Like it was written just for me

If you made a short list of the things I’ve taken an interest in just lately, and then added knife-throwing to the list, you’d pretty much have the table of contents for Christopher McDougall’s new book Natural Born Heroes. It’s like he’s been following me around to see what I’ve been researching, asking about, and talking about. But, you know, not in a creepy way.

The book isn’t out for another six weeks or so, but he’s got a fascinating series of little articles and videos over at Outside Magazine’s website that hits some of the high points—parkour, lifting, standing, foraging (most of which are already tags here on my blog)—with the bonus addition of the knife throwing, which is now a tag for this post, and will get some more attention in the very near future (because how cool is that?).

The book itself is coming out in mid-April, and is available for pre-order at Amazon: Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.

Today’s run

It was preternaturally warm today, so I seized the opportunity to go for a run outdoors.

I skipped the zombies, figuring I’d save them as an incentive for running on the treadmill. With mild weather, running outdoors is its own reward.

When I’d seen the forecast, I’d imagined that I might run on the trails in the Lake Park prairie and woods. But in the actual event, the warm southern breeze over the cold ground produced enough dew that it might just as well have rained, making it muddier than I thought would be really fun for a trail run. So, instead I just ran down Curtis to Prospect, and then south along the bike path as far as the Savoy Rec Center, and then back again. It came in at 3.13 miles.

It was a great run. It wasn’t even hampered by a stumble right at the end, when I caught my toe on an uneven bit in the pavement. I went down on the wet asphalt, but managed to turn my fall into a credible parkour-style roll, and then come up on my feet ready to keep running. I don’t know how much was pure luck and how much was the time I put in practicing my shoulder rolls back in May, but I’m pretty pleased with the result either way. I have one teeny-tiny scratch on my palm, but am otherwise unhurt. I don’t want to think about how much skin I’d have left on the pavement if I’d slid rather than rolling.

I can’t really expect any more weather this warm until spring, but between fond memories of this run and the zombies, I have high hopes for putting in the necessary treadmill time to be still in shape for running when spring comes.

Shoulder rolls and precisions

In a very small way, I’ve been persisting with my parkour training.

I’ve been practicing my shoulder rolls with some success: I can now do shoulder rolls from a kneeling start on both left and right shoulders. With that under my belt, I also did some from a standing start on my right side. I want a little more practice before I do them from the left side.

Next will be to do them at a run, and then to do them after dropping from a height. (Not a high height—I don’t want to hurt my feet, ankles or knees—but I want to develop the ability to drop from a height, absorb the impact of landing, and then go into a roll if necessary. It seems like a useful skill.)

The other thing I’ve started with are what the parkour folks call a precision: a jump to a specific point. You’ve seen them in movies where the actor (or a stunt man) jumps from one beam to another over a gap, or jumps from the top of one wall to the top of the next wall.

In the interests of not killing myself with my practice, I’ve been doing all my jumps at ground level, jumping and then landing on a curb. I’m not jumping very far—I still have no explosive power—but so far I have reasonably good accuracy. (The curb is maybe 6 inches wide, and I’ve managed to land on it, and to not topple over, pretty much every time so far.)

The distance I can jump is growing, which I think is just improving neuromuscular recruitment. (That is, at the level of the muscles, I’m getting better at firing off each phase of muscular contraction at the best moment to launch myself, and at the level of the limbs, I’m coordinating my arm and leg movements so that everything works together to launch me the distance I’m trying to go.)

In other news, packing to move proceeds apace. We’re soon to be at the point where we’re living in our summer place as much as we’re living in our old apartment. And we’ve learned that we’re #2 on the waiting list for Winfield Village

Running, and maybe a little parkour

On many of my runs this spring, my ankles have been a little sensitive. I’m not sure why. It may be the last remnants of my ankle injury last summer. It may be that I haven’t been stretching my calves enough. It may be that I’ve been doing too many longish runs and not enough short ones. But whatever the cause, I’ve noticed that it seems much worse when the weather is cold.

Serious runners like to run in cool weather. Running generates a lot of heat. Even someone who runs as slowly as I do generates enough heat to keep warm (even in shorts and a t-shirt) in temps down into the 40s. But my ankles have tended to hurt after any run that I did in temps below the upper 50s. So for the past several weeks, I’ve been holding out for temps in the 60s to go for runs—and there hasn’t been much.

Happily our long, cold spring seems to be finally over. Since the end of winter, there have generally only been a few hours a week that were warm enough for me to run. As of today, it looks like we’re going to have 15 or 16 hours a day that will suit my purposes.

So, today I went out for a medium-ish length run, hoping that the weather and my schedule will let me get out for more runs nearly every day for the next while.

According to Zombies, Run! I went 3.11 miles in 36:18. It went great. No ankle pain (or foot, calf, knee, or hip pain). It was long enough for me to feel like I got in a real run, but short enough that (baring unexpected problems), I hope to be able to run tomorrow as well. And the day after that.

In related news, I’ve become interested in parkour. I’m not really interested in doing anything extreme in the way of climbing or leaping. It’s more that I’m hoping to see places to run differently—to see walls and railings and stairways and rocks as part of the course, rather than as obstacles. I haven’t done much so far, except step up the bodyweight parts of my resistance exercise, but I’ve started to practice jumping and landing where I mean to. (It turns out I have no explosive power at all. It’s really quite sad.) I’m also trying to recover my ability to do shoulder rolls. (Thirty years ago, when I was studying aikido, I could do a perfectly credible shoulder roll, come right to my feet, and then do the same roll on the other shoulder, all the way down the length of the dojo. Now I’m too timid to do a roll from a standing position, and even when I do it from my knee, it’s all clumsy and awkward. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good reason to be timid about doing them at a run.)