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Shake your booty

When I run, I’m always concerned about form … not so that I can look good or please some God of running, but so I can feel relaxed, run efficiently, and above all, avoid injury. I evaluate my form by checking my bounce, the sounds made by my footfalls, but mostly by looking for tightness, imbalance or tension in my body.* ┬áIf I didn’t do Zhan Zhuang (standing practice), I would be less equipped to notice these feelings, because with Zhan Zhuang, you basically have nothing to do except notice those feelings. Well, that’s simplistic, but you get the idea.

While running, one of my challenges is to reduce the feeling of tension I get in the back side of my body as I run. I feel pretty good when I run, but there’s a lingering effect of tightness back there which I alleviate when I stretch afterward. But why do I have to stretch this out? It’s not the running itself that’s causing the problem, it’s how I’m running, what I’m doing when I run. Either I’m off-balance fore & aft, compensating for the imbalance, or just habitually tensing things back there for some reason … maybe I do that all day.

In cases like this, usually my answer is to change the form, relax the body part, or do a combination of both. The challenge with the relaxing is to still keep doing what you’re doing, whether it’s running or just standing up. If we relax too much, we may lose connection & structure, and create too much motion, leading to a need to compensate in ways that may create more tension … or we may injure ourselves due to eccentric loading that would come from too-loose form.

Well, the other day, I noticed something while running: my butt was jiggling.

It wasn’t much, and it might not have been visible. But with each step, I felt a tiny jiggle back there. So I thought I’d pay it some attention — nothing more, no change in form, just relax enough so I could sense the vibration there.. As I did that, I was able to relax it a bit more, and a strange thing happened: I felt a tiny increase in speed. It was if I had removed a restraint of some kind. I also felt smoother, and after the run, the muscles at the top of my glutes didn’t need as much stretching.

It’s all about cues. We all can use some kind of trigger or cue to do what needs to be done. In this case, for me, it was to pay attention or be aware of the softness of a body part. Whether it was fat or relaxed muscle, I don’t know, and it’s not important right now. I’ve discovered something that I’ll look into again.

Of course, I could only sense something this small because I had spent a lot of time looking inside while doing Zhan Zhuang and slow exercises. Also, I’ve made keeping a calm mind a priority. Without that, we can’t feel inside the little places. If I were a religious man, I’d say that that’s where God is …

… in the little places.

(* The sharp-eyed reader may recall that I’ve advocated the idea of “just running” in the past, where the runner attempts to run in a natural fashion without too much intervention. However, I currently believe that in many matters, we flow between two states: a training state and an execution state. In this case, when training the correct, natural form, we study, examine and correct to create good, natural habits, but when executing, we act according to current habits but occasionally act according to nature if we learn to “get out of its way”. The whole thing is a process of discovery. I’ll clarify my position on this in a future post.)

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