For the Middle Schooler: The Power of Positive Thinking, a Solid Core and Other Tips

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

During COVID everyone is less social than they used to be. No matter how hard hit your area is, our everyday interactions have changed. That can be unnerving. You as a young person may be feeling alone or isolated from your “peeps”. I won’t try to make that seem like a good thing, because it is not. However there are choices about how to handle adversity. What you do right now matters. The power of positive thinking cannot go unbelieved, but positive thinking is not going to make COVID go away. You and I can do our social distancing and wear masks, wash our hands and take care when we are around others. Outside of that, we need to look at how our actions will affect the future. One very key thing you have control of is keeping yourself healthy. This is a running blog, you know. So I will suggest challenging yourself to get running. Happily, running can be done alone or in small groups and you can do it as a family. Everyone may not be at the same pace, but going out in the same area together, encouraging each other, pushing each other and congratulating each other- this is all good stuff.

So earlier blogs have outlined the basics. Go run.

But running is not all about leg conditioning, you also need to pay attention to your core. A physical therapist I was working with once told me that she sees a lot of kids with very specific injuries from sports. She suspected that it was because when we specialize at a young age, parts of the body just aren’t developed, so other parts figure out how to get the job done. As a result, when young athletes get a little older injuries present. When working with these athletes she noted that almost all of them had very weak core muscles. What is your core? Think about it as your torso. Any strengthening you can do for this part of your body is going to benefit you in a multitude of ways and even in your running. Push ups, planks, crunches or other abdominal exercises as well as things like swimming, climbing, and yoga are all great for core strength.

To break it down a bit- strength in your shoulders helps posture (so your parents stops telling you to stand up straight). It also helps drive your running body forward. Your shoulders stay upright, your breathing is affected positively and your entire body has greater reach. Strong shoulders also kick in when your legs get tired out. Try this, when you start to fatigue while running, fully focus on your shoulders (which move your arms). Moving your arms at the pace you want will engage your shoulders and upper back and your body keeps moving. Your legs feel like there is a little more there.

Your abdominal muscles and back muscle also matter. Again, it helps your posture, but it also helps air exchange as you are sucking air in on a run and pushing it back out. What fuels you when you are running is oxygen. You have to get the big O into your blood. You do that by breathing. Efficient muscles that can pull air in and push it out will pull more oxygen in and out. Be careful here, your breathing needs to match your running intensity. You cannot just breathe harder to go faster, doing that may help you end up hyperventilating or more likely with side cramps. Breathing becomes more efficient the more miles you cover.

A note about those side cramps- if you get them, slow down, settle your breathing, focus on strong breaths out and paced breaths in. Think two short breaths in and one long breath out. Do this on pace. The two short breaths in match two foot strikes, the one long breath out also last for two full foot strikes. The better shape you are in the less likely you are to get side cramps because your whole body is in sync providing oxygen. If you are having a lot of trouble with side cramps, check you are getting enough water and are not dehydrated. Once you are sure of that, slow down and try breathing those two short breaths in through your nose while exhaling through your mouth. When exhaling blow out your mouth, don't just open your mouth and breath.

Those activities above also help with these core muscles. If you have a particularly weak back, try laying on your stomach and activating like Superman- lift arms, legs and head off the ground. Hold this for as long as you can and repeat this several times. This helps your posterior chain get stronger.

Remember: Your attitude is your super power.

Run For Your Life- Coach Weiss

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