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Running Lessons, Part 1

I am running a 5k at least three evenings a week. It’s challenging my body tremendously, but I am sticking with it because it feels so good afterwards and even during, once I get going. The only social media I am using is Strava, logging my runs and sharing them most nights. The only people I interact with there are an old childhood friend who used to be the fastest running in class year after year, and a conservative but genuinely nice guy I used to work with.

Starting the run is the most painful part, and a lot of that is because I don’t warm up before I get going, I just start running once I hit the trail. At the very least, it takes me about half a mile of running before my lungs adapt to the rhythm and blood starts flowing around my body.

Each time I run, I learn more about my body and how to better run and how to best use the design of my anatomy in order to make running the most fun and to make me the fastest I can be. Running has been a rhythmic, breathing meditation that continues to offer me deeper understanding of my apparatus and how to use it properly.

Today, I saw how I continue to hold tension in parts of my body while I run. I wonder why I do that? My discovery is that tensing up while I run limits the full range of motion of each of my body parts, and the reason I want to limit my range of motion is because in order to let each body part actually move properly and freely requires more strength and more oxygen than limiting the motion. Here’s an example of what I mean: if I let my chest and belly, which is quite big right now, heave freely and rhythmically as I run, my body needs more controlled muscle activation and flexibility to go with that movement as I try to move my body forward. It’s easier to tighten up my chest and abs a little to dampen my belly’s movement, and the trade-off is that I become tense in parts of my body, losing some blood flow.

Tension limits blood flow to that region, and without blood flow, pain and disease happen in those parts. Learning to relax while running is an ever-expanding quest. With each run, my awareness moves deeper into my anatomy and the mechanics of my own movement. I recognize other parts where I unconsciously hold tension, and as I release the tension in those parts, my body moves more and more elegantly, each step of my run more like each step in a subtly funky high-energy forward-moving dance. My ass cheeks each move a little more out, and then a little more in, my balls sway a little more smoothly, and I feel a little like how a gazelle might feel in full sprint. My ankles get smart and start working with me. I start to feel exactly where on each foot I land with each step: inside of foot or outside? Heel or toe? Very minimal psychology getting the way of fully devoting my energy to moving as quickly, efficiently, and elegantly as I have ever been able to, just a deepening commitment to my knowledge of my physical self.

— Do you have body parts that are perpetually tense? You certainly do and don’t realize it. I had my third ever massage this week and it taught me a lot about where I hold tension in my body. Since beginning to better understand my own anatomy from my self-massages, I have been able to accelerate my own healing. But there are some parts of your body that only someone else can really help with, and so I guess that is a skill that my future wife is going to have to practice.