Ok. I know I’m going to bounce around some subject matter here. I’m trying to make a case for a serious study of common practices that are done on a daily basis. I would also like to make a case for examining these practices. For some time I’ve known that I do not have the most efficient stride. I lean back and slouch. Honestly, I do this in real life as well. And it really doesn’t work for me. But for some reason I haven’t decided to do anything about it. I have just accepted it. I guess I’ve been in denial. Its hard to change long established habits but breaking bad habits is a key to consistent growth. I’m going to have to cut down on miles as well which makes me cringe. Up to this point I’ve been comfortable with how I’ve been running – until now.
I have just finished reading a book titled “The Running Revolution” by Michael Romanov. His thesis is that great runners have a certain posture that is the most efficient form. He calls this posture the POSE position. Pose is shorthand for the proper running form – forefoot strike, fall forward and pull up. I have also noticed this posture in the really good runners – they make running look effortless. My goal is to modify my running posture and stride with the goal of becoming a more efficient runner. Just by reading this book and after completing the first three lessons I already feel it has been of great benefit. After doing a few drills I’ve been much more conscious of how I stand and carry myself in general. So much of what I have been doing is coded in my unconscious and bringing it to the surface has been illuminating.
Apart from helping me develop as an individual runner I also hope that this can help me develop as a potential running coach. I needed to stop coaching high school track for a few years due to the demands of my family but I am hoping to pick it back up again someday in the near future. Heck, I even have delusions of starting my own youth track program when he is old enough. Like a lot of coaches, I simply repeated what I had learned over the years. While this is good enough for entry level and developing athletes, the athletes at the higher end of the spectrum really demand more than this. Frequently coaches get away with this because most athletes are entry level or developing – that is at the entry level or intermediate stage. Truly advanced or expert athletes are quite rare in my opinion. And truly advanced coaches are exceedingly rare. When I was coaching I was most grateful for having the pleasure to work with a really fantastic and well-qualified coach who understood the nuance of coaching higher level athletes. I certainly learned a lot from her.
The problem I have noticed with many (not all…but quite a few) sports is that reasonably talented people get to the “good enough” point quickly. This is especially true in jumping or sprinting events. A bit more work is required in distance running but talented athletes know it and still rise up through the ranks rather quickly. The same phenomena holds even truer in certain sports where body size is important (or even imperative) – like in America’s marquis spectator sports of basketball and football. If only we could stop the commercial degradation of these erstwhile worthwhile sports. This digression might take pages so I’ll get out of the social commentary on the tip of my tongue and back to my ideas of questioning the ordinary and progress towards mastery.
There is a great deal of athletic ability that is simple natural talent. In my opinion natural talent is highly valued by the sports culture – it is valued far more than effort. But it can only take you so far. Same goes for both art and music and anything else I’m not thinking of like these pursuits. By no means am I implying that a person not naturally talented shouldn’t participate and it doesn’t mean that folks who are talented are any good. This would exclude my participation in anything athletic! Far too often once a person realized the fundamentals of whatever they are doing and deployed their natural talent is precisely the point at which they stop progressing. They meet the plateau. However, to reach one’s true potential a person must get past their talents and put in the harder technical work. Here is where coaching frequently breaks down. Often, most coaches themselves are well-meaning people who themselves were naturally talented in some way. Most themselves didn’t put in the effort that takes someone from good to great – they didn’t really have to. Now I’m not saying that everything came easy to them but being good at something makes effort feel effortless. Being good is fun. And sometimes you stop being good and become about average.
I believe a good coach is someone who helps a dedicated athlete get over that plateau and onto the higher ground. It doesn’t matter the natural talent of the athlete or the level he/she is on. Good coaches move athletes forward. This is what determines a good coach from a great coach and a good athlete from a great one. This is what determines someone who is good at something from someone who is great. Most coaches themselves don’t know how to properly get athletes to improve past a certain point. I don’t want to leave this legacy and I want to educate myself on ways to become better.
For most of us operating out here in real time and in the “wild” we do something good enough – but not great. In this piece I’m focused on how I stand and my running posture. Only recently I have begun to question the normal way that I perceive reality and do things that I believe I instinctively know how to do. Honestly, I would characterize most of what I do as in the intermediate level at best. I know the basics and can get the job done. Operating at the intermediate level is when you know most of the moving parts of a concept but tying them together is a bit troublesome. Intermediates aren’t fluent across a wide variety of topics. Its like speaking a foreign language. Truly fluent people operating at the advanced level can talk about wine, school, and abstract philosophy. Intermediates can talk about wine and school. They have the tools to talk about philosophy in there but its not fluent…it will take some work to bring it out. There is no way that I’m on the advanced level with nearly everything I do. Most of the time I’m doing what the situation requires. It just isn’t necessary to write an email to perfection every time – especially when you have to stop at the store and grab dinner before going home to put the kids to bed. But can I find a better way to do the things that matter? Yes. Becoming better is hard and takes a lot of time to work through the plateau periods which typify any progress towards mastery.