Cleansing Discomfort

As a final blog post before the Moroccan bonanza that will ensure after wifey and I return from our travels, I wanted to address a favorite of mine.

The title of this is something that Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek said about running.

“Running is not easy and it’s challenging. It’s the kind of good discomfort that cleanses us.”

-Scott Jurek

I chose this because it is how I find running. It’s never been an easy task and every time I step out to do my next run, I have to mentally prepare and remind myself that, ultimately, the running will be a positive in my life even if I am not comfortable during. This may be a bit to much extrapolation, but society today has lost the idea that any discomfort is a positive and tries to kill any instance. I believe that if people would get out and run more, they may start changing their minds, but that’s just me.

What I’d like to address are a few things I carry in my pocket while on a run in terms of form. When I did track, they were keys that I took as a sprinter and I have found them immensely useful during my long distance days. I’ll break it down by topic and give a brief overview of each.

Hands: An easy place to lose your energy. The higher you hold your wrists, the more energy you’re diverting from your legs and diaphragm. Loose wrists will give you a visual reminder to relax on the run and will keep you from burning energy up needed elsewhere. Another good visual heads up 

Arms: Surprisingly, arms can give a lot of propulsion. If you keep them at the rigt angle, you can power your run and make use of your energy more effectively. Too high, and you are burning your energy up and not getting the propulsion since you are using your elbows to drive. Too low and you have increased resistance and are carrying dead weight. The ideal is 45 degrees, give or take a few.

Breath: The most important topic – fueling your muscles. I was always taught in through the nose, out through the mouth, but from new reading suggests all mouth breathing is the way to go. Makes sense to get the most O2 in and CO2 out. But the big key is the diaphragm. That technique will maxiMize what you take in and have more oxygen to the deeper muscles when you need them.

Legs: Not as worrisome on flats and downhill, but the best thing you can do for hills. I try and remember all my high knee exercises from track while driving up hills. Higher knees give the most power to get to the top, then you can rest on the downslope. 

Foot: An area of controversy since the popularization of barefoot running. I am an avid believer of the midsole/toe-strike as it builds the calf muscle for added propulsion and keeps me in a stance where I can turn on a higher gear at the end of a run. I also enjoy the imagery of an arch, similar to the foot’s: if the load goes on the sides, the force can’t be distributed, leaving the force to be taken soley on one side (in the foot’s case, on the heel and straight up to your knees). If you best the load on the center of the arch, the legs can distribute the force and make impact much easier. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Head: going along with the theme of the title, running gives us the all important lesson of mind over matter. If you can master your drive and self-control to keep running even when you have nothing left, there’s not much you can’t master. Something that today’s generation seems to have misplaced, but that’s a separate topic.

Hopefully these areas will help your runs a bit and give you a little inspiration to get out and move. If that’s not enough, and your a fan of your technology as I am, I have also done a brief review of a few apps that I’ve used and what my current choice is:

Nike+: 

Nike has done a great job of being the first and foremost in the running app genre. Being my first running app, I have a special place for it and it has most of my running history. I find the design nice as well.



What takes the cake for this app is the free coaching programs available. They have great feedback and programs for training, beginner to expert. In fact, they’re marathon program is what got me into long distance.







 





I do like most things with this app and they have the added benefit of their partnership with Apple which will be exciting with the release and subsequent updates of their watch. The only downfall I had with Nike+ was the creation of Fuel points. It got a bit much and took away from the simplicity of running data for me. On the contrary, I think it’s a great tool for new runners to give them more social motivation and a fun way to keep track.

MapMyRun: 

MapMyRun was my second and most used running app. They have wonderful integration with a ton of other data for the health nuts, and for me, they were the first to master pre-planning your running route. This feature saved me when I visited/moved to new locations.







The feed is great and has the advantage over Nike by displaying a mini-map of the route you took in your feed.



The integration with partner app, MyFitnessPal was something I found invaluable when tracking my nutrition and caloric intake. After a month or so it became a bit to involved for me, and I left it behind and tried on my baseline data.









With all the pros, MapMyRun was replaced for me due to one thing: simplicity. This app is stupendous for people who do a lot of different activities and want to track everything in one place, but for the enthusiast, it may become a bit cumbersome. There’s also quite a few extra features, but they come with subscription fees, so I’ve steered clear.

 
Strava: 

This leads me to Strava, my current favorite. Their focused approach to running and cycling (particularly helpful as I get on the bike) is a pleasure when that’s the only data I want.





Two of the standouts for me in the app: (1) separation of activity data and (2) tracking of similar running routes.
Keeping the cycling and running separate allows me to record easily and see performance by activity and changing the activity is quick with the icon at the top left.





Being able to run the same route and have my progress mapped is an excellent training tool and makes running the same scenery a bit more exciting.















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