July 7th was the 3rd of the trail running clinics that I offered this summerJuly 7th Clinic.  As like the first two, this one was a success on many accounts! As quoted by some of the participants

  •  “What a great opportunity to learn from the best! I learned some awesome techniques for tackling hills and technical portions of the trail”
  • It was a very relaxed and informative clinic and I took home some very useful techniques”
  • “We all agreed that the clinic was a success and that we would easily attend another one”

 Looking back at these clinics, however, I realized that it wasn’t just the participants that felt that they had gotten something out of the clinics. I, too, had benefited in more ways than one.  In addition to meeting some amazing runners who inspire and motivate me, the clinics taught me several lessons of my own.  Here are 2 examples:

Knowledge is Not Enough to Reap the Benefits!  In the last clinic, we spent time talking about the importance of strengthwork for trail runners, particularly as a way to promote better stabilization, balance and proprioception.  My, how the saying “practice what you preach” applies here!  Ever since I started running competitively around 10 years ago, my muscle imbalances/weaknesses have been my curse.  I wish I can say that I have found the magic formula or the right set of strengthening exercises to combat this, but as the photo demonstrates the breakdown of my form (see the hip drop when you enlarge the photo)-Poor Running form :-(I still have my work cut out for me!  But here’s the thing:  it is not just about finding the RIGHT exercises to do; it is equally important to practice them on a REGULAR basis.   I know the importance of doing strength work.  I know this both from personal and coaching experience. I talk about this to others, yet I fail to do it enough in my own training program.  Why?  I could come up with many reasons, such as a lack of time and forgetfulness.   But the bottom line is that I simply don’t make it enough of a priority. I know that it is important, yet I don’t rate it as high on the priority totem pole as I do for my other workouts.  And even when I do manage to throw it in 2x/week (which I must admit I have been doing a much better job this past season), I know that I am not always challenging my muscles enough.  And I know that in the long run, this is going to bite me in the butt (pun intended, as I’m constantly trying to get my wreak right glute muscles to fire!). But fortunately there is hope! And I have the participants from the July 7th clinic to thank for this.  As going thru some of the exercises together and talking about the importance of doing them has re-motivated me to get my butt in gear (pun intended again!) and to tackle my strengthening program with renewed energy!

Practicing Mindfullness

With trail running, one constantly has to react quickly to the changing terrain and obstacles. Running (or walking) down daunting hills, climbing (or crawling) up steep hills, and cautiously running over obstacles without tripping can cause uncertainty, anxiety, and even fear with runners.  To help combat such feelings and to gain new skills and confidence, one of the concepts that I teach during the clinics is to bring awareness to your surroundings and to your body and mind. The simple act of thinking about what your body is doing at that moment in time (or what your mind is thinking) is enough to cause a positive change.  For instance, I encourage runners to tell themselves to relax when running downhill.  Why?  For the simple reason that the natural tendency when running down a steep hill is to “tense up”, which then compromises your running form. Simply thinking about relaxing is enough to make your body become less tense. Sure–there are other techniques such as not leaning back and “braking”–but these techniques take practice and time to learn.  But simply asking yourself to relax and bringing awareness to both your body and mind is and can provide immediate benefits.  Try it and see for yourself.

This concept of bringing awareness to your body is linked to “mindfulness”-a term often discussed in meditation and yoga practice.  Defined as the awareness that arises when paying attention to the present moment, mindfulness creates a space or a pause in which you can anticipate and respond considerably to situations, rather than react.  Part of mindfulness is also about empowering our bodies during everyday activities.  Huh? Isn’t this what we are thriving for in trail running? To not simply react to every root or rock on the trail, or to panic when we see a steep hill?  To simply let our mind and our senses guide us.  To learn to relax and embrace what lies ahead in the trail.  Regardless of what your experience has been with yoga or meditation, mindfulness is a practice that involves a technique that all trail runners can benefit from.  I have been practicing meditation for the past year and a half, and recently I have been trying to incorporate the concept of mindfulness into my everyday life.  But I must admit-it is easier said than done, especially in chaotic moments such as when it’s the end of the day and my adorable yet tired kids are having meltdowns.  In such cases, my attempts to practice mindfulness lasts only about 10 seconds.  So not surprisingly, I was starting to get discouraged with my lack of progress in this area.  Yet it dawned on me after Sunday’s clinic that I do practice mindfulness (with much greater success!) when I am on the trails. In fact, this is part of what makes me enjoy the trails so much and allows me to run effortlessly without too much thinking.  So I guess you can say that mindfulness was staring right at me in the face yet I simply wasn’t aware of it!

So now that I am able to look back and reflect on some of my own learnings from the past clinics, I can’t help but wonder when do I offer additional clinics?  Stay tuned for more information!

Happy running!