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Cooped up by COVID? I suggest, strongly, making a run for it

Apr 16, 2020 By Clair McFarland

Restricted to 6-foot bubbles and desperate for fresh air, many citizens have taken their quarantines for a run.

Running is a healthy and fun way to be alone, perfect for the enforced isolation we are now experiencing at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic and the public health officials warning against it.

Moreover, running promotes feel-good chemical output in the brain, which combats depression and promotes problem-solving. Nothing causes deep, productive thinking like cursing your own legs for half an hour.

Add to that the lung, heart, and overall muscular strength to be gained from the run, and you've got an empowering escape from Google Classroom, Zoom, Skype, or whatever your personal plague is called.

When I was 14, I had what one doctor called a heart condition and my dad called a case of "she just sits around reading all stinkin' day."

The doctor proposed hormonal medication; Dad proposed running.

Even though he won't read fiction, Dad is the smartest guy I know, so I took his prescribed cure. In return he bought me a running suit labelled with the Corona beer (not virus) logo that would later get me in deep trouble with my cross country coach.

(Mind you: this same cross country coach sacrificed dozens of his own soul-filling runs to saunter along with me, making sure I didn't die, while side-aches drove me to tears.)

I still wear the Corona hat, and I giggle to myself while running down the road bearing an emblem homonymous with the thing that pushed many of the other runners onto the bike path.

What is wrong with me?

Oh nothing, I'm just a runner.

Anyway, it bears re-repeating that I have been running for 16 years and have learned a thing or two. Today, in honor of having hopped from the opinion page to the oft-hungry sports page, I offer first-time or otherwise casual runners some of the gems I've learned about the sport and how to do it.

1. You were born barefoot.

Now don't go outside running barefoot, or even on the treadmill. But walk around your house barefoot whenever LEGO conditions permit it. Flex, move your toes; grab things with them.

Garden barefoot if there's no tetanus or scorpion in your flower bed.

Dance barefoot in the kitchen, even when your spouse walks in and says "WHAT LANGUAGE IS THIS MUSIC, ANYWAY?"

Yes, I do run barefoot on my treadmill, but that came after two pernicious injuries and months of ankle and foot strength training.

Don't just shift straight into barefoot running unless you're ready to deal with plantar fasciitis and peroneal tendonitis until Halloween.

By the way, the foot-strength exercise that helped to cure (yes, cure) my plantar fasciitis is simple:

Sit on a chair, on your butt, with a hand-towel on the ground.

Scrunch the towel with your toes until it's completely bunched up under your feet.

If you can do that, put a weight on the end of the towel and pull the weight toward you by scrunching the towel with your toes, again.

2. Shoe-makers are no different from other manufacturers. They hope their product is addictive.

Generally, shoes with more heel-padding than toe-padding, with pointed toe-boxes, are designed to make your run easier.

A thing that makes your run easier makes you weaker. With a one-inch heel under your trail-running shoes and 300 miles behind you, your calf muscles are, unsurprisingly, one inch shorter than they should be.

It's not smart to shift straight into a minimalist shoe design like Lems Shoes if you're used to wearing that crippling garbage Nike invented in the 1960s. Shift down into a flat heel slowly, or if you're not doing ankle- and foot-strengthening exercises, not at all.

3. Lift weights and children and stuff.

I'm not a fan of weightlifting, but I do it to keep my core strong so I can run.

I run so I can get away. I get away so I'm not crazy.

Core strength matters because a strong core makes for better running form, hip flexibility, and overall health.

If you've ever had gargantuan twins or other creatures pop out of your belly, don't do any core strengthening without first learning to suck in your tummy fiercely and hold it there, the entire time you lift.

4. This is supposed to be fun.

It's not about winning your next 5K. It's not about a goal time or a goal weight or a goal destination. It's about you being outside where a meadowlark gets mad at you for approaching his fencepost and the neighbor's dog chases you halfway to Lander.

I'm half kidding.

(No I'm not kidding at all, somebody please teach me how to hypnotize dogs.)

But! When the world unrolls its mist in the morning and the cracks in the road feel soft, welcoming; when the air clings to your shoulders and the diving grassroots sigh - that's when you glide over Earth.

No matter what shape, size, or political party you are, this is your run: when you're just another glowing body orbiting a curved gravitational plane. And you are lovely.

5. Just go.

Start out slow, be nice to yourself. Do NOT take big steps. Take small steps because you're less likely to get injured that way.

Don't lean back: stay vertical or lean forward a little if you've got the core strength.

Now go.

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2020-06-03

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