Form = Everything

If you know me at all, or have been reading this blog for a little while, you know I’m obsessed with form. OBSESSED. I can’t help it. It was burned into my brain from a very young age to be militant about my form when I exercise.

Awesome form on the monkey bars. Clearly, I was meant to be a gymnast. *snort*

Awesome form on the monkey bars. Clearly, I was meant to be a gymnast. *snort*

But my form was never, ever, ever very good when I ran. Like, ever. I slouched and hung my head back for the longest time. Not sure how coaches let me run with crappy form (probably cuz I wasn’t exactly a promising athlete…), but there we are.

And it was ugly.Β And not helpful.

You know what changed that? Moving to New York and seeing the pros run.

Keflezighi_MebM-NYC09.JPG-280x421

Meb is one of those runners that just looks strong when he runs.
(Image courtesy of running.competitor.com)

Here in NYC, we see the pros and semi-pros training in Central Park pretty regularly. I’ve shouted out to Meb, Desi, and Kara (all very graciously acknowledged my embarrassing fan-girling) and marveled at how effortless they looked.

Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings, Desiree Davila

No one in this group is slouching, so I shouldn’t either.
(Image courtesy of http://www.brushnewstribune.com/ci_19742283)

Ok, so Kara kinda hangs her head back. Clearly, we are kindred spirits. But other than that, these athletes work hard on their form, knowing that in order to engage the strongest muscles in the best way, they must too be militant about their form.

So how did looking at pictures of other runners and watching the pros pass me like I was standing still help my form?

Confession: I envision myself running like them when I’m out for a run. Boobs up, belly in, legs long, arms pumping.

look-like-when-im-runningI may look more like the latter picture vs. the former, but my form has actually improved by leaps and bounds.

So tall at the end of the half! This was NOT me a decade ago...and even sometimes now.

So tall at the end of the half! This was NOT me a decade ago…and even sometimes now.

Yes, I strength train. Yes, I pay attention to my posture on the treadmill. But most of all, I picture myself running like Meb and Kara and Shalane. I’m not always successful…

Thumbs up at mile 20...but looking a little slouchy.

Thumbs up at mile 20…but looking a little slouchy.

Anyway, sometimes it’s not about strengthening and obsessing. Sometimes it’s about just standing up straight. And sometimes it’s about finding out just what the heck your form looks like, which is why you get an evaluation at Finish Line Physical Therapy.

And the winners of Peak Performance Analysis are…

Who wants to be a winner?

Who wants to be a winner?

EVERYONE!

Seriously. EVERY SINGLE PERSON who commented on the post will receive an email from me today so I can get your addresses and send you the cards so you can visit the fine people at Finish Line.

Thank you to the fine folks at Finish Line for your generosity!

Now go out and run (tall).

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5 thoughts on “Form = Everything

  1. Nice post as usual Abby! I run with my arms to high, my stride too long and definitely slouchy from time to time :-) Ready for a formal eval!

  2. Thanks for this reminder! I was at my local indoor track last night just focusing on my form. I find that running with a smile from beginning to end helps keep my posture in check :)

  3. I love the photos!

    But, back to form and “Born to run…” Christopher McDougall says that most modern running injures are due to Nike’s invention of the running shoe in the 60s… that basically forces you to run “heel to toe”, which has you running as would a sprinter with the foot shooting out infront of you… The Tarahumaras run in home-made sandals and with the feet stepping directly below the line of the body (straight up) pushing backward… (or pushing you forward)… After injuring my right ankle on the outside, I naturally changed my stride and, while reading “Born to run”, I realized that I was running somewhat like McDougall mentions… Sunday and today I found myself saying to myself, “Hills are not obstacles” as I ran into the hill with the same stride I had running a flat… And I found that there wasn’t any change in energy expenditure or respiration… In fact, I find myself running my 10ks faster than when I was running heel to toe, but with much less fatigue… Not lifting up the feet so much and shooting it forward with that beautiful open stride (like running like a gazelle; what a dream!), but almost like (I’ve forgotten much of the way I spoke in English, totally immersed in Spanish here)… sliding? Slipping? No… The stride is much more closed, yet leading to an equally fast run, if not faster, while burning much less energy. Granted, this is new to me, and I’ve found soreness in different muscles… The lower front of the thighs and none in the calves… Maybe it is age… Maybe at a greater age (45-years-old) one loses the leisure of not worrying about energy conservation or efficiency… or the risk of injury is too high… Who knows? But, 23 years ago, running in the Pioneer Valley in Amherst Mass, I wasn’t running 6.2 miles per day. Granted, I was running much more intensely, using all the energy I could find in my muscles. But, maybe I would have gotten much further and not injured myself if I ran more efficiently… Sometimes running without over-pushing allows us to run further… I believed greatly in running through the pain and “no pain, no gain”… Believing that in aspects, pain is just an illusion, often psychological and that we should push ourselves through it and relish in the endorphins and success when we have finished after pushing ourselves through the obstacle. When I approached a hill, I “put my head into it”… and increased my intensity. Hills were opportunities (I think of that wonderful hill on the backside of Prospect Park leading up to Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum of Art) for increasing speed… But, I believe those same hills were what led to my injured Ileal-Tibial band… I loved the sweat. Today, I sweat so much less… no drenched shirts… But, I may run much much more than I ran in college and in Brooklyn.

    If you haven’t read “Born to Run”, I think you will find it very interesting, if not inspirational… He focuses on both incredible female and male ultramarathonists. I would be interested in your take on his words. Afterall, I am just a fledgeling runner and you have so much more experience. As I said earlier, I had so few conversations with my uncle about running; I just remember him trying to get me to run with him in the Green Mountains of Vermont when I was pretty small and asthmatic and him telling me to lift up my feet. Years later, when I was running in Amherst, I would run lifting my knees pretty high… thinking that that was what he was suggesting. One Thansgiving on Riverside Drive and 103rd street, I addressed his “suggestion” asking if he raises his feet so much when running and he said, “No. No. No. The less you must lift you feet above the ground, the better. The idea is minimal energy expenditure… Don’t worry about speed. Speed comes with time… and the distance increases gradually.” Being very culturally active, athletic and a NYC internist, medical director with West Care and Medical teacher at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (his practice was on West 66st, between Jiuliard [forgive the spelling] and Central Park, behind Trump Tower) and having children late into his and his wife’s careers, he had very little time for good conversations. So, I can’t say I learned much from him, other than he was my greatest mentor or role model… Retrospect is always full of disappointmenst or regrets about what time may have been dispillfered or wasted or what could have been asked or said… We don’t have that. We only have what we have, which is why it is so important for me to try and get it right this time around. And maybe there are still nice surprises at the age of 45 and beyond. My uncle Henry was 56-years-old when he was hit by the tow truck, he had run 29 consecutive New York Marathons… I’ve outlived my father by 11 years now. The J-Pouch surgery was part of what I mentioned about destine or spiritual route and what supposedly marked the difference between dying at his dying age and living 11 more years. The irony is that the year he became ill, was the year I became ill and was inspired to see doctors. Although I had always been extremely fatalistic believing that “God gave me this gene because I wasn’t meant to continue on…” He was a doctor (opthalmologist) who inspired my Uncle Henry to go to Med. School and who wanted to save my grandfather (his father-in-law) from the Mafia, teaching him to grind lenses. But, after the first year of his practice, he suddenly got ill with Cancer of the Colon that rapidly metasticized to his liver and died in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on York Avenue on New Years Eve 1973…

    I had my J-Pouch surgery on Halloween 2001 and was so lucid that evening that I saw the Yankees beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the World Series, before being trounced…

    The thing is that you never know… There are a lot of strange connections, strange numbers (as in numerology). The woman who inspired me to see doctors was the last girlfriend I would have in New York City and who was born exactly 7 years, 7 days, 7 minutes after I was born… The Puerto Rican Mystic and Healer (Estrella) on 5th Ave in Park Slope I was refered to by a Dominican coworker at the Salvation Army Foster Care Services on West 14th years early told me 4 months before strangely leaving for Mexico that the numbers are very powerful; 3 7s… However, said that I should forget about Joey since it was “water under the bridge” and that I would meet my last girlfriend when I left NYC and/or the U.S. when I got where I was going. Before leaving my friend Michael’s apartment in Alphabet City for the Port Authority and my Greyhound to the border January 28th, 2003, Michael’s wife gave me a necklace with a fish carved out of stone from Peruvian indians they had met in Peru and were helping sell their handmade crafts on St. Marks Place. I said, “why the fish? I don’t have an Pisces in me”… And then I met Margarita 3 weeks later and realized that it was the connection between Michael, M’nique, Margarita and I. Margarita was born on March 7th, or 3-7 and we have always run together… In fact, in the time we’ve been together, I haven’t spent 24 hours apart…When Mexican immigration told me to leave the country for renewing my 6 month tourist visa, although the had given me permission to marry Margarita a month earlier, instead of going to the U.S. without Margarita, we went to Guatamala together. We created our businesses together, work together, cook together… The only thing she doesn’t do is paint with me and read what I read in English… Almost all of the books I’ve bought over the past almost 12 years are in Spanish. Science, Medicine and Nutrition (especially if it is progressive or contraversial) are not translated into Spanish. “Born to Run…” fortunately is in Spanish… I found it in a used bookstore and Margarita read it before I had… I was reading Gary Taubes “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and she was saying that I must read it “Born to Run” when she finished… Now, I’m suggesting that you read it if you haven’t yet.

    Ross

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