13 November 2012

Universal Mind

The great joy or running is, of course, that it is so easy and uncomplicated. You don't need any special equipment. Not even shoes: just a couple of old pieces of tyre and some hemp rope or (the non-vegetarian alternative) leather straps.

My minimalism does not extend as far as it might - not like Jenni Blake in Born To Run, or many participants in the Bay to Breakers, for example - and I am attached, very attached, to my GPS watch and HRM. I always carry a phone with me - a BlackBerry, in fact, so much cleverer than a simple phone that "universal mind" seems apposite, even if it often has a mind of its own - for emergencies and to snap pseudo-photographs while I'm out running. (Images produced with a BB do not count as real photographs, except in a very literal sense.) As I care nothing for fashion, I'll stick with the device I know rather than try something different which is bound to have its own set of problems. Unless it detects even the smallest amount of perspiration, when it will refuse to comply with any instructions, a BB does what I need it to do ...

Except ... Yesterday there dropped into my inbox an email inviting me to look at Strong Runner App. I'm enough of a technophile for it to pique my interest - always seeking a computer program that will automate my life, but be infinitely adaptable so it does so precisely the way I want it to. Yes, some hope. As if a few lines of code could make me a strong runner.

Indeed, for most of the past year (and much of the two years before that) I was no sort of runner at all, because I kept sustaining injuries. Partly it was the transition to barefoot running, which should take six to twelve months but which I did as soon as the package arrived from Barefoot Ted's workshop. Partly it was incipient early middle age. And partly it was failing to stretch as I should.

Well, stretching is boring, isn't it? Why waste time stretching when you could be out running (or lying in bed with a mug of coffee)? And it means digging out an old copy of Runner's World which shows you how to do it (I rely on a set of yoga poses described years ago in RW by John Hanc, which are really good but which never all stick in my memory: still less do I remember the correct order). As for warming up, surely it's enough just to start slowly (yeah, I have always been really good at that - I will never forget an INTA 5K which I started at what I thought was a sensible pace, looking over my shoulder to locate Villu, Rudi and several others who should never be behind me in a race, and at the finish, by which point they and many others had cruised past, Mario asking whether no-one had ever told me not to start too quickly).
Watch the Demo from Taavi Sumberg on Vimeo.

The Strong Runner App is the perfect antidote to every excuse I have ever used for not stretching or warming up properly. It also shows you how to exercise your core and lower body, and gives useful tips about injuries. None of which is news to me, or to you either I guess, but which could not be more conveniently presented. While I deplore the modern habit of blanking out the world by means of headphones, the fact is that people do run with their smartphones (whether they are listening to music on them or not) and with the Strong Runner App they can have all the information they need about stretching, warming up and so on at their fingertips. Better than carrying around a selection of back copies of Runner's World. Unfortunately it's not much help to a BB user, but at least I can look at the videos provided on the website and learn from them. And when I have managed to carry out a real test, I will post again!

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