Mug Pam editor's letter copyBy Pam Woolway

A friend who annually runs the Kaua`i half marathon told me she doesn’t like to run.

“I like how my body looks and feels from running,” she said. “And I like that when I’ve finished, I never think, ‘Gee I wish I hadn’t done that.’”

With that small blessing I joined a half marathon 10-week training group — not because I plan to compete, but because I have runner envy.

I’ve never fancied myself athletic or for that matter a candidate for running. Running hurts. I’ve tried it. I manage to run a city block and everything in me pleads, “Stop.”

I admit though, that when I pass runners on the road cantering along with a look of peace on their faces, I ask myself, what am I missing? A form of exercise there but for the price of a pair of shoes seems a worthy pursuit. Is there a secret or am I just a big wimp?

Well the answer to both is yes. Running is a craft with a dozen rules to secure success. As for my wimpiness, I just hadn’t taken the right approach.

Training with a coach is one of the smarter decisions I’ve made in life. Really. To have the guidance of a person with knowledge of body mechanics is insurance against injury. Joining a group of funny, motivated peers is also a bonus.

Over the five weeks I’ve been part of this group I’ve developed a mnemonic device to remind myself about form while running.

1-Fun. It’s only fun if I don’t get hurt. Don’t push faster than my body’s ability at the expense of speed. Form is the priority.

2-Shoe. Yes, good shoes, but in this case the 2-shoe is referring to relaxing my toes. My instinct is to grab the ground rather than sink into it.

3-Tree. Posture is queen. Lift and open the chest. Keep the arms (limbs) bent at 45 degrees and swing to build momentum.

4-Core. Engage the abdominal muscles. Tuck the butt. I imagine a hook on my tail bone and one behind my navel. There is an imaginary line connecting the two. The sensation is of drawing the energy toward center.

5-Alive. Pay attention to breath. My coach calls it a conversational pace. Can I talk or am I huffing and heaving.

6-Skip. One of our drills is skipping. Skipping will show you where you’re supposed to land on the ball of the foot. As a life-long heel striker, this was an epiphany for me.

7-Heaven. Press the crown of the head skyward to lengthen the neck and tip the body forward slightly.

8-Gait. Long steps don’t translate as faster. Land softly on the ball of the foot with a higher turn over rather than lengthier steps.

9-Shine. When the run is done, the best thing I can do for my body is stretch. Two tools have enabled me to shine beyond the run: a foam roller and a golf ball. Not joking.

My feet ached terribly that first two weeks of running and to sit watching television while rolling that hard little ball around on the foot made a world of difference.

The foam roller is a therapeutic tool for elongating the muscles and tendons after exercise. Mine is a three-foot foam cylinder. I won’t lie to you. It hurts. It’s a pain I’d compare to a nuggie. And if you don’t know what a nuggie is, ask anyone with a big brother.

To learn how to use the roller, YouTube “foam roller exercises” for a visual.

This month in “Fit,”  learn some running basics from a professional personal trainer. Good stuff.

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