When you were a kid do remember the joy of seeing who could jump off the tallest stuff? I remember this playground at my elementary school. There was this tower and we would all take turns to see who had the guts to jump off the high point. You would land in the rocks and basically run around to the ladder and do it again. No big thing. If you're over say, 22, when was the last time you tried to jump off something? Did it hurt? I bet it hurt, a lot. Somewhere along the way, adults forget how to jump.
I don't recall every being able to run all that well, even as a kid. But I know that somewhere along the way my butt forgot how to run. Yours probably has too.
A few weeks back I wrote this post about posture, focusing on hips in particular. Turns out that was only the beginning of my butt-ventures. Having returned to my chiropractor over and over and over with the same ailment (freakishly tight calves), he finally said to me "I can treat the symptoms, but you're going to have to deal with the root ('n' toot 'n') issue". The issue was my lazy butt.
I had a hankering that I'd been suffering from this affliction for some time. My run pace is oddly slow, and I don't "look" like a runner when I run. My bike is weak and I had nearly no kick in swimming for a long long time. All of those are core related, and glutes are a huge core contributor.
So I started reading. I guess the butt-fliction of lazy cheeks plagues many a runner, beginner and experienced alike.
My chiro sent me to a sports physio who basically confirmed what I thought. My body didn't know how to run. Because my glutes were lazy my knees would collapse inward on impact. That collapse would lengthen my calves and force them to do the forward pushing. Effectively, my toes were gripping and pulling me along the pavement. Calf pain ensued because that's not what calves are for. They're for looking good in high heels (I think).
So I've been fixing it. How? I clench my butt. Basically everywhere I go. I call it "walking with my ass". I basically stroll through the mall looking like I'm in desperate need of a bathroom, but can't hustle too fast (we all know that feeling). I also have all these little elastic band thingies that pull here and yank there. Primarily doing lateral side to sides with my knees being pulled inwards, and also learning how to move my leg forward and backwards using my butt and hamstrings, and not rotating my hips (which I though was the right way to do things, turns out it's not).
Sound complicated? It is a little bit. But you know what? It's working!
My first butt-run I only went for 4k. I focused solely on engaging my glutes, left cheek and right independently (my right is lazier than my left, which is saying something because my left is basically like a 14 year old adolescent on a Saturday morning). I even ran with my hands on my ass just to make sure they were firing. I looked like I was perving on myself (van full of candy anyone?).
Using this new butt technique, I was able to consistently accelerate to about a 4:20km pace without any appreciable suffering in doing so. Now that's not fast, but that's very fast for me. With my calf technique that same pace would have every muscle in my body straining to keep me there. Using my ass, I could hold that pace for some time with only my heart rate eventually feeling the effects. I was amazed.
My next butt-run was several days later where I went for a "long run". Hoping for 16km, I only managed about 12km. My heart rate was absolutely through the roof by the end and my pace was slowing to the point were I actually could not run (had to walk), but my ass was fully engaged the entire time. It was fantastic, if you're in to that sort of thing (which you should be).
I finished that run and came home, expecting the customary calf pain and necessary 40 minutes of rolling and pressure point relief that I would usually endure. Only this time it wasn't necessary! My calves didn't feel like they'd done any work at all! I stretched them just the same, but I didn't labour in agony like I usually did.
The next morning, I could barely sit down. It was a very satisfying hurt. That was my first run ever where the next day my butt hurt. In this rare instance, "pain in the ass" was a great thing.
I've now finished butt-run number three. A 10k last night in HR zone 2. Again, I struggled to keep my HR down towards the end. Mostly because new movements mean my cardio system reacts with a "we don't like this, better freak out" kind of mentality. But I had the ability to generate speed that I never could before, over distances that would leave me very laboured in past efforts, and I was running much more relaxed then I usually do.
As I sit here the day after, flexing my ass, I feel no appreciably strain in my calves. Whereas before they would be lit up like something that is "lit" to these kids these days (probably a pokemon of some sort), today I'm sitting pretty on a sore but engaged bum.
So if you, like me, are trying to find improvements where none seem possible, take a page out of the candy van man's book and grab a handful of ass, I bet that gets you movin' in all the right ways.