Posted by: cctracker | June 27, 2012

New Emphasis on Running Style to Limit Injuries – NYTimes.com

It’s gratifying to see some simple, but effective principles on distance running getting treatment in the press these days, especially in articles like this one in the Times. I read Chi Running years ago and was fired up about it at the time. I brought several of the routines from the book into drills for my Cross Country team. But it didn’t really change my own running very much. That didn’t happen until a dramatic narrative form of the same lessons in Born to Run brought the material home to me. That got me thinking about what it takes to change and to help others change. Which is another way of saying it got me thinking about what it takes to do good teaching/coaching.

These “new” ideas on running have helped me a great deal, but they’re really very simple: forefoot strike, engaged core, tall posture. I wrote about them in an earlier entry.  I think I’ve known, taught and practiced them to some degree for a long time. But I don’t think I really “got it” and implemented the knowledge until recently.

What is as interesting to me as the techniques themselves–the “content” of the lesson if you will–is the pedagogy: the challenge of how to help others actually adopt new concepts and practices. It’s counter-intuitive. This is such simple stuff that we ought to be able to read it, get it and apply it. In practice it doesn’t work that way.

Take these new running techniques, the “barefoot craze” stuff.  People hear the key points and they think they get it. They go out to try it and get hurt. Or they get discouraged by how hard it is to tell if they are doing it right.  Or by how hard they still have to work even when they do get it right.

They need a coach not only to teach the material and check to see if they get it right, but just as much to help them find their place in the story of where they are going and why. They need a teacher to provide the external motivation until the deeper, habitual practice and internal motivation are fixed in place. They need someone to shore up their confidence– their faith–they can get there.

In my case, the sheer repetition of the lesson from many sources down through they years, beginning with my own high school coach 40 years ago and ending with Chris Mc Dougal’s powerful story of the world’s greatest distance runners was finally enough to get me there. Thankfully, there are many lessons beyond how to run that have come along with that one. Here’s hoping there are still coaches and teachers out there for me to help me with the next lessons I can’t afford to wait so long to learn.


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