One year ago last weekend, I faced my first 5k run.
5k runs had popped up on CrossFit.com before, of course, but I'd always found an excuse to skip. The lizard brain was in full effect: I was still considering more Powerlifting meets, and was scared to drop weight. Realistically, I was just scared to fail, even if failure would be private. I would know.
I had the accoutrements of a runner: Christmas gifts from my sister (a real runner,) or little things I'd picked up along the way, to be ready for the "someday" when I'd finally do a 5k run. I had no idea what to expect, but I tentatively set a goal of 30 minutes to finish. I Google-mapped out different 5k options. I timed my meals all day (on a Sunday!,) checked with my wife a hundred times (are you sure you don't need me to re-hinge the cupboards today? Re-gravel the driveway? Check the shingles?) and finally set out. I told myself to go slow. At the turnaround, I knew I'd finish: I had to get home, after all. I walked a lot of the way back (there's a massive hill, about a mile long, at a grade of 6-12 degrees.) But I finished, just over 30 minutes. I was happy. And sore.
Training for last year's Ontario CrossFit Challenge, I was running 400m and 800m pretty regularly. I wasn't a better runner: I was still very up-and-down, with a long stride and a huge shock to absorb on every step. I'd finish runs exhausted, but just try to gut-out the lifts anyway. But when my quads started seizing during training runs, I started to worry: my legs would go numb, and the VMO (largest quadriceps muscle) would fire uncontrollably, as if it were attached to a car battery. I couldn't get my thighs to shut off. I DNF two workouts that I should have dominated.
Despite my years of training and coaching and study, I had missed something very simple: running is a skill. Like cleans and jerks and deadlifts and pullups. Technique matters.
After the Ontario CrossFit Challenge, I booked some private personal training sessions with Mike. His words: "You run like a hockey player." I was leaning back, with a heel strike way in front of my torso. He videotaped my runs and showed me; I was shocked. We practiced the POSE method three times, on the hot asphalt of the Industrial Park. First, I could hold my position for about four or five strides; then for a hundred metres; and slowly, over an entire 400m sprint. In July, I ran sub-25:00 at midnight, carrying a beer in my gut. I didn't win, not by a long shot (Beharriell shot by me around the 2k mark – he was already on his way back!) but it was a PR, and I knew I was onto something. My 800m times went from 3:45 to 2:55. My 400m times, even in the middle of a tough WOD, still dropped to 1:20s.
How many runners, I wonder, run for 20 years without a coach? How many read about running, follow the sport, watch the Boston Marathon…and never have their stride assessed? How many New Year's Resolutions die on the cold pavement on January 3rd out of pain and frustration?
Beginner's running groups in the Sault have always served a very important function: develop a running habit. Cough up some running germs, and let the running itch slowly kindle. Hope that the passion of the coach is infectious (and usually, at least a few would become runners for life.) But others became immunized: they'd tried it, found it painful, and given up forever. If your only exposure to something is painful and frustrating, after all, why would you continue?
It's now very obvious to us that technique coaching is critical for beginners. If we can make running easier, 'softer,' virtually pain-free……and you can get better, faster……you're more likely to continue forever. Maybe…you'll like running? It's not too much to ask.
We all need coaches. The more elite the athlete, the more it's expected they have a coach. But it's absolutely critical to use a coach when you're a beginner (or a second-time starter.) Let's do this right.
We've been hosting "Mondays With Mike" – part one and part two have already been published – to help folks learn to run better. Now he's making himself even more available to help: we'll be starting a morning group for beginners AND an evening group for beginners on March 9. You can sign up below. It's definitely the best running experience we've ever offered:
On-the-fly running coaching (he's out there with you!)
Whiteboard instruction pre- and post-run
Group runs (critical to building a habit)
8-week running program
When you're done, you'll run 5k. You'll love it.
7am Group – readers of this blog: sign up online before March 1 and get 10% off!
7pm Group – readers of this blog: sign up online before March 1 and get 10% off!