The One Minute Miracle

Virginia opossum
Virginia opossum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 10% incline treadmill makes me feel like a rodent. I don’t like feeling like a rodent. I hate rodents. When I lived in Santa Cruz, there was this ornery opossum who used to scratch at our backyard sliding glass door. He’d put his ugly yellow teeth against the window, leaving a trail of opossum slobber on the window. I would kick at the window, but, as I said, he was an ornery opossum, he’d just hiss at me and scratch his twisted, yellow claws against the glass. One time, I made the mistake of opening the door as he approached. I was hoping to eschew him away before he reached the door. The beast immediately rushed at my leg, I kicked at his filthy white belly, but he dodged the blow and headed for my bedroom, where my dear wife lay asleep. I slammed the bedroom door shut just in time to ceil the opossum with my sleeping wife. When I opened the door, the creature was on my side of the bed crawling up the covers towards my wife. Luckily she was not awake. As soon as the opossum saw me, he again leapt at my leg. I moved just in time to let him scoot out the bedroom door and into the hallway. He quickly scurried into the kitchen. I kicked at his foul jaw. But he dodged my attack, then he made a fatal mistake. He rushed at the fridge; it was the wrong move because we kept the broom on the gap between the fridge and the wall and that gave me a powerful  household weapon. I grabbed the broom and smacked the opossum, until at last he was swept out into the murky night.

The next day my friend, Toby, told me that my critter wasn’t a opossum. He said, unless they have rabies, opossums aren’t aggressive.

“It was prolly a wharf rat,” he said. Whatever it was it was a disgusting rodent.

How running on a treadmill feels.
How running on a treadmill feels.

But this post isn’t about rodents, it’s about running on treadmills. So, let me introduce my treadmill. It’s a 10% incline dominatrix. If it wore clothes, it would wear whips, chains, and a leather face-mask. It knows not forgiveness nor pity. It simply runs it preset routines without love or mercy. Most of the routines are innocent enough. Each one divides the run into two or one minute blocks, depending on the routine. For instance, a forty minute routine will have forty one minute blocks, but a sixty minute run may have only thirty two-minute blocks. The blocks are a terrible visual. They’re so uninspiring. They seem to stack against you and  they take forever to advance. They’re this wall of gut wrenching discomfort. I once ran on a hotel treadmill that had a digital lap counter. It was wondrous. I felt so lucky to be running on that machine. It gave me hope. Each step was visibly represented on the track with tiny blinking LED light as you advanced the light stopped blinking, when all of the lights around the track were lit, the entire track blinked in unison. It was like having a personal cheerleader every time you finished a lap. My machine doesn’t offer that kind of hope, it just presents whose cold and unrelenting blocks and it’s 10% incline.

There is one routine that I have never been able to complete at full speed. It features 40 one-minute blocks. 40 minutes may not seem long, but it’s an eternity when you’re running at top speed uphill at a 10% incline.

My treadmill doesn’t care that I’m gasping for air or that my calves are crying out, it just keeps going. In the past, when it got to be too much for me, I would simply slow down to catch my breath. But lately, that has seemed very much like a pussy move. So I decided to put my zen practice to the test. I set the machine to the forty minute insanity block routine. After three minutes, I was ready to slow down, but this time, instead of slowing down, I looked at my minute block and said to myself, “I can do this minute.” When the minute ended, I said, “I did that minute!!!!!!”. Then when the new block light up, I said, “I can do this minute.” Whenever I looked ahead at all of the blocks ahead, I immediately felt drained of energy, but when I focused on the minute I was running, the task became achievable. Minute by minute, I ran each block. When I finished the run for the first time without slowing down, I was exhausted, swimming in my own waters, bent low, and gasping for air, but also excited. I discovered a secret: never trust a possum and always focus on what you can do and then keep doing it.

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3 Secrets to Barefoot Running

  • Start off Barefoot WALKING.

    Just taking off your shoes and going for five mile barefoot run is sure way to get injured. It takes time for the muscles in your feet to recover from chronic shoe-wearing. The skin on the bottom of your will need to develop in order for you to run longer distances. Barefoot walking will strengthen your feet and reveal the pleasure of experiencing the world without shoes.

  • GET Limber

    Always stretch before and AFTER your runs. Here are some excellent barefoot runner stretches.

  • Learn proper form on a treadmill, carpet, or front lawn (MAKE SURE YOU INSPECT THE LAWN CAREFULLY BEFORE RUNNING ON IT.)

    You will have to own your treadmill for this because most health clubs don’t allow barefoot use of facilities. Not only do treadmills have a lower impact than concrete, but they also have a tough, yet soft(ish) surface, which is perfect for building up thick layers of skin on the soles of your feet. Treadmills will blister your feet if you run too long on them. When you run bare, you go from regular blisters to weird blood blisters, but they heal quickly. Start out SLOW–decrease the treadmill speed significantly. I find that making it go too fast leads to heel striking.
    Your goal is to master good form, not run like the wind. Speed will come later. But good form will ensure that you don’t get injured and are able to run more often. Watch the stride technique videos for more information about proper running form. Running barefoot improper form will hurt and possible damage your feet; it may also cause other injuries such as ankle, knee, and back pain.
    It also helps to have someone make a video of you running. WATCHING YOURSELF ON VIDEO IS THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE FORM. Be patient. When your body re-adjusts to barefoot activities, your stamina, enjoyment, and health will thrive.

“…the hallmark of my barefoot running philosophy is regaining connectedness, mindfulness, and presence in your running and in your body.” —Barefoot Ted