Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Form Follows Function

I’ve been going to this class lately.  The owner/CEO of the company is beyond GBA.  I know, is there such a thing? 

Maybe… and if there is, BFF Paulie is IT.  He puts the GBA in track coach...

(i know, i know, "track coach" doesn't seem to have a "g"... or "b")

Now, my obsession with Paulie is well known in my social circle.  And I just want to say real quick that it’s not. my. fault.  I’m human and female, and he is epically cut....  I mean, he makes the cut... er…  I admire him as a running coach.

I started going to this class because I thought I would get stronger.  Like, I thought it was a strength class.  As it turns out, BFF Paulie’s class is like a speed workout with strength circuit incorporated. 

You know it’s bad when you’re doing planks during the week to train for the class that’s supposed to be training you because you can't do the planks IN class.

A typical class has a speed element followed by some kind of other work.  Sometimes I can DO the work.  Sometimes, not so much.

I feel a little over my head in his class.  Not that I’m going to stop going.  The day BFF Paulie says “I can’t do anything for you.” I will stop going.  Since what he usually says to me is, “I can do SO MUCH for you.” I figure I’m OK.

I go.  I suck.  I go back the next week and suck again.

Like a musician who commissions a piece of music from a composer, only to discover it’s technically too difficult for them to play well… I struggle with the elements in Paulie’s class. 

How will I get better if I cannot even execute the 'practice'?

During the speed portions of the class BFF Paulie watches us all run.  Sometimes when he looks at me, it seems like he’s cringing.  Ouch.

Paulie’s distress over my pitiful attempt at running is on one hand frustrating, and on the other it makes me want to work harder and soak up every word he says.

For years I rode horses – I rode Western, English, Dressage, and Jumpers and one thing that stays constant in riding, no matter what discipline you're riding, is form - shoulders~hips~heels:  in line.  This form is functional.  No matter what you’re doing on a horse, shoulder~hips~heels will help keep you on the horse, in control, and well seated.

I rode horses in this position for 20odd years.  "Don’t get your shoulders forward, you’ll fall off the horse if something unexpected happens"...  In all the years I rode, I believed strongly that form follows function.  There’s reason we ride shoulder-hips-heels in the ring.  Just as there's a reason a jumper or horse race jockey rides "forward" during parts of their event.

After I’d been riding about 8 years, I started teaching riding and doing a little training here and there.  I specifically remember a young adult student who was self taught.

Ah.  Yeah. 

She was loose in the saddle, hands flying high in the air, and the horse under her was strung out from nose to tail.  Her upper body was forward.  Folded at the hips, heels up. It was a disaster waiting to happen. An EPIC disaster waiting to happen.

Her leg position was soft as well, sliding sometimes forward and back as the horse’s cadence increased and decreased in response to her flying hands. 

She was tough to work with too. 

I’d been hired to train her by her boss, because she needed to ride better to preserve the image of the farm she was employed by... BUT, she was an unwilling student.  She’d been “riding for years” and could “stay on just fine”. 

Great.  Fine.  

Say what you want, but I will argue all day long that FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.  Shoulders hips heels holds you solid on the horse.  So the function of your seat is a base for keeping your hands still.  This is important, even if form isn’t your number one priority.  Just sayin’.  I ~ah~ was kind of known as the Nazi.  Again with the word…

So when I show up on Wednesday mornings to spend time with my BFF Paulie, I know I am the running equivalent of the self-taught rider.  cringe.  I have been running since 2008, and in that time some improvements have been made, but let's be honest, for the most part... I'm...

Loose in the cage, running with my body placement too upright all the way until the point when my torso collapses from lack of strength.  My hip angle is also probably off as I over correct.  My cadence might be OK at my cruising speed, but I can’t seem to hold it properly at the varying paces he runs us through.  This is also a problem.  I KNOW I have issues here.

I can feel them in BFF Paulie's cringe.

The difference between me & the unnamed rider is that I WANT to hear what BFF Paulie says.

IF form follows function…

june '10
Then the real question is, am I self aware enough to fix it, or not?

Aug '10
It’s one thing to know you need to lean, it’s another thing to be able to do it in the moment when you are running.

Nov '10 - note how I'm almost leaning back? 
of course, I'm also running a marathon in this photo, I'm clearly not in my right mind.
And arms, and shoulders, and knee drive and… no wait g.  One thing at a time. 

April '11 
So what are the mechanics of good running function?  If form follows function, let me first consider the words being shouted at me by my BFF.

Lean. Turnover. LEAN.

Picture of my BFF Paulie...  

there's no purpose in showing this photo except that 152 of my blog followers are women,  and I figured you'd all appreciate this... I mean, seriously ladies, look at his form?  could it be any more beautiful perfect?
...  ah.... I never ever miss class…  Where was I?  oh....  OH!  Right.

Paulie took me aside after class recently and talked to me about the fact that I apparently run with perfect posture... as in PERFECT RIDING POSTURE.... sadly... perfectly upright is SO not good running form.

I apparently have no forward lean.

He placed his hands on my car and showed me how much lean he wants to see.  It was a LOT.  But then looking back at all those photos, I can see, I almost am running leaning BACK.  Seriously.  

He says he needs me to run in an ellipse.  I'm not leaning so I'm wasting energy I could be using to carry me forward.  and that is the function.  The function of the lean is to go forward ... using less energy... so ultimately you can go faster.

So.  I need to channel my inner road runner.  (beep beep)

S'ok, because even though I make Paulie want to vom, or, maybe not vom, but definitely cringe when I run, he did pat me on the back after class on Wednesday for good effort.  Well.  We have to get our little kicks somewhere, true?

So for the next several weeks I’m going to be spending my time working on form… well, function really.  I believe that the form will follow...


fancy nancy said...

So when's next class? I think I need to make it!! Hee hee! I always struggle with form and knowing that there are things that are just off with it for me. Sometimes I feel like I have it down and those are good runs...others not so much! I read Chi Running in 07 and used it to run Boston. I try to continue to remind myself when I am feeling off.

Jill @ Run for the Hills said...

Form is becoming something more and more of interest to me. Thanks for this post.

Jen said...

Yum.... YUMMY! Did I mention he is so yum... I want some?

So.. about leaning forward... it IS a god thing... because gravity will pull you forward. Bob worked on this with me this summer. Good luck!

Rene' said...

I don't know how good my form is...i did get sucked into a pair of newtons hoping they would help me with my lean, but they didn't work. that should be my summer goal.

Katie said...

Funny, after seeing my latest photo from a race, form is all I am thinking about!! I was the poster child for "How NOT to run!"

Anne said...

Woah! That is one sexy looking trainer! Okay...leaning forward as I type :)