Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t play on social media, you are more than well aware it’s back-to-school time. Every other photo is of a smiling kid holding a sign with information only a mother could care about … and I say this as a social media abusing mother of back-to-school kids! Besides the avalanche of cute kid photos, deals on lined paper at the big box store, and BOGO at Stride Rite, there is so much excitement around back-to-school time. In the days leading up to the end of summer vacation kids are all abuzz about who there teacher will be, which friends will be in their class and what exciting things they will learn about. I’ve been finding myself excited for my kiddos, but a little jealous! I want to go back to school and learn stuff!
So I’m going to go back to runner school and you should too! Let’s take this opportunity to study up and become smarter runners by going back to runner school. Below is your schedule of classes for the Salty Running School Fall 2015 semester complete with course descriptions and homework assignments. Let’s get crackin’!
1. Anatomy. Every good student starts with the fundamentals. While math and reading are fundamental for little ones, for us runners it’s anatomy. Knowing the muscles in your lower body and what’s connected to what can help you determine what’s bugging you when you’re experience a niggle and can help you know how to remedy it. For example, when foam rolling, we should roll with the grain of the muscles, but not all muscles fibers run up-and-down, some go side-to-side or a combination of side-to-side and up-and-down, like the glutes. Additionally, knowing your body can help you know what exactly it is you need to strengthen or make more flexible.
Homework: For a quick look, the anatomy website InnerBody is fun to explore. For a more indepth and runner specific lesson and a must-have in any serious runner’s library, check out Jay Dicharry’s Anatomy for Runners.
2. Phys Ed. Just like in regular school, our second lesson will expand on our first, so we won’t be wasting time playing dodgeball in ill-fitting polyester gym shorts. Instead, we’re going to expand on our newfound knowledge of our own anatomy and learn how to make that body into a stronger, more resilient running machine. We will learn about the importance of stuff, we as runners often overlook until it’s too late. stuff like running form, flexibility, range of motion and muscular strength. Maybe, just maybe, our research will lead us to some new routines that keep us healthy for the long haul.
Homework: For an interesting, albeit heavy at times look at strength, mobility and running form, check out the Gait Guys site. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to improve strength, muscle recruitment and range of motion Coach Jay Johnson has some great warm-up and cool-down routines: Myrtl, Cannonball, LungeMatrix (for a more comprehensive list of Coach Johnson’s routines with a progression schedule, go here). For your library, we highly recomend you add the book Build Your Running Body by Pete Magill and Tom Schwartz.
3. Review Your Work. Now that you’ve learned so much more about your body and how to make it an unstoppable running machine, it’s time to review your work. Now what do I mean? I mean take this time and go back through your running logs. At some point in her career, every kid asks why she needs algebra or to read Wuthering Heights: “what’s the point?” she’ll ask. In this case, the point is to look for trends. What was going on when you raced really well or enjoyed running the most? Are there any consistencies to your training in the weeks leading up to injuries or burn-out? Where can you improve your training? As an added bonus, reviewing your log should help you gain confidence and feel a sense of pride in all the work you’ve done up to this point!
Homework: Review your training log, duh! If you don’t have one (you absolutely should!) you can keep an online training log on a number of sites including Running2Win, LogARun, and so many more. If you would like to add to your library, several of us Salty Bloggers use Lauren Fleshman’s Believe I Am journal and really like it.
4. History. With your personal running history all analyzed, it’s time to dive into the history of your sport. And yes, the past matters even to those of you who only care about the future of your own running. Understanding what women had to overcome just to be able to line up on a marathon starting line just forty years ago can do nothing but make you appreciate where you are right now. The stories of women like Katherine Switzer, Mary Decker, Grete Waitz, Joan Benoit, Catherine Ndereba, Paula Radcliffe, among so many others will at once inspire you and make you feel at home as a runner. I don’t care what the skeptics say, an inspired, grateful, educated runner is a good runner!
Homework: Read Sarah Crouch’s great summary of women’s running history in this RunnersConnect post. While there are so many great women’s running history reads, we recommend that you add The Silence of Great Distance to your running library right NOW! This unsung book about the dawn of American competitive women’s distance running is a must-read for all serious women runners. We promise you won’t be able to put this one down!
5. Recess! Phew! That was some hard studying and we’ve surely learned a lot so now it’s time for the best part of any school day, recess! In runner school, like elementary school recess is where we work our social game and have fun. On the playground is where we make friends and friends support us through life, teach us from their experiences and just make everything more fun.
Homework: Call a friend you haven’t run with in a while and make a running date. After that, find a new group run and make a point to run with people you’ve never met before. For extra credit join a running club, volunteer at a race, chat up runners at your next race and expand your social horizons! (For tips on expanding your running social circle go here.)
What classes would you like to see offered at running school?