Chicago, I love you!

We still need to catch up on runs/workouts (or lack thereof) from last week …

So, I’m going to put my next form focus post on hold (you can see the first post of six here) and tell you about my Chicago trip instead. I don’t really talk about my life outside of running & working out here, but I’m going to make an exception for Chicago. (I fall a little bit more in love with that city every time I visit. I only sort of appreciated it when I went to college there.)

Friday: 8-9 mile run in Chicago neighborhoods

Saturday: nothing (Does dancing at a blues bar count?)

Sunday: nothing (Does practically-competitive pancake eating count?)

Well, at least I got in a long-ish (for me) run on Friday. I started at my cousin’s apartment in Roscoe Village and headed east toward Lake Michigan, past Wrigley Field.

Wrigley Field

This picture is kind of postcard-worthy, IMHO. (Minus the truck darting in from the right.)

The weather was gorgeous. The sort of sunny, slightly breezy Chicago day that tempts me to move back. And then I remind myself of December – March days and change my mind.

I continued until I hit the lakefront, then ran south through Lincoln Park toward downtown.

Chicago

Hello, beautiful skyline. (Yep, this photo is Instagrammed.)

My Garmin was going strong for the first 4.5 miles of the run or so (I didn’t care about my speed, but did want to track my distance), and then it gave me a Low Battery message. About 3 seconds later, it shut off. (Well, my, thanks for the fair warning. Guess I know now that I need to keep it basically fully charged at all times. Low Battery means no battery.)

I forgot what a running city Chicago is. There were so many runners, bikers and roller bladers along the lake. And even a guy wearing Air Kicks Anti-Gravity Boots (I kid you not — I wish I’d gotten a picture).

runners

Running along the lake with lots of people = instant energy boost.

After I’d gone for what I thought might be around 5-6 miles, I looped back toward my cousin’s. I would’ve liked to see exactly how far I ran, but I’m guessing it was around 8-9 miles. (I cut through and did a bit of a shortcut on the way back, so I know I didn’t do another 5-6 miles after the first.) With my first half marathon in 5 years coming up in just over 3 weeks, I know I need to put more mileage in my long run this upcoming weekend. I’m slightly nervous about that.

How come I didn’t run on Saturday or Sunday? Well, I was busy hanging with these girls:

in Chicago

That’s cousin Hannah on the left and cousin Emma on the right. <3

We did some Big Time Eating and some Big Time Cocktailing. It was fun. And lazy and gluttonous and just what a vacation should be.

Here we are at Blokes & Birds:

Blokes & Birds

Bubbles and cheesy grins

And at Kingston Mines:

Kingston Mines

I never go to clubs — I was feeling faaancy. (I even wore jewelry.)

And at Walker Bros. Pancake House with Aunt Pat on Mother’s Day:

Walker Bros.

Happy to all be together — and full from our share of omelettes and pancakes.

And in Pat’s backyard:

in Pat's backyard

Emma and I look a little under-dressed compared to Hannah’s high fashion. (Show off.) (Kidding. You’re adorable.)

We took A LOT of pictures. I’ll spare you the rest.

But I will tell you that if you’re in Chicago and looking for meals that you’ll be thinking of long after you return home, you should definitely eat at Mia Francesca (sit in the little courtyard in the back) and Twist (get the goat cheese, corn cakes and chocolate pie). I’m feeling nostalgic about those meals already — and wishing I didn’t leave my prosciutto pizza leftovers in Hannah’s fridge.

Up next: back to Portland and running technique (perhaps not as fun as chocolate pie, but fairly important for the goals & races at hand).

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form focus (1 of 6)

Hello! I’m back from a trip to Chicago. It was wonderful. I love vacation.

Sigh.

Shall I catch you up on my running? (There’s been less running than I would’ve liked …)

Wednesday (of last week): 5 mile easy run

Thursday: nada (on planes all day)

(More on last week’s runs in the next post.)

On Wednesday, I did an easy run (mostly flat, some gradual downhills) with my friend, Julie, who just ran her first marathon (in Eugene). I’m kind of in awe of her performance: 3:54. Under 4 hours! Did I mention it was her first marathon? I’d like to be so lucky (and tough!) when (if?) I run my first marathon. (But let’s conquer the half first.)

Speaking of marathons and half marathons, I just finished reading Chi Marathon, which focuses on how to run with proper form to eliminate injuries — and how to relax to conserve (and smartly use) energy. The idea is that if you run properly, it’ll become effortless. I like the idea of that.

The book covers lots of other things, like sensing your body’s needs, setting goals, preparing for race day and more. But the biggest revelation for me was the section on technique.

In the next six posts, I’m going to focus on six aspects of running form, as covered in Chi Marathon. I’ll go through them very briefly and talk a bit about how they relate to my running. Of course, if they pique your interest or seem relevant to your running, you should read the book yourself. Or consult a coach or physician. I am not a doctor, trainer or nutritionist, and you shouldn’t take my word for any of this running stuff! (Have I covered my a$$ correctly with that?)

form focus: posture & alignment

This first form focus is one that seems kind of obvious at first. Duh, you should be running upright. But there is so much more to running with proper posture. So much, in fact, that it can be overwhelming to think about while running — and hard to tell if your posture is actually correct because you can’t see yourself. (Lately, I’m doing a lot of checking myself out while I’m running past big windows. And I’m trying to get in touch with my body and feel how my posture shifts as I run on flats, up hills or when I change my speed.)

According to Chi Marathon, there are two aspects of your stride that require proper posture and alignment:

  1. The support phase, when your body is supported by your feet hitting the ground
  2. And the flight phase, when you’re not in contact with the ground

Your posture is most significant when you’re in the support phase (from the time your foot hits to the time it rolls off the ground), and it’s also during this phase that the most injuries happen (especially if you’re a heel striker, which we’ll talk about in a later post). Think how many times your feet hit the ground. If your hips are misaligned, if your foot faces a funny direction, if you’re slouching, you’re putting tons of pressure on your muscles to do extra work.

Chi Running tells you to think of your body — from the very crown of your head to the bottom of your arch — as a column, and each piece needs to align with the next: align your feet with your legs (feet point straight forward, not splayed out), lengthen your spine (with knees always slightly bent), engage your core (without tensing your glutes), shoulders should be over your hips (not behind them) and, finally, your entire column should mimic a very slight C. (The C shape is kind of hard to describe without pics, but basically, you want your booty tucked in, not popped out — and no arch in your back. Also: eyes forward with no neck tension.)

Sounds easy enough, but it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. Especially if we’re sitting at a desk all day, shoulders slumped (guilty!). Or if we did gymnastics or ballet for years as a kid and learned to stand in first position hour after hour (guilty again). Or if we have a cheap ass mattress and sleep on our stomachs, contorting our necks (you get the idea).

Of course, running posture isn’t just important while you’re running. You’ve got to practice it all day long so it starts to become natural while running.

So I’m giving myself posture check-ups throughout the day and practicing the little exercises in the book. And thinking about how I need to do yoga more because it always makes me feel three inches taller afterward.

***

That’s posture in a nutshell. Stand tall, runners. And tuck that booty.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the lean (and I’ll share some pics from Chicago … get excited). Because, even though you’re standing tall and relaxed, it’s not quite how you should run. (You probably know that already, but I realized I was wasting tons of energy with my upright bunny-hopping version of running. That’s no longer happening these days.)