REFORMING MY RUN

I started running recreationally about four years ago.   I laced up, plugged in and worked up a sweat giving little thought to form or function.  This approach to running contrasts to my life as a dancer.  Over the years I have been taught to be aware of what every inch of my body is doing and why.   I have memories of repeating the same movement over and over until it became second nature.  I would never claim to be a perfect dancer, but I do take pride in being an aware dancer.  In January I started to share my workout life online via photos on Instagram, this blog and through my ambassadorship with Adidas Running.  I’ve continued upon my run-to-feel-good ways until I scrolled upon this sponsored ad of me to the right.   Comments read “yikes, that heel strike tho,” and “her hips are gonna be hurting with that stride”.  ……GASP….STOP THE PRESSES… WHAT’S A HEEL STRIKE?  SEND HELP. I will NOT be the Kendall Jenner of running.

Meet Jessie Zapo (@jessiezapo).  Jessie and I met in January at the Adidas PureBOOSTx launch in Santa Monica.  Over the span of seven years Jessie has carved a space for women and new runners in the NYC urban running community.  Named “the first lady of running,” Jessie created and produced programs for organizations like Bridgerunners, The Black Roses NYC and Girls Run NYC.  During a recent trip to New York I was lucky enough to have some one on one sessions with Jessie that opened my eyes and rocked my running world.

Run Revelations

EFFICIENCY

My first revelation on form was understanding how it’s systematically inefficient to lead with your heel.  I used to think that a longer stride was created by reaching my foot/heel further and further in front of me.  My run was low and heavy but my stride was long so I never thought there was a problem.

A stride that leads with your heel (heel strike) involves 4 steps per stride, while a mid foot strike only involves 3:

KNEE

MID FOOT TO GROUND

KICK BACK

      Heel Strike Stride:

  1. KNEE LIFTS
  2. HEEL TO GROUND CONTACT
  3. MID FOOT CONTACT
  4. KICK BACK

       Mid Foot Strike Stride:

  1. KNEE LIFTS
  2. MID FOOT TO GROUNT CONTACT
  3. KICK BACK

HIGH KNEES 

A correct stride is initiated by the knee.   The force of your knee lifting into air sends your body upward and propels forward into your next stride.  Your foot never reaches in front of the knee that’s lifted- it hits the ground directly underneath.

Jessie sent me this video from Competitor Magazine to help understand this concept.

FLEXED FOOT

In dance class I was always taught to jump off the ground heel, ball, toe and land toe, ball, heel to absorb gravity and protect my joints.  This is not the case when you run. Though you will naturally run in this sequence, emphasizing the toe ball heel landing will slow you down.  Lifting your knee with a flexed foot, positions your foot to land directly on the ball when you put it down underneath you.  Your heel will follow.

EMPHASIS

Before our lessons, my run felt heavy.  I put emphasis down/into the ground with every stride.  Jesse encouraged me to think of the action as UP.    Your foot is pushing off the ground rather than hitting the ground with every stride.  Thinking “UP UP UP” immediately made my run lighter and stride longer.  More time in the air gave me more time to propel forward and run faster.

JESSIE’S FORM CUES

  • Eyes up

  • Head up

  • Knees up

  • Shoulders relaxed

  • Neutral spine & pelvis

Photos by Melissa Holtz (@melisinestudio)

2016-11-17T00:01:03+00:00 Comments Off on REFORMING MY RUN

Don’t Sweat the Stress

While unplugging and disconnecting are many people’s go to answer to de-stressing, these days this isn’t always possible.    Online, offline, at home, at work, in the gym, on the road… Stress is inevitable.  As a professional dancer, I’m hyper aware of the fact that a stressed mind a stressed body go hand and hand.

Here are my methods to control the madness and cut the stress.

Tools of Torture.

Mental stress creeps down to my neck and shoulders first, then makes its way down to my mid and lower back.  I keep a bucket of stress relieving fun next to my couch to pick up whenever I have a spare moment.  Trigger points (knots) develop in your muscle tissues from physical, metal or emotional stress.  I use a TheraCane or lie on tennis balls to massage these spots and increase blood flow.  I like to use Rescue Cream on problem areas to moisturize my skin and relax my muscles as I iron out the tension.

Floatation Therapy.

Sitting still and taking 5 deep breathes helps me relax, but when I have time I like to float.  Floatation therapy (sensory deprivation) is gaining popularity among professional athletes and those looking for complete and utter relaxation.  In your hour long session, you float in a pool of water filled with 10K lbs of epson salt.  This pool is enclosed in a pod or room that blocks all light and sound.  Without distraction, you increase relaxation, creativity and clarity while decreasing stress and mind clutter.  Note that the first time I floated, I was a mess.  I was anxious I was doing it wrong and stressing about not de-stressing.  It takes several times to achieve a peaceful Theta state of relaxation.

Aerial Yoga.

While any form of yoga or stretching helps me relax, aerial yoga really changes the game for me.  In an aerial yoga class, you use a silk hammock to maneuver yourself into positions that suspend your body in the air and allow you to hang freely.   There is a tourniquet effect created by wrapping the hammock around your limbs.  Though uncomfortable in the moment, when you dismount the pose, fresh blood travels around your body and through your joints.   This gives you an adrenaline rush and releases “happy” hormones like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.  All this boosts your mood and makes you feel more energetic, happy and stress free.

Herbal Supplements.

Sometimes it’s hard to pop into a deprivation chamber between meetings and unfortunately, the TheraCane doesn’t fit in my purse.   My portable means of relaxation are herbal supplements like products from Rescue.  Rescue Remedy is made of 5 of Bach’s flower remedies: Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Start of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum.  I reach for an Elderberry Pastille (hard little gummies) to chill out during Los Angeles traffic from hell, to help focus at an audition or while learning choreography.  I pack the dropper in my yoga bag and add a few drops of Rescue to my water bottle to enhance my relaxation and deepen my practice throughout class.  The Rescue Plus Sleep gummies with melatonin have been key while I travel and adjust to sleeping in new places in new times zones.

This post was sponsored by Rescue, who was kind enough to send me some of their products earlier this year.  I’ve since been able to find them at Whole Foods here in Los Angeles.

Click here to find Rescue near you.

2016-11-17T16:08:47+00:00 Comments Off on Don’t Sweat the Stress