Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to learn to run differently, in the hopes of finding a solution to my shin splints.
On the recommendation of my physio, I’ve been trying to up my cadence – the number of steps I take per minute – from a lowly 150 to a ( unachievable) 180. In addition, I’m trying to relax my calves as I run.
Both these things take a huge amount of mental effort; I run along, listening to a metronome trying to keep my feet in time. If I think about anything else, even for a second, I lose the rhythm. This makes the calf-relaxing pretty difficult, because when I move my attention away from my cadence to try and work out what my calves are doing, I inevitably lose the cadence.
Normally when I run, I stick some music on, start running and just let my mind wander. I find it massively therapeutic – I tend to find myself quietly processing things that have happened that day, or semi-subconsciously working through little problems. I barely give the running itself a thought, unless I’m going up a hill, or getting to the end and feeling tired.
I’m finding it so hard to actually focus on the running itself, and what my body is doing. It reminds me of when I try to meditate – matter how much I try to keep my mind on my breathing, other thoughts creep in. What you’re supposed to do is gently push the thought aside, but with meditation and this new kind of running, I tend to get frustrated with myself, which is in turn another thought, and another distraction.
I’m going to stick with it. I’ve heard people describe training the mind to focus as being like training a puppy, and that’s exactly how I feel. My brain is constantly sniffing after anything that looks interesting, examining it for a few minutes, then moving on – I need to teach it to focus on one thing for extended periods of time if I’m going to fix my running, and I think it’ll probably stand me in good stead in other areas too.
The plan is to run short distances three times a week, working on my form and stopping if I get any pain. I’m really looking forward to the stage where this new technique starts to become natural, and I can back to running as therapy.