Health & Fitness

Runner found little tricks that made a big difference

I didn't always love to run, even though I've been a runner for well over 20 years. It was all I could do to slog through three miles of uninspired, unenthusiastic task running. And then . . . it all changed.

The evolution began slowly, first with the acquisition of a wristwatch-style GPS that gave me immediate feedback on time, speed and pace -- which, at that point, was a slow, slow, slow 11-, 12- or (yikes!) even 13-minute mile.

Hmmm, I thought: Now that I had the means to gauge just how fast (or slow) I was running, I should push myself a little harder. And to my amazement, my time began to fall.

In the meantime, to try to restore a little vitality to my workout ethic, I began to work with a knowledgeable trainer. I mentioned that I had developed a minor running ache, and she referred me to a sports therapist who had helped her from time to time. It took only a couple of visits, including having my gait analyzed, to learn that the hip discomfort was caused by swinging my arms laterally when the proper movement should be limited to front and back -- no sideways movement at all. The problem with swinging arms is that shoulders follow the arms, and hips follow the shoulders, and that motion causes twisting that can put undue stress on the hips. The therapist also referred me back to my trainer for advice on minor stretching and to a running store for the right shoe.

The third step in my evolution came from another acquisition: the iPod. Music while running! No longer was I confined to journeying into the interior reaches of my mind. Old songs, new songs -- bring it on! My runs became longer as I took pleasure in reveling in runner-rousing music, and my previously boring three-mile runs turned into four-, five-, six- and, eventually, seven-mile runs that I actually looked forward to.

The more I ran, the leaner I became, and my times continued to improve into the nine-minute range. And that's when it all came together. I had become the perfect running machine, all ease, gliding through the air, every cylinder firing in unison, the mind and body working together. Running became as easy as walking. That's where my runner's high comes from -- experiencing the perfection and strength of the human body in motion.

Even running up hills (albeit small ones) is so easy it's like having springs in my legs. At times like this, it feels as if it's not even my own body anymore.

But the most important thing I've learned is that when the body is healthy and strong, that is reflected in the mind. Thank goodness for running. And anti-blister socks.

Price, who lives in Oxnard, has a master's in art history and works in the family business. She can be reached at HJPrice1@aol.com.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be no more than 500 words. They are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Please e-mail health@latimes.com. We read every essay but can't respond to every writer.

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