“Run!” Says Erwan Le Core, founder of MovNat, “If there is one natural movement you should master. Only one! Then learn how to run! That is the most important movement to learn.”
Great! Why did the one thing I must learn have to be the one thing I really suck at?
I’m no runner. As an athlete with 20-something years dedicated to the sport of gymnastics, I developed a reasonable anaerobic body with an intimate understanding of swing and rhythm. But in all of my years as a gymnast I developed absolutely no aerobic capacity.
Consequently, running, running fast and running long distances are considerable challenges for me.
It’s not only a challenge. I loathe it. For me running is a like an ostrich trying to ride a bike. Doesn’t look right. Doesn’t work. Never happens.
I mean running hurts.
Hurts my lungs. My ankles, calves and lower back. And it’s so easy to stop! At least when you ride a bicycle you can stop peddling and still get somewhere. Not so with running. When you stop your legs you stop.
But there may be an upside. We are ‘born to run’ says Christopher McDougall.
“Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain … If you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.”
Okay. So maybe there is hope.
In preparing to work on my running I learned that there is a lot more to running than just effort and pounding the pavement. In fact, running well is a sublimely refined skill and if pounding pavement is your approach to running then you’re highly likely to develop an injury. And quickly.
To achieve MovNat Cert III I need to develop a specific technique: a forefoot running style with a sole tough enough to run barefoot, ie., no shoes. I also need to run fast and cover a reasonable distance 6-8kms. Which means I’ll need to do something else very important, learn how and what to eat.
“Humans are superb endurance athletes who’ve roamed farther across this planet than any other species, and we didn’t do it on Gatorade and bagels. We did it by relying on a much richer and cleaner burning fuel: our own body fat.”
So I have at least three goals here:
- Develop my running technique
- Develop my cardio vascular capacity
- Follow a particular food plan
Luckily there is a starting point I can focus on that allows me to focus on all of these things at the same time: food!
I first read about Dr. Phil Maffetone and the Maffetone Method in Christopher McDoungalls, Born To Run. Buy the book. Read it. It will change your life! (I include links to all the resources I use below).
There is a simple proposition to the Dr’s method:
‘The point of your training isn’t to see how fast you can get your feet to move,” Phil said. “The point is to get your body to change the way it gets energy. You want it to burn more fat and less sugar.” And “[t]o use fat as fuel, you need to do only two things: cut out sugar and lower your heart rate.’
So for two weeks I’ve stripped almost all carbohydrates (sugar in disguise) and sugar from my diet and I’ve started running (mindfully).
Which turns out to be not very far or fast!
Maffetone proposes a fairly crude equation to determine your exercise/running heart rate: subtract your age from 180 and answer a few questions that either lift or lower your exercise heart rate.
I’m 47 and ended with a starting heart rate of 136BPM.
136BPM! If you try this method you’ll quickly learn that Dr Phil’s running workouts are a process of walk, then run and then walk some more. Whenever the heart rate monitor exceeds 136BPM I have to walk until it drops under the magic number.
So running starts slowly. Which is really handy because it allows me to concentrate on my running technique. My motto:
“Slow is smooth and smooth can be fast.”
FIRST EFFORT: DAY 1, RUN 1!
I’ve chosen a 3km course so I can easily monitor my progress. Thankfully, it’s once around the block.
There are two inclines along the course but mostly it’s flat. The verge of the road is a combination of gravel, woodchips, grass and sand.
The red shadow indicates when my heart rate went beyond the 136BPM, which meant I had to walk. 3kms, 11 stops, 20mins55sec, Avg. Pace: 6’57″/km. Gawd!
Dr Maf hinted that this would happen, but feeling it for myself is an altogether different feeling.
Depressing and frustrating. And I”m really hoping that progress will be swift and noticeable. Otherwise I’m going to run out of time following this process.
FOOD: I’m two days into the Maff Two Week Test / food plan and it is reminiscent of a ketogenic food plan.
*If anyone wants my food plan I’m happy to share. Send me an email and I’ll send it as a PDF.
So that is my starting baseline for running. Um, pathetic really! But, it’s my start and I must start where I am. As I write this BLOG now I’m nearing the end of the first week. I’ve come through the worst of the Maff-detox and there appears to be a sliver lining to the combo of Maff + 180 Formula Running Technique.
Maybe, just maybe, the risk I’m taking with my time on this method will pay off.
- Born To Run, (a motivational read for non-runners!)
- The Practice of Natural Movement, Erwan Le Corre (my current bible!)
- Barefoot Running: How to run light and free, Michael Sandler
- Barefoot Running Step by Step, by Roy Wallack and Ken Bob Saxton
- The Barefoot Running Book: the art and science of barefoot and minimalist shoe, Jason Robillard
- The Art of Running Faster, Julian Goater
- Daniel’s Running Formula, Jack Daniels
- Whole Body Barefoot: transitioning to minimal footware, Katy Bowman
Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!
Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”