An inner athlete's manifesto.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Running Legs

Schlepping through the miles on a cold, rainy day is difficult enough; it is a lot harder when your brain has completely severed itself from the act of running. My will wanted to run—my legs did not, and my mind did not want to focus on the task at hand. Halfway through my run, I lamented, “Where did my running legs go? This used to be easy.”

After a few lame walking breaks where I was feeling lazy and sorry for myself, I remembered that the only way to get my running legs back was to run. I resorted to the following tactics:

1. Stop walking, start running (again). Even if you are running slow, you are running.

2. Focus on a point in front of you and make it to that point. Then pick another point, and do the same. I freaking hate this tactic, but there is a reason why every runner’s magazine out there will give this as advice once every handful of issues—it works. At first, I was picking trees. Then I decided to go with the stoplights since they were all green in the park at the moment, and the color green gives me a “go get ‘em” type focus.

3. Think green. Thinking of the color green made me feel light, airy, and springy. Thinking of orange makes me feel fast and cheetah-like. The purple and white tulips blooming on the side of the road matched my shoes and made me feel fresh. I don’t know why color associations help for me, but they work.

4. Adjust your form. Are you running tall?

5. Pat yourself on the back for even running at all. You may not have broken a training record, but you are running, damn it. You made time out of your day for you.

6. Recall one of your favorite running moments. Mine happened a few weeks ago. It was a perfect, spring-like day (although not yet Spring, which made it all more perfect). I couldn’t have asked for a better run—I was fueled properly, and I was bounding up the hills steadily. About 45 minutes in, I remembered that my body was going to tap into its secondary energy sources and give me a boost any minute. It did. About five minutes later, I got my mental boost. A young girl was riding her bike around the park with her father. She and I were trekking up the same hill at about the same time, only she was slightly ahead. With just the peak of the hill to go, and her dad waiting up at the top, her legs slowed, and it was as if she was pedaling with bricks as feet. “Come on! You can do it!” her dad shouted. “Go get ‘em! Only a few feet more!” an onlooker said. The little girl glanced up at the miniature crowd that had formed on the grass at the side of the road in Central Park—she was a star, she realized. With a mighty effort, she stood up on her biked and pushed with all her strength up her little mountain to the cheers of her crowd. I couldn’t help but smile as I ran past.

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