I’ve been running since I was 7 months old, this is no joke. While other kids spent their time crawling around I was running off to some unknown corner of the room. Needless to go too much in to my past to say that I’ve been running for a long while and so I’ve also been able to observe how my body feels and what works best (for me at least).
As a teenager I started running long distance as a result of wanting to clear up my acne, my name being Cherokee ( my mother was inspired by the American-indians running hundreds of miles on cocoa leaves) and as a result of my Gym teacher saying that we reach our peak at the age of 23 – 25. This got me running, I wanted to expand my energy, I wanted to clean up my skin, and above all I wanted to be loved. Running was the medium.
I was the fastest runner in school, and then on the soccer team, and then on the running team in high-school. This gave me a degree of pride and confidence. I had something that others didn’t have. I’d train for years on the soccer team and this created great endurance and stamina which seemed to give me an edge.
Then, one day, around my 20’s, I went off to another town to work as an adult. Certainly if I had money, I’d be my own man and all… I worked for a prestigious jeweller, and on the side I’d run every night for an hour or so. Though, around this time, I started to notice that my recovery was slower than before. I wasn’t that old, in fact it made no sense. My body wasn’t recovering quick enough anymore and I was starting to feel more and more tired every time I went for a run. So I started to drink coffee, this gave me a high that was useful for selling jewellery to lost women who needed to feel special about themselves. My sales scores got a sudden boost. All the while, I was feeling more and more depleted. I just couldn’t recover.
Then I reached burnout, knee block, and gave up running for around 5 years. I tried off and on to see if I could and my knee had repaired itself magically, but always had inflammation after a long run, so I ended gave up as a result of there being no explanation for my knee pain. In scans everything looked clean, and if I rested sufficiently, I could then run pain free for a while.
After about 7 years of losing this key part to my identity, because lets face it I derived my confidence from this proud and majestic feat of nature of being faster and more powerful than the kids around me, I decided to strive once more. Driven by nothing other than optimism that the body can heal its self if we heal the mind and gut.
So, I started working out at the gym and strengthening my knee, stretching it and applying stretches I usually wouldn’t do and I discovered some interesting insights.
1. My knee hurts because my abdomen is weak and my gluts are too.
2. My knee hurts because my inner tendons aren’t stretched and are weak from over exertion.
3. Caffeine prevents us from having natural energetic distribution throughout the body.
4. Listening to music prevents us from running at our natural rhythm.
5. The second effect of not being able to listen to our natural rhythm is not listening to our breath.
6. Not listening to our breath means we get tired more easily.
7. There are specific running postures we develop with music that aren’t healthy
Removing coffee, sugar and music from our life allows for a natural running cadence, a personal breathing Tone, a natural running posture/mechanics, a better mindset, a more optimistic outlook, and longer runs based on our breathing rhythms.
Upon this discovery, my knee pain went away my mood improved, and I developed and I became more stable.
When we listen to music, it changes our mood, and we adapt to it. It hypes us up, sets the mood, makes us melodramatic or nostalgic. Whatever it is, music has a deep influence over how we feel. It’s not surprising so many of us depend on it to go running or use it during out workouts. From bodybuilders, to long distance runners, to cyclists and so on.
Why we shouldn’t use music to find motivation, especially in the case of running.
Using music( or stimulus) to create motivation. In and of its self, this is a problem. It means we’re seeking something outside of ourselves, external to our discipline or inspiration or intrinsic motivation and it then drives us. If you don’t see the key problem with this, I’ll explain. As human beings we thrive on going at our own rhythm, we hate being told what to do, and we certainly prefer natural ways over artificial ways. When we are self-motivated to go do something, we are carried by excitement and even a degree of joy for the activity we’re about to engage in. When we’re seeking out something to give us a boost, we’re pushing and pulling for a result rather than getting to it on our own. We are stressing ourselves, and when we stress ourselves (through music, peer pressure, coffee, or even drugs) we eventually weaken ourselves.
It’s the relation between an angry fighter and a relaxed fighter. It’s the relation between flowing and friction. It’s forced rather than desired. We want the end result so much that we seek something to produce a shortcut to get there. Going back to the basics allows us to re-establish our breathing, our energy and our running posture, and that I fully believe will remove your knee pain. While running without any music (I’d been running with music since the end of high-school), I’ve found that my knee pain doesn’t work because I’m listening to my body, and because of that my strides are different, my breathing techniques are different and my energy and outlook are more upbeat and positive because I’m not relaying on an external stimulation to run faster or slower (despite being tired).
When getting over addiction, there are 4 letters that we need to be aware of. H. A. L. T.
Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and Tiredness: HALT. The reason we get pulled into addiction again is because of an uncomfortable state, and we seek our coping mechanisms when one of these HALT states comes up. That and feeling powerless. Now, when it comes to addiction, the high we can get from running can also count. Hence why I’d run for hours at a high intensity, runners high is a healthy high and exercise is even prescribed by doctors! So, how could I be an addict?!
It’s about the Low / High dynamic. When we seek to experience a high, it’s always in contrast to a Low feeling. The low feeling can be described as numbness, or little energy, or friction, or lack of momentum, or doubt, and even lack of confidence. And we want to create a contrast at any cost (this is the problem, we end up paying that cost), so we end up seeking coffee to experience a boost of energy, we end up listening to music to “Alter” our mind, we seek out sugar to get a little dopamine. Simply because the state we are in right now is Slow, boring, uneventful, calm, monotone, DEPRESSING. But that speaks thousand fold to me, we don’t want to feel depressed and low, so we control it at any cost.
Even though, feeling the slow, the boring, the uneventful and even the depression are the keys to healing, resting, and growing. We need the downtime to rest our bodies, our minds, our nervous systems from the constant highs. And there are highs everywhere. We’re surrounded by a society offering stimulants and numbing agents, and quick fix solutions.
But we don’t want to go through the slow, the boring, the uneventful, the monotone or the depressing, because its uncomfortable.
We don’t want to listen to our bodies, because then we’d have to acknowledge that we’re flawed, unperfect, and even human. And humans aren’t robots, they can’t knock out results over and over without suffering the effects it has. The top performers don’t say it, but they go through stuff, they have pains, they have to do hours of cryotherapy and so on to heal the brute force workouts they endure. It’s not because they have a great public image smile and have great PR managers that they don’t go through wear and tear. They just mask it well.
We don’t want to listen to our bodies, and we’d rather force ourselves to perform, because we don’t want to face the inevitability that we’re weak, that we’re vulnerable, that we’re imperfect and need to not be the greatest for a while. Its okay to just rest and let the dust settle for once. We’re so afraid of being unproductive, of not being in first position, of not being amped up, jacked up, caffeinated and full of performance drugs, supplements, and protein smoothies. The idea of being inept, weak or unproductive comes as a threat. The tribe will ostracize me and see me as useless! I’ll get left behind! I’ll die! I have to be the rainmaker! I have to run faster and further than Tony… and so on.
What’s more, going through those low states is what allows us to be able to perform in the high states, its what allows us to restore our bodies to full capacity. Without feeling low, our highs just aren’t as high… Take a f**king break once in a while, stop feeling guilty and above all stop amping up your body to get energy. We get energy as a result of being excited about something and if what we’re doing isn’t excited anymore, no amount of coffee, music or supplements is going to give us the excitement we need. We might produce an artificial reminder, but once if we’re not getting there naturally, after a while our body will give us a big bright red light: fuck this I’m suspending leg function for a while! Our bodies have thousands of years of evolution built in and we don’t have the readers manual. It’s time to go back to basics and cut the new-age crap of over-stimulation.