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First Steps

Posted by Filed Under: Learn to Run

the beaten pathThe boy (6-years-old) is going to soccer camp this week. But, he’s also going through a phase where all he wants to do is act a bleeding fool all the freakin’ time. His mom is on the verge of trading him in, and the coach at soccer camp is on the verge of leaving him at backfield, which, for 6-year-old soccer is the equivalent of being the kid off in left field picking daisies. (I remember it vividly.)

Anyway, after bath, I decided we’d try something a bit different tonight. It was cooling off, about 70, so I decided that it’s time that Jake learns to run.

Yeah, you read that right – “Learns to run.”

Learning to Run

‘Cause I’ve come to realize that distance running isn’t a skill that comes naturally to most people. It really isn’t. We’re set up, physiologically, to sprint. The whole “Fight-or-Flight” response, and that instinct, is what’s honed in us for most of our lives, especially in a world of fast twitch video games, sound bites, and deep philosophical discussions summed up in a 30-second ad on television.

So I said “Hey, let’s practice running down to the end of the block and back”—a trip of all of about half a mile. “Sure,” says the boy.

The out went like this—Jake would sprint as fast as he could for as long as he could without breathing, then stop and watch as I jogged by. Then he’d sprint again, laughing hysterically.

At the turn he was really starting to drag, so I summoned up the good parts of the military battalion OCS runs, and we started making up and singing jodies all the way back to the house. Next thing we know, we were passing the driveway—more than a quarter mile without me saying, “C’mon, Jake…”

I was happy, he was happy, the bees buzzed, the birds sang, and the last rays of twilight beat down on our ears.

Which is when it hit me—people do need to be taught how to run. As silly as that sounds, there is some level of skill involved—regulating pace, regulating breathing, etc. For a lot of us, being stubborn and working through pain is enough to learn those skills. But for others (and looking back, I’m in this category), rhythm, pace, and breathing don’t come naturally at all.

Which is another thing that might come in handy with the whole portable music player thing—running with tunes can be akin to having someone call cadence in your ear. Doesn’t do much for the breathing, unless you try to sing along.

Which you should.

Why is another column entirely…

About Bill Jankowski

Jank is the nom-de-plume (alias) of Bill Jankowski. Jank is a runner (defined as “one who runs”, without any necessary claims of athleticism). More accurate would be to say that he enjoys the company of his iPod, and goes to great lengths to get long periods of time alone with his thoughts. Plus, running is a wonderful way to keep his ego in check. He’s been physically active since he was a kid (assuming that, for the years 1995-1999 and 2001-2003, drinking counts as “active”), playing Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball while in college (for his fraternity’s B-team)(Actually, add 1990-1994 to the years of inactivity). In addition to running, Jank swims (controlled drowning), bikes (’cause his mom suggested he play in traffic as a kid), and kayaks (see swimming, but with sharks and props). An engineer by the grace of God, a (recovering) submariner by the graces of the taxpayers of the United States, and an MBA by mistake, Bill enjoys gear (oooh, shiny!), cycling (oooh, shiny bikes and clothes!), and poking at accepted ideas with a pointy stick. In 2004, Jank decided he didn’t want to go full-over to being fat, and took up running (instead of stopping eating). In 2005, he finished his first marathon (WooHoo!) in October, and his second two weeks later (dumb idea). He is still recovering. Bill lives in Connecticut (the poorer, eastern part) with his lovely wife Melissa (who is far more fit than he is and way less navel-gazing about it), and their two sons, Jake and Nate, who, in addition to having deliberately cool names, are the finest children to grace the Earth (clear proof that “evolution through natural selection” is bunk; although he still questions the monthly bill for “Pool Boy” despite not having a swimming pool). His rants can be found at runmystic.jankowskis.net; his best stuff is found here at CRN.



5 Comments
  1. Running takes practice « Run to Win » on August 24th at 2:36 am

    […] Over at Complete Running, Jank wrote an article about teaching his six year old to run by jogging to the end of the block and back. We’re set up, physiologically, to sprint. The whole “Fight-or-Flight” response, and that instinct, is what’s honed in us for most of our lives […] Which is when it hit me—people do need to be taught how to run. As silly as that sounds, there is some level of skill involved—regulating pace, regulating breathing, etc. For a lot of us, being stubborn and working through pain is enough to learn those skills. But for others (and looking back, I’m in this category), rhythm, pace, and breathing don’t come naturally at all. […]

  2. warren on August 24th at 9:18 am

    I can still remember, one summer, dad would bring the kids to play tennis every day. I’d start off against my sister, while dad ran laps around the track beside the tennis courts. One day, I decided that I would run, too. On the first day, I ran one lap, and was done. On the second day, I ran two laps, and was done. On the third day, I ran thirteen laps before it was time to play tennis.

    So yeah, it takes time for it to “click”. Once you get it, though, you never forget it.

  3. Steve Sherlock on August 24th at 6:11 pm

    funny but along a similar train of thought I was thinking of working out a song to a running cadence. old time chain gangs, sailors, and other laborers had work songs to help pass the time and to help keep the cadence of the work going.

    running also has a pace and the talk pace for running would be a good one to develop a cadence for. The iPod shuffle could be the background music (no lyrics) and you could fill in the words, sorta rapping as you ran…

  4. Dawn - Pink Chick on August 26th at 8:02 am

    I started running with my grand daughter when she was just shy of 3. She saw me running all the time and wanted to come along. We made it fun and even did hills. Crazy kid loves hills.

    She’s 5 now and has done 3 kids marathons and 2 5km races. Her 5km PR is 43minutes and her 1 mile time is 7:30. She still loves to run and I hope she loves it forever.

  5. The Complete Running Network » Blog Archive » Engineering Your Weight Loss on August 30th at 7:30 pm

    […] So, last week we were talking about teaching the boy to run. This week, I’d like to take a stroll down memory lane… […]

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