I love trail running and where I live, there are some amazing trails within just an hour drive. There’s something always exciting about trail running because it brings out the wild side within all of us. The trees, roots, stones, wildlife around you, birds chirping, ups and downs – it’s the most exhilarating experience when you summit a hill, fully winded just to find that you are surrounded by a cathedral of redwoods. City running? Nah, not quite the same adventure, you would think. Just a boring run with your iPod, eyes closed to just get it over with. But, what if you could make every run around your neighborhood a new adventure, every time?
Adventure Deficit Disorder
I first read about this phrase in Timothy Ferriss‘ book, though he used it in a very different context. When applied to running though, Adventure Deficit Disorder is a real problem, but with a simple cure. When I watch my kids move from point A to point B, it’s never in a straight line. They always seem to be pulling off parkour moves and having fun moving their bodies, hopping, skipping and jumping. The human body is an amazing feat of engineering, but the brain is designed to optimize around repetitive tasks and shape your body to do those really well. Hence the phrase muscle-memory. As you get older, your body, accustomed to certain range of motion will refuse to try out things in a new way.
Mixing it Up
What I learned during the first few months of running is to, slowly but surely, expose your legs and feet to a diverse range of terrain. If you run the same route every day (like the sidewalk around your house), then your body quickly learns to running that route well. In fact, too well. When you move to a new terrain, your body acts as if it’s starting new resulting in aches and pains.
If I ran on the sidewalk one day, I’ll run on the tracks the next day and maybe on grass the day after. Even if I am doing laps around the track, I’ll run a few laps clockwise and then a few more counterclockwise. These nuances are not that important when you are a kid, because your muscles are still supple and all the playing and doing things at top speed fire up a diverse range of muscles. Not so for a 40-year old atrophied body that’s completely forgotten how to run.
Curb jumping and balancing over parking curbs while running are more fun ways to confuse your body and make it learn to adapt to new environments. Even when I am running on pavement and I happen to come across a grass mound, I would jump at the opportunity for a little detour. A little patch of gravel next to the sidewalk? It’s got my name written on it! These little tricks brought out the kid in me and were perfect ways of remembering how I used to feel running, jumping and climbing when I was much younger. Besides, mixing it up breaks the monotony of city running and makes every run a trail run. So next time you see a sprinkler spraying water on the sidewalk? Run right through it with a smile on your face. 🙂
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