When I started running, I found my legs in pain a lot. I tended to take time off from running when this happened, usually planning to just take the next day or two easy before hitting the street again. But then the downtime inspired only more downtime and suddenly I’d find myself couchridden rewatching Friends or something.
These false starts were commonplace for a long time. I’d give it my best effort, get hurt, quit. Repeat ad nauseum.
But other people ran every day. I saw them pounding their way down the sidewalk, looking trim and listening to music. There was always something so inspiring about it. Maybe it was simply the fact that I felt like I couldn’t do it, so when I saw others succeeding where I failed, I just wanted to say, hey, good job. Keep doing what you’re doing.
So I started to watch runners, and see what they were doing differently. I discovered that my error was in the mechanics.
There have been a ton of studies about how modern shoes have changed the human gait and taken us away from our ancestral roots where evolution had given us large butts so we could run long distances without tiring. We also aren’t supposed to land on our heels, because the shock is absorbed up through the entire leg and up into the hip. That’s bad, by the way.
Then there’s the leg’s construction. We’ve got joints at ankle, knee, and hip. So I figured, naturally, we were supposed to take advantage of all parts of the leg, right? So I’d super-power my stride by pushing off with the ball of my foot and flexing my ankle. Guess what? All these reasons are why I was constantly getting injured.
Before all the science, though, I figured this out by watching people, and I noticed a difference between those who ran every day, and those who only ran every now and them. A lot of people seemed to be running the way I had tried for so long. The better long-distance runners and the everyday runners, however, ran from the hip. And by that, I mean they appeared to only engage their hips, and let the knees and ankles do what comes naturally to them.
And yeah, I had to stare at a lot of butts to figure this out. But it was in the name of SCIENCE!
So what’s the point of this?
Well, first, I just wanted to share some useful knowledge for anyone like me who’s having trouble getting into running without injuring themselves. But there’s a greater, more universal lesson in this as well.
We’re able to learn and adapt when things don’t work for us. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a writer, for instance, odds are you’ve tried writing a short story or two, maybe even started a novel.
You may have read it and loved it and shared it with people and found that some people thought it was stupid, though most people were probably kind because they weren’t sure how to break the bad news to you. But it’s the first group that sticks with you the longest. You probably put it in a drawer. Later, you might have read it back and started to hate it. You decided to never write again.
You just don’t have what it takes, you tell yourself. You’ll never be a writer. This was just a test to see if you could do it. Well, you can’t.
But maybe you’ve just got the wrong idea about writing and you don’t have the chops for it now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop those skills. You can learn. There are tons of books about writing. I can guide you to some of them.
Writing, like running, or any other hobby for that matter, might come more naturally to others than it does to you. So maybe you aren’t ready to go run a marathon or write a novel, but nothing’s stopping you from reading and learning and practicing. Studying how other writers do this or that, like describing people or detailing the movements of a fight scene. Nothing and no one is stopping you from trying.
I gave up until I stopped giving up. Now I run almost every day and I love it. And I’m only getting better at it. I’m not a pro by any stretch, but I can continue to learn and get stronger. I might not be ready to run a nonstop 10K yet, but sometimes that’s the key: “yet.”