones, right?? 
Well, apparently, you can!  Sort of… It turns out it wasn’t my bones that caused my rib cage to sit up and open like that, it was my breathing.  The instructor showed me how to breathe and get it to drop flat, into this neutral position.  Amazing!  She explained that when that area isn’t where it’s supposed to be and I’m using my core, those muscles aren’t doing their part, so I’m having to “borrow” from other muscles.  And I knew exactly which ones, too!  That’s why I always feel a strain on my neck and shoulders in Pilates class!!  Of course, as soon as she walked away, my ribs were back up there again.  But I kept working at it, and found that my neck and shoulders felt much more relaxed the rest of the class! 

Even better, when I ran today, I was aware of those same muscles and being able to engage them with the rest of my core.  It was incredible!  With those muscles working like they were designed to, I was running with ease on a very hot and super humid day here!  And if I must say so myself, my form was EXCELLENT!  (and I must say so myself, because, seriously?  who else is gonna say that for me?)  I had set out to run a quick 5K, but wound up running 5.5 effortless miles!  (I would have kept running, but I ran out of water.)

And that’s really why I fell in love with running in the first place—the excitement of learning what my body is capable of doing! 

Go take a class!  Take different types of classes, and if you can, take with different instructors.  Or watch videos or read articles online.  There are so many possibilities out there and so many people with something to share that might be your next “AH HA!” moment!  If you learn something new, I'd love to hear about it!  Let me know in the comments.   

Happy Running, Friends! 

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