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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mark Rucker on Getting Fit: ‘Natural’ running is quite natural, could make running fun again

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a good runner. And I’ll also admit that I struggle with running. It can be boring to me at times. It can be painful sometimes as well. But when I have a good run I feel great. And it is that pursuit of a good run that keeps me going.

When I was a little kid I absolutely loved running. I had exercise-induced asthma so I had to be careful about how much running I did but I really loved it. I can remember being out in my backyard playing whiffle ball and just running from tree to tree for bases. Or running in the grass with my shoes off enjoying the feel of the grass on my toes (even with the occasional acorn to cause a little bit of pain.)

So as I started looking for ways to make running more enjoyable as an adult I came across “natural running.” Now some of you may have heard about natural running before. I know I had. I’ve had several friends even transition into natural running. But for me it was something that seemed more like a crazy trend than anything else. I’ve seen people at races running around in those funny looking shoes with the individual toes that look like nothing more than gloves for your feet. “That has to hurt,” I would always think to myself. It was something that I never pursued. Until now.

Natural running is really not a new concept at all. It traces its roots back to early man. And I can trace it back to my early childhood. Think about when you were a kid. When you were in your backyard and you kicked your shoes off, how did you run? Did you take long strides, landing on your heels? I doubt it. Or when you went to the beach and ran in the sand. Did you run by burying your heels in the sand with each stride? No. When we were barefoot kids running around we ran on the balls of our feet, or the midfoot. We knew that if we landed on our heels without any shoes on we’d jam our ankles, or hurt our knees. Why have we let thick soled shoes change that natural running form that we once possessed?

So natural running is an effort to return to the way that our bodies were intended to run. By landing on the mid-foot rather than the heels we lessen the shock on our joints and let our bodies perform the way they were meant to perform.

This weekend I made the trip to Swim, Bike, Run of KY, a Lexington based triathlon shop owned by Sam Dick and his wife Noelle. Sam is a BIG proponent of natural running and actually teaches clinics on natural running twice a month at his shop. Sam is not only the face of the news on WKYT but he is also an avid triathlete. I spoke with Sam quite a bit about natural running this past weekend and I decided it was time to take the leap. I bought a pair of Newton Gravity running shoes.

Sam advised me to start slowly with the shoes. Hey I’m a slow runner so that’s no problem for me. Actually he meant to spend just a few minutes each time I run in the shoes and slowly build up to distance. He said that the natural running form is much different than the heel-striking running form that many of us have become accustomed to and because of that difference it will take time for the different leg muscles to adjust.

Sunday I donned my awesome new shoes and went out for a whole 10 minutes. The run felt amazing. The form, although much different than how I have become accustomed to running, felt very natural. My knees and hips didn’t feel as much shock on each stride. I actually enjoyed my 10 minutes. And that gave me a great deal of hope for my future running. If I can learn to love running again, like I did when I was a little kid, then this triathlon thing will become much more enjoyable as a whole for me.

This week I’d like to challenge you runners to spend some time researching natural running. It may not be for everybody but you owe it yourself to check it out. I watched several videos on YouTube by the shoe company Newton and its founder Danny Abshire. I also finally started reading Danny’s book Natural Running (which I purchased at the Run the Bluegrass half marathon last March and had Danny sign for me – better late than never right?). I also spent some time talking to Sam Dick at Swim, Bike, Run of KY. I encourage you all to do the same. And if you have the time make sure to attend one of Sam’s running clinics. His next clinic is Saturday, March 9, at Swim, Bike, Run of KY.

Have an awesome week!

Mark D. Rucker is an attorney from Lexington who spent the majority of his adult life struggling with weight issues. As a result of his unhealthy lifestyle and weight, he suffered from high blood pressure, sleep apnea and was borderline diabetic. In February of 2011, at the age of 42, Rucker weighed over 365 pounds. It was then that he decided it was time to change his life. He now hopes to use his experience to help inspire and encourage others to begin their own journey to health and fitness. By focusing on his “small steps” philosophy, Rucker believes that anyone, at any age and in any physical condition, can change his or her life. Recently, he create a Facebook page called Get Moving Lexington to encourage the people of Lexington to get active.



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