Friday, July 9, 2010

My Latest Barefoot Mile -- Getting the Hang of It

Today was a new barefoot mile.  I feel very fortunate to have those red pavers on the boulevard to run on.  They are not hot at all, even in this heat wave we are having.

I take the heat really well.  I actually enjoy running in the heat.  Of course, I am only running a mile, but I remember the feeling from years ago.

I bet I wouldn't like to run six miles in this heat though.

My feet felt a little confident today.  They just wanted to run.  Maybe my new form is beginning to habituate.  I've been so focused on my stride that I haven't been noticing what my breathing was doing that much.  But today, since my feet were willing to just do their job with a little less mindful watching, I was able to turn my attention to my breathing a little.

When I am in better condition aerobically, my breathing gets very internal.  It seems that my diaphragm takes on a kind of rhythm and just intakes the breath quietly in this little internal place.

But I am not there yet, so I have to "train" the breathing a little bit while I'm still not in the best condition.

Many years ago, my cross country coach had advised me to breath in with two steps, then breath out with two steps.  I had used this "method" for many years. He gave me that because I had been a hysterical gasping breather.  Over the years, this little rhythmic tool -- in two -- out two -- has been a great way for me to develop my breathing.  Over the years it has refined and become less jerky, and the last time I was running, I found that little internal "takeover" thing that happened with the breathing.

But a couple of years ago, I read some article about how the -- in two -- out two -- method was not recommended anymore because of the fact that the runner always breathed in on the same step and it created some kind of running imbalance.

Well, that's just the kind of thing that will drive a technical kind of person like myself nuts.  So, what do I do now?  I tried -- in three -- out three -- but discovered that I still took the breath on the same foot, because it all came out on an even number.

So then I tried -- in two -- out three -- an odd number so my foot would be different.  I tried thinking of a word that had five syllables and then using that word for the breathing.  I came up with "Serendipity."  Breathe in on Ser -- en, and then breathe out on di -- pi -- ty.

It's amazing that you can actually "tell" your breath how you want it to act and it will conform if you practice enough.

However ...

Now that I am learning how to listen to my body, and am discovering what my bare feet tell me about running form, I've had the thought that perhaps I was imposing on and controlling too much the breath before.  As I've been working on just running safely with bare feet and getting the soft light step down, I have been letting my breath just kind of find it's way.  I don't gasp -- like I did as a beginner runner many years ago, but I automatically default to the in-two, out-two rhythm.

So today, I just brought my attention a little to the breath and was kind of wondering what to do there.  Sometimes what the body wants to do is NOT that efficient.  Sometimes the body is lazy.  So, there seems to be a balance between finding what the body prefers, what is natural in the running form, but guarding against bad habits that come from "short cuts" or "lazy paths" that the body tries to take to get out of working harder.

That reminds me. I had some breath development -- finally -- last night at Kung Fu while doing crunches. I had just read somewhere that the timing of breathing was important to a certain discipline -- oh where did I just read that -- oh, yes, it was for the sport of archery.  The breathing had to be synchronized with the drawing and releasing of the bow in a certain way.  And I just read it in that book I've mentioned here that I'm reading The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life.

Well, after having pretty much just read that concept, I was doing crunches last night at Kung Fu, and blowing out on each crunch -- like I had been told to -- and I began to think of how natural it would be to not draw in air between each crunch, but to just let the air come in on its own before the next contraction.  And then -- woo wee! -- I got it!  The manipulated crunch breathing that I'd been doing for 3 years finally ceased and a more natural and unified breathing took over.  I didn't have to think about it, it finally wed itself to the movement of the crunches.

Well, I am hoping that I will be able to find a better more integrated breathing action to my barefoot running.

Anybody out there know anything about it?

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