Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Right Feels Wrong // On Running Drills and Life

Photo Credit: Jordan Weeks

"Doing things the right way may feel wrong at first…Change feels awkward. You get so used to the wrong way that you resist the right way.” – Brian Clay, 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Decathlete

Wow, that’s the truth. 

I’m glad I read that a couple weeks ago when I decided to retrain my foot strike while running. It hasn’t been easy.

For years I’ve been a heel-striker, landing first on my heel, rolling forward on my foot, pushing off of the ball of my foot. I never thought twice about it. I knew I overpronated and I was concerned about that. Especially last year when I ended up with a form of runner’s knee. 

In recent months, I started to work back into running and thought I should invest in a new pair of shoes. The ones I had were getting old and I wondered if they contributed to my problem. In my research for new ones, I happened upon information about foot strike and different theories regarding protection from injury.

If you’ve seen those funny toe shoes, then you are probably aware of the rise of barefoot running. With it are a slew of theories about the benefits of fore- or mid-foot striking versus heel-striking. Landing with a fore- or mid-foot strike requires action in the legs that absorbs more of the shock through a spring-like action. It is supposedly a more efficient way to run (uses less overall body energy) and it is safer for the joints.

Because I am always aware of the impact on my joints when I run, and given my past injury, I decided to retrain myself so I can run “safe”.  I got new shoes, learned I do not overpronate anymore (Praise God!) and am now in the midst of training.

And my body does not like it.

I knew it would be a process to allow my legs, joints and muscles, to recondition to the new movement. So I found some running drills online that help me break down the running motion into smaller bits (plyometrics). Each drill teaches a different part of the body to respond the way it should when I run. How to land, how to lift off and how to swing my arms. My muscles ache. In places I've never felt it before.

It all feels wrong. But I know it is right. 

And I am glad I am breaking it down and working at it, so I don’t injure myself from overzealousness (or ignorance). Training is important. It is necessary to doing things right and establishing lasting habits. It is certainly not easy.

And wow, so much like life. Almost everything we do is a series of habits. And because it comes naturally, and we are comfortable with it, it all feels right. 

But it might be wrong.

Then when we try to relearn something to develop a new habit that is right – everything in us fights it. It is not natural, it is not comfortable.

Just like every time God wants to teach me something new, or weed out something old. It doesn’t feel right. But it very much is.

So I know I have to take it a step at a time. Retrain. Break it down. Little by little, with perseverance, patience, and faith in the process (and the One overseeing it). Soon it won’t feel wrong anymore. Soon it will feel right…but much more like perfect.

And that is what I am believing as I run, for now, just a mile at a time. Drills every day. Patiently teaching my body to move in the way that is right…until it is perfect.