In 2015, I became a runner. Not a great runner, but a dedicated one. In the past, I have run to stay in shape or condition for other sports, but I never trained for competitive running. I learned about preparation, pace, nutrition, and training. I discovered how hard I can push my body and challenge my mind. The result was a healthier athlete (a term I use casually), completion of my first 15K run, and an expectation to increase my performance in the upcoming year.
That expectation not only refers to running, it drives all aspects of my personal and professional life. Now that I have motivation and direction for 2016, I will continue to “walk or run with long, decisive steps” at a “good or regular rate of progress” toward my aspirations.
I will STRIDE…
Stride, as a noun, refers to “the most effective natural pace”–a pace I intend to improve. As I continue training, one of my first questions is about stride length for distance runners. Is it better to take long strides or shorter strides at a faster cadence? Although we feel we cover greater distances with longer strides, the most efficient runners increase their performance by focusing on number of strides per minute. The magic number is 180 strides per minute (fascinating research). Coincidentally, 180 is also the number of required days in a school year in most states. While maintaining a vision for the entire year, we need to focus on the significance of each day. I will take every stride with purpose.
With increased mileage, physical fatigue and stress is inevitable. How may I withstand the wear and tear? The most common cause of running injury is over striding, where the foot lands ahead of the knee. I tend to take on too much at once. I want to continue to make an impact, but must beware of how I absorb each foot strike. Keeping both feet beneath the body provides a stable base and lower risk of injury. From there I can focus on pushing up and off the ground beneath me. While maintaining an upright, slightly forward posture, I am reminded to keep my head up, allowing my eyes to see what’s ahead and my mind to process the vision.
Rest, Recovery, and Variety
In addition to being cognizant of form, it is vital to allow time for ample rest and recovery. This takes as much planning and discipline as it does to get motivated for an intense workout. Not every day needs to be a distance run. I have to be intentional about finding time for family and fun. Time to play. The next project or to-do-list item can wait a day. Over time, the greatest gains are made by getting creative and varying workouts.
To hit one’s stride means showing improvement in the way something is developing–to pick up the pace with ease and confidence. This is no simple task, but strides are considered the best training exercises when performed in an intentional progression. I most appreciate the reminders: rest until recovered after each set, “have fun with it, and try something new.” I can practice these short accelerations, be more efficient at faster speeds, and feel more relaxed and in control.
The greater distance we travel, the more strides we take, the more highs and lows we face. When I encounter hills and other obstacles, I will stride with perseverance to maintain momentum. We all need inspiration to persist, but for educators, the reminders are ever present in the students we impact every day. Keeping the focus on their individual needs requires acting with empathy and compassion. Students rely on our consistent message, positive attitude, and unwavering support.
In times of stress and conflict, I will stride with resilience to overcome negativity and turmoil. The important lesson–simple runner’s logic–applies to building relationships, parenting, and educating: be patient, remain calm, control breathing, and monitor heart rate. Take life in stride.
Mapping the Run…Charting the Course
To stride is to progress, to act with intent and purpose. Having conditioned for greater levels of challenge in 2015, I am determined to make strides–stages of rapid progress–to see where the next stretch of trails leads. I will look back to see where I’ve been, reflect on my performance, and make adjustments. From there I can plan accordingly, move forward, and explore new routes. Along the way, I will capture my surroundings and appreciate every step.
By the end of 2016, I will stride out a strong kick for optimal performance, establishing new personal and professional bests.