Monday, October 26, 2009

Hanging Out at the Cape Cod Marathon

Yesterday was a gorgeous day for running, and having decided to run the Cape Cod Marathon (photo gallery from Cape Cod Times) last week I was in the right place when the cannon went off Sunday morning signaling the start of the 32nd edition of the race. I wasn't there to race, but to enjoy the day, have some fun, and see what happened with my body. The sun was shining and a short-sleeved shirt and Triad singlet would be the order for the day and there was no shivering, even before the race started. Having run this course multiple times and it being my hometown, I finally figured out how to survive the course, which can be a killer with the rolling hills in the second half. Go out slower, no matter how much the flat first miles beg you to speed.

At the start, I was talking to a woman from Minnesota named Julie Musselman who wanted to run about 3:20. I told her how to keep it easy and tear it up only near the end. She was at Falmouth to run a good time before going in for foot surgery on Thursday. Well there is an incentive to give it your best shot! I went out at an easy pace, enjoying the crowds at the start. I was was also enjoying conversing with runners around me. As we ran around the Falmouth inner harbor in the first miles, some guy with headphones on was shouting and saying how his time would be unofficial as soon as he was disqualified (a rule for the race). I don't get the need for the headphones at all in a race especially when you are a talker, like he was. Even further, I do not get why he was running if he knew his time would not count upon disqualification. As we hit the Heights Beach area after the first relay transition zone, I was listening to a couple other runners talking and had to interrupt to ask some questions. One guy was pacing his buddy during the marathon. The remarkable thing was he had just run (or raced) 53 miles the day before. I was bumping between runners and conversations. It is rather friendly out there when you are not racing! Eventually I caught back up with Julie, from Minnesota, who was running with another great storyteller by the name of Zeus Estrada. Zeus trains with Bill Rodgers and it is always fun to talk about the greatness of Boston Billy. In fact, Zeus was the person who escorted Bill Rodgers through the 2009 Boston Marathon. I found out he was my age and was suffering a calf injury, which seems to be a common problem for us older runners. I was enjoying the conversations with Zeus and Julie, who knows a lot of the Team Minnesota runners, however I wanted to take a pit stop at the East Falmouth School so I veered off the course and bid them good luck. After a one to two minute break I was back on course.

Next up on the road, I saw a runner who looked familiar, but I wasn't sure as he still looked like he had the stride of a collegiate runner. I greeted him and I was right. It was Andy Rogovin, who used to be one of the top runners on Cape Cod (2nd place in the Cape Cod Marathon in 1983 in 2:30:49) and I am pretty sure a sub 2:30 guy who is also about my age. I remember him most as the guy who took third place in the first Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon (Ironman) back in 1983. I was in that race and ran four more of them. I told him to look up the video of that race that I put up on YouTube awhile back. He is also the guy that beat me when I ran my fastest ever 5 miler back in 1982, 6 days after bombing out in the heat of the Boston Marathon. I ran 26:48 and then broke some bones in my right ankle area the following week playing softball, and I was never to run as fast again (although I think it was more my move to triathlons the next year that slowed me down).

As we headed through the cranberry bogs of East Falmouth, and hit the 9-mile mark I saw that I had a split of 69 minutes. I had no pacing plan in mind and can't do the math of pacing during a race, but this one I could figure. I was on a pace of a little under 3:27 (of course I did have that bathroom break). That was OK with me as I figured I would run around 3:25 today. From that point on, I only recall one marathon runner passing me the rest of the marathon, although I may not have seen some pass. Some relay runners would pass, throughout the race. The race became less busy and there weren't many runners to run with anymore.

I hit the half marathon in about 1:40 and I was not tiring. Unfortunately, my left leg was all off during the race. All the little Feldenkrais movement patterns I hoped to work on would not work as my body ended up all out of whack. I think there was a twist or kink in my lower vertebrae and all the muscles in my lower back were extremely tight. I believe I passed Zeus through the Sippiwisset Hills, but only think it was him because he was wearing compression socks. I did cheer him on. I had been talking to people in the race, but not looking at what they looked like. I was only drinking water and had a packet of "Sports Beans". I decided they were too sweet to eat while running. I think I had half of a GU or whatever they were handing out. I wasn't in need of energy so I was just being careful.

As we hit Woods Hole, I saw three female racers ahead and thought that I would be seeing a good race develop in front of me. The ladies are usually stronger at the end of a marathon, particularly when they are competing with each other. At the relay exchange right after the old schoolhouse in Woods Hole, I tripped on a speed bump in the road. I almost went down as my left leg went back and I lunged forward trying to maintain balance. My back stretched out but was startled. I had to slow down to make sure I didn't hurt anything. I noticed the lunge pulled my left lower back straight and it started loosening up a bit. I quickly caught the three ladies and a few other people and they were behind me by Nobska Lighthouse.

I figured now was the time to start racing, but running with the left leg out of whack was not easy especially since my back started tightening up more after a few minutes of relief. Try this: put a wedge of about 1/4 -1/2 inch in the outer half of your left shoe. Run. You will notice your foot and ankle rolls to the inside and your weight will rest on the inside of your left knee. This will rotate your knee and hip in the wrong way and throw off your stride as well as cause imbalances in your back. Now do that for 26.2 miles and you will know how it feels to run in my body! I was not feeling like going too much faster. In the last few miles, I didn't get faster, but didn't really slow much at all. The pounding and tiredness (typical to a hard marathon) wasn't there, I just didn't feel the need to "go for it". There were three huge puddles in the last 3 miles covering the roads. You had to go to the side of the road to miss them and run in the sand and ruts. With my leg out of balance, I could not run properly in the more "technical" areas and each time I fell off balance and ended up splashing into the puddles.

Then I realized with two miles to go that I wasn't under 3:20 pace, so I just kept an easy pace to the finish line. It ended up being a pleasant day to run, another marathon in my cap, one of my slower marathons, and another learning experience. I had to limp with the tightness in my left glutes right after the race, but otherwise had no soreness, no blisters, no chafing, or anything else unpleasant (except a very salty face). At the finish, I saw former high school teammate Duncan Warden. He did not run the marathon, I think he had been biking along the course, but he was doing something worse than the marathon. He said he was going to bike down to the ocean and go dive into the water. I'd rather run a marathon!

I have many ideas of what is going on with my stride. Hint: I am taking a close look at my left heel, which may be misaligned and creating a lot of my problems. After the race, I was walking around just fine with very little muscle soreness and I still had a spring in my step. Today I was back to normal and ran 8 miles. My quads had a little stiffness, but I could run with a normal (for me) stride. I am considering what I might do this weekend: the Santa Fund race on Saturday, or ... I have always wanted to try the Manchester Marathon. That is on Sunday. I will have to check the weather report. If it is a good day, I might check it out. I did see Jim Quadros after the race. He didn't run, but when I mentioned I might do Manchester, he warned me that that Marathon killed his running. His hips haven't been the same since he did it a couple years ago, although he went much faster (sub 2:50) On the other hand, maybe just maybe the race will fix my hips!

Key finishers at the 2009 Cape Cod Marathon

1 Joseph E. Ekuom 2:33:13
2 Nicolas Karr 2:39:05
3 Benjamin Ndaya 2:41:36
4 Jeffrey Redfern 2:46:50
5 Anthony Crudale 2:50:04
6 Ian Clark 2:51:16
In 1980 I ran 2:51:48 at the Cape Cod Marathon(Otis course) and only placed 44th out of 241 runners- times have changed!
7 Dominique Devin 2:52:02
8 Darren Moor 2:53:50
9 John Piggott 2:54:27
10 Justin Thibault 2:54:49
13 Mary-Lynn Currier 2:56:14 (first female)
14 Megan Malgeri 2:56:53 (second female)
34 John Shepherd 3:10:46 (first senior)
44 Stephan Grilli 3:14:15 (second senior)
55 Julie Musselman 3:17:40 (I hope your surgery is successful!)
62 Adrian Forde 3:19:24 (third senior)
67 Hassan M. Haydar 3:21:45 (fourth senior)
69 Jim Hansen 3:22:44 (fifth senior)
77 Andy Rogovin 3:25:27 (seventh senior)
84 David Birse 33:28:17 (ninth senior-never saw him on the course-would have liked to have said hello)
95 Zeus Estrada 3:30:44 (not bad on a gimpy calf!)
481 Beth Nelson 4:25:43 (former winner of the race and top runner and triathlete from Cape Cod(3 times top 10 in the Hawaiin Ironman in the 1980's, including fastest female marathon 3:17 one year- that was faster than some of the top ten male runner's times!)

Other tidbits:

I have now run a marathon in 5 different decades of my life. I ran my first in Dallas when I was 18 in 1977. I have run marathons (40-50) since then in my 20’s, 30’s, 40's, and now my first in my 50's. Next year I will have run a marathon in 5 different decades (if I run one): the 70's 80's 90's, 2000's and 2010's.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pushed the Button, One Week to the Cape Cod Marathon

I have had a very poor three weeks of running, since racing the Applefest 1/2 marathon. I had a two week cold of some type, a sore calf-achilles, and for the past two weeks my left side has been acting up. I only got about 2 or 3 runs in per week with nothing over 8 miles. I decided, with the weather outlook this weekend, that I wouldn't get another long run in and so I wouldn't enter the Cape Cod Marathon next weekend. Yesterday wasn't a bad day, like they predicted, and after doing a new Feldenkrais lesson Saturday afternoon, my left leg straightened up a bit and the pains of the last 2 weeks left, so I drank a glass of water and headed out for a run.

I had a nice loose run, although I lost a lot of conditioning during the downtime, something I also noticed Wednesday night at the track when I struggled through 3 X 1600 in 6:13, 6:07, and 6:06. I was enjoying feeling loose again and decided to try to go 16 miles. I started losing my form around 13 miles, but soldiered on thinking I would go 21 miles. At about 16 miles, I changed my mind, as I had nothing to eat or drink and going longer would only do some harm. I headed home and ended up doing 18 miles.

I got a long run in, so today a hit the "Enter" button and entered the Cape Cod Marathon for next Sunday. I am not going to worry about time and just see what happens. I guess I would be happy just running under 3:30, although if everything feels right I could go faster. If I qualify for Boston, it gives me an option to do that race in the Spring.

The past two weeks, my left leg has been acting up (out of whack). When that happens, I get a pain in my butt, in my lower back, and my knee feels tight and constricted. I also notice my left foot rotates out to the side more and when I run I have to roll over on the inner side of the foot which twists my knee, tightens my adductors, and gives me pains all over. Usually this is where I start stretching and beating myself up making it worse. I was doing lots of back Feldenkrais lessons, but started looking for foot-ankle lessons. The lesson I finally found, had me working on the ankles, my left one has limited mobility in one quadrant. I noticed that while rotating the ankle, I could feel its effect right in my left glute that gets really tight. There is a definite connection there and after about 1/2 hour of gentle movement and rotations, I was getting a smoother movement. When I was done, things weren't perfect, but I could run without the constrictions I had beem feeling all over my left side. I find it very fascinating noticing, through Feldenkrais, the ability to move in different ways and the positive effect I can achieve. I am slowly unraveling the tension and tight spots throughout my body and feel a lot freer in the back and hips. I also still find a lot of tight spots, so this is going to be a long process. Today is the best my body has felt in the past three weeks!

I don't expect much out of this marathon, in fact it is probably stupid to do it as I should not put new movement patterns under so much stress, so I will keep it low key and turn it into a long run. Hopefully the weather will be better than what the runners in the Bay State Marathon had to face today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nashua Pal Elementary School Cross-Country Championships

Here is an Animoto video I made of the Nashua Pal Elementary School Cross-Country Championships today at Nashua North High School. It has some Main Dunstable runners (my daughter's school), some Mount Pleasant runners (my former students), and many runners from New Searles (where I teach). (results here) There are lots of little people learning how fun it is to run, in Nashua.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can Vitamin D Improve Your Running?

Last month the New York Times had an article by Gretchen Reynolds that asked, "Can Vitamin D Improve Your Athletic Performance?"  She writes:

"Vitamin D is an often overlooked element in athletic achievement, a “sleeper nutrient,” says John Anderson, a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina and one of the authors of a review article published online in May about Vitamin D and athletic performance. Vitamin D once was thought to be primarily involved in bone development. But a growing body of research suggests that it’s vital in multiple different bodily functions, including allowing body cells to utilize calcium (which is essential for cell metabolism), muscle fibers to develop and grow normally, and the immune system to function properly. “Almost every cell in the body has receptors” for Vitamin D, Anderson says. “It can up-regulate and down-regulate hundreds, maybe even thousands of genes,” Larson-Meyer says. “We’re only at the start of understanding how important it is.”"

You can get Vitamin D from the sunshine, but many people these days avoid the sun or apply sunscreen. Getting enough Vitamin D from our diet and in the proper amounts is not that easy.

Meanwhile, dietary sources of Vitamin D are meager. Cod-liver oil provides a whopping dose. But a glass of fortified milk provides a fraction of what scientists now think we need per day. (A major study published online in the journal Pediatrics last month concluded that more than 60 percent of American children, or almost 51 million kids, have “insufficient” levels of Vitamin D and another 9 percent, or 7.6 million children, are clinically “deficient,” a serious condition.
 Although the article stresses that few studies have looked closely at the issue of Vitamin D and athletic performance, some of what researches have found is interesting. There are even hints that it may help you jump higher (one study found that adolescent athletes who had  lower levels of Vitamin D tended not to jump as high as those with higher levels)  and run faster (Russian and German sprinters improved their sprint times by dosing with Vitamin D and using sun lamps). Running faster and jumping higher was something that I thought only Keds shoes could do.

 The author writes:

A number of recent studies also have shown that, among athletes who train outside year-round, maximal oxygen intake tends to be highest in late summer, Johnson says. The athletes, in other words, are fittest in August, when ultraviolet radiation from the sun is near its zenith. They often then experience an abrupt drop in maximal oxygen intake, beginning as early as September, even thought they continue to train just as hard. This decline coincides with the autumnal lengthening of the angle of sunlight. Less ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth and, apparently, sports performance suffers.
I am one of those runners that feel fittest during the summer and have a decline in the winter months. Whether that is true because of a lack of Vitamin D or the fact that I don't like the cold., I am not sure. The author claims the blood test is simple to do if you want to look for deficiences and taking a supplement is easy. I really don't take any vitamins or supplements, but I would like to know more about this Vitamin D research. It is cheap if you can't get out in the sun. A year's supply
costs less than $15.00.

I do recall reading a article last spring where Deena Kastor blamed her broken foot at mile 3 of the Beijing Olympic Marathon on a lack of Vitamin D. Due to her skin cancer, she lathers up with sunscreen and wears hats when outdoors. With a Vitamin D deficiency, her bones were weakened, because they could not absorb calcium properly. Her foot broke at the most inopportune time. Here is an interview where Deena explains what happened and what she learned.

Interesting reading:
Peak Athletic Performance and Vitamin D
Vitamin D Increases Athletic Performance
Mike T. Nelsons's blog Vitamin D and Athletic Performance
The Vitamin D Cure

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Genesis of "Born to Run"

Thanks to The Exuberant Animal for finding this video that shows Christopher McDougall, who is the author of the best running book in years: Born to Run, telling about the awakening he had that was the genesis of the book. In his mind, shoes are the enemy. This short video is infomative and has some great pictures for fans of the book. Whatever you think about the idea of barefoot running, "Born to Run" is an entertaining, thought provoking,  and a must read book!

Matt Metzgar recently pointed me to another article written by Christopher McDougall that can be found in this month's Men's Health magazine. It is called Everything You Know About Muscle is Wrong. It is a very good and in-depth description of the often overlooked role of fascia in the body. One of the best and only books that I have found that describe fascial stretching is Ming Chew's The Permanent Pain Cure. I wrote about the book last year here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dathan Ritzenhein Third at World Half-Marathon Championships

No kidding, but I finished my run today and looked at my watch and it said 59:59:01. Well I ran less than a second less than Dathan Ritzenhein did today, but his run was a whole lot more impressive than mine. Dathan took second place in the World Half-Marathon World Championships in Birmingham, England. What a great year for this American runner! He finished in sixth place at the World Championship 10,000m race and later set an American record in the 5000m. Today's race earned him a bronze medal against some of the best runners in the world. Too bad his time did not put him under 60 minutes as he was credited with a 60:00 time. It sort of matches his marathon PR of 2:10:00. If you haven't watched the race you can view it here. At the very least watch the last 20 minutes of the race to see all the surges and changing of places occuring between the 2nd through 5th place finishers. Great racing!

Two More Runs and High School Cross-Country Coaches

I had another "recovery" week with only two runs for the second week in a row. My calf-soleus area remains a bit tight. I ran Tuesday, with a bad cough and somewhat of a limp to protect that tight area. I did not run again until today. Thankfully, the cold is finally gone, and I could run without trying to protect the calf, but I could still feel the stiff area. Hopefully I can continue to run daily again, only four runs in two weeks is not doing it for me.

Have you ever seen the movie The Long Green Line? It is about Coach Joe Newton and the powerhouse York High School cross-country team. It is an interesting film for those who like to see inspiring coaching and high school cross-country running. We got it from Netflix and it is worth the rental.

I loved running cross-country and here is an old cross-country team photo I found online of the 1974 Stony Brook School cross-country team. I was a sophomore and it was my first year living away from home. I started running my freshman year at Falmouth High School. Stony Brook is a small (about 350 students in grades 7-12) college prep school. Although we were a small school, we had a supurb-running program with some great champion runners (history here). We also had one of the greatest cross-country coaches you could ever find. Marvin W. Goldberg earned respect throughout our school and New York State and was a thorough, precise, and caring coach. Although many of his runners became state champions and earned college scholarships for their running abilities, he was more interested in developing strong men then champion runners. Mr. Goldberg knew his running inside and out. Every workout was part of a larger plan and based on Arthur Lydiard's ideas. He found just the right hills, forest pathways, and interesting running routes for us runners. We had a cinder track for intervals unless he found another location for timing our runs. We received notes during the summers encouraging us to train and he sat down and developed long term and season goals for each of his athletes. He hauled out G.I.T. (Goldberg's Iced Tea) after workouts and he was a splendid student of the sport. His chapel talk on watching the Boston Marathon and especially his descriptions of the wheelchair athletes climbing Heartbreak Hill are still etched in my mind. His trip to Eugene, Ore. in 1976 to watch the Olympic track trials is another memory.

The last time I saw Mr. Goldberg was at the one-mile mark of the Falmouth Road Race sometime in the early 1980s. I was running up Nobska Hill and saw his leg, looked up in surprise and yelled hello, and continued with the race. There is a book written about the lessons learned under Mr. Goldberg's coaching called A Resilient Life: You Can Move Ahead No Matter What by Rev. Gordon MacDonald, a Stony Brook runner long before I attended. Here is a small article based on that book. When President Clinton got himself into a lot of trouble as president, Rev. MacDonald was one of the ministers called upon to be his spiritual advisor.

"Gordie, I think you have potential," Coach said. "But you'll have to discipline yourself. You have to trust me and follow my instructions. Every day you must complete the workouts listed on this board. Don't commit to this if you are not willing to give it everything you have."

Each weekday Coach stapled up on that board individual training programs for every member of his team, signed MWG, his shorthand for Marvin W. Goldberg.

"Gordie, are you willing to pay the price it takes to become a Stony Brook trackman?" he asked.

Coach Goldberg did not just oversee me as a runner; in fact, he did not always pay me the attention I would have liked. I loved running, but was not that good. On the other hand, he saw potential for other things in me. After one year at Stony Brook, I was supposed to return to Falmouth High School. He called me one day during the summer to see how my running was going and talked to my father instead. He found out I was unable to return. That phone call started a series of events that enabled me to return to Stony Brook in a miraculous way. Without his concern, I would never have been able to return. At the beginning of my senior year, the Wheaton College (Illinois) cross-country team made an east coast trip At first they landed in Falmouth (Tommy Johnson was a member of the team and the first cross country runner I ever knew and he was from my hometown of Falmouth, I went out for the Falmouth team in ninth grade with his brother and my friend Stu) and then they traveled to Stony Brook (almost like they were hunting me down). I sat at the dinner table with the Wheaton cross-country coach and Mr. Goldberg that night. Mr. Goldberg talked me up greatly to the coach and talked the school up to me. The next year I was running for Wheaton College (although under a different coach). I believe Mr. Goldberg helped prime the pump for me in that regard too. Although I was always disappointed that he never quite realized how much I loved running even though I wasn't a star, I think he made sure the best things happened for me, because I was one of his runners! I still remember the day he called me over after a rough workout in which I really struggled and he put his arm around me and said, "Jim, one day you can be a very good runner!" and then he told me about the potential he saw in me.

In the photo:
bottom row (left to right): Larry Swanson, Sr. (died in a tragic water skiing accident a few years after high school), Don Lockerbie, Sr. (top collegiate 1000m runner at UNC, runs a company that builds sports stadiums, I think I read that he set the bike and marathon courses at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. His dad was a teacher at Stony Brook and almost a Canadian Olympian in track, but what impressed me at the time was that he sometimes ran with us B level runners, which I found remarkable at the time because he was over 40 years old! old guys didn't run then) Bob Levorchick, Sr., Doug Alexander, Sr. 2nd row Brad Bright, Jr. (also ran x-c at Wheaton College), Dave Seyfert, Jr., Scott Dodd, Soph. (really a top New York state wrestler, hurdler and high jumper) Mark Whitney, Fr. (top NY state runner- 4:16 hs miler, state champion- Winner L.I. Marathon and ran for UNC- also older brother to Andy, 9:06 hs 2 miler, state champion, and ran for William and Mary, and older brother to Laura Whitney Bianco, a third family state champion, Kinney x-c finalist (now Footlocker), still has one of the fastest hs girls times at Van Cortland Park, and a Gate City Strider - at least in the past- haven't seen her this year- the one year she put some effort into her running she won the overall female title at the Applefest half-marathon). Top row: coach Marvin W. Goldberg, Bill Hobbs, fresh. (the team's Woody Allen- funny guy!), Peter Ljunquist, soph., David Ribbe soph. (only year he ever ran x-c but also attended Wheaton College with me, met David on the first day at Stony Brook and found out our dad's knew each other at the same age, and David's grandfather was very influential in my dad's life!), the little guy on the end is me as a sophomore. I finally made varsity at Stony Brook as a senior and by the state meet was fourth runner on the team and the top senior. We finished 3rd as a team in the state meet, which I believe is Stony Brook's top team finish ever, but went largely unrecognized as they thought they'd do better the next year when they didn't lose any runners of note from the team! They did not.

Here is a photo of the 1976-1976 team.

Tom Harrison, Brad Bright, and myself all continued running at Wheaton College.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not a Good Week for Running

This was not the best week for running. Since last Tuesday, I have felt slightly run-down as I am fighting off some type of minor illness. I have felt about 80-90% of what I should feel. Now I have a bad nighttime cough, so I am finally seeing a doctor today. With that I have only had two days of running since the Applefest 1/2 marathon last week. I ran last Monday and I did the track workout on Wednesday. The track workout was 2 X 800m, 1600m, and 2 X 800m. I did not get a warmup in and ran the first interval slower as my right calf was very tight. The calf remained tight throughout the workout. I think I did (off my memory) 3:08, 2:53. 5:51, 2:53, 2:51.

Of course the next day, my calf was very tight and with the cold I haven't run since. I don't want to mess with the calf as about once or twice a year I get this and I can be out from one to three weeks of running. The strange thing is that two nights ago I had calf cramps in my left calf and then was woken up an hour later with cramps in the right! The last time that happened was in the Spring when I also had to take a break from running due to muscle spasms in my back. That is wierd, but maybe the inactivity keeps the calf muscles from stretching.I hope to get this cough taken care of and get back to running very soon.

Pete McGill, an elite coach and masters runner, has posted some running form drills on the Running Times website. These are worth watching, although the humor is somewhat "runner-dorky". Younger Legs for Older Runners is Pete McGill's bery informative blog. We did many of these drills a few years ago before the Gate City Striders Wednesday night track workouts. I found them very helpful at the time, but the club doesn't include these anymore, and I don't do them because they make you look "runner-dorky". Maybe I should not worry about what other people think! Ceci St. Geme is one of the elite masters demonstrating the drills. You may recall she was known as Ceci Hopp when she was a high school and collegiate champion. It looks like she can still hop! The video cannot be ebedded so you will have to click on the Running Times link. Maybe we can get some Striders to work on these drills together next year!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Value of Play: No Matter Your Age

I wrote this post for my education blog Simply Teaching. I decided to also place it here as I believe movement and learning go hand in hand. Maybe someone will find it interesting or offer up some other ideas!
As a long time and "aging" athlete, I have been interested in the concept of "play" as part of sports. It started when I was involved in a discussion on LetsRun about "aging and feeling good while running". A bunch of competitive runners were offering up ideas on maintaining fitness and health as well as enjoying our sport to the levels we had when we were younger and doing so without injury or loss of interest. One thing that kept popping up was keeping running "playful.” The idea is that we should continue to act like the kids we were; running, jumping, climbing, crawling, and just doing things in the outdoors rather than running a set distance or time and returning home. In fact, the discussions are what first led me to create this blog.

I have not had enough time to study "play" as much as I would like, but I see the need for playfulness not only in our adult lives but in the lives of our children. I predict that in a few years fitness activities will move away from gyms and machines and we will see more activities being performed in the natural outdoor arena as adults learn to play as they used to when they were children. Some websites already promote this type of natural play and fitness, such as Erwin Le Corr's Movnat (Move Naturally) and Frank Forencich's The Exuberant Animal.

"All the science that we've come up with backs up what we used to do as kids."

As an athlete, I have been challenged to undo the effects of too much running and biking and having to spend years trying to unravel the damage, it has done to my body. I am learning that it is not strength training or stretches that is going to rebuild the balance in my body rather it is a retraining of the brain. I am doing this through Z-Health joint -mobility exercises that target the nervous system in order to produce movement that is more efficient and through Feldenkrais exercises that retrain neuromuscular patterns so that I can move more correctly and naturally. Interestingly enough both movement therapies deal with how the brain relates and controls movements. I am coming to understand how the brain, thinking, and movement are wonderfully connected.

And then we have school!

Students become mini-adults and sit in uncomfortable chairs and work on written assignments, many times quietly and by themselves without any movement or fun. Teachers often appreciate the “quieter” and "still" students over those with energy to spare. Then we notice the tendencies of children to act up or lose concentration in many ways as they become bored and restless. I have been challenging myself to find ways to bring play into the classroom as well as movement, without losing the goal of giving my students a superior education. Responsive Classroom activities, greetings, and games bring in some element of play, but it certainly is not enough. The question then is how do we allow and advocate for movement without losing control of a class, particularly when we know that it allows for thinking that is more creative and invigorated minds.

I am still looking. Brain Gym is a program I have heard about that integrates play, movement exercises, and learning. I have not taken the Brain Gym courses, but the movements remind me somewhat of some Z-Health exercises. These movements are supposed to stimulate learning through movement. There are many Brain Gym books such as Hands on: How to Use Brain Gym in the Classroom that I would like to order some day to explore the concept more closely.

I was investigating another Scholastic book earlier this week called Brain Breaks for the Classroom: Quick and Easy Breathing and Movement Activities That Help Students Reenergize, Refocus, and Boost Brain Power-Anytime of the Day! and I may order this one some day, as it seems to be a possible take-off of Brain Gym, but I am not sure. It looks like it may have some good ideas on helping children concentrate and learn better through play and short activity breaks. While I was looking at this book, I noticed another book that I did order and I received it yesterday.

The book, Silly Sports and Goofy Games, contains many games and activities that look like fun and would be useful mainly outdoors. We did play one game as a greeting this morning as we tossed imaginary objects like an egg, a very hot "hot" potato, a slimy snake, and even a Volkswagens at each other. However today was an end of month Fun Friday for the fifth grade at New Searles School so we went outside to a playing field and a group of students hung around with me and played many versions of tag that I found in the book as well as some balance games. My favorite of the balance games we played looks just like one of the games in the Exuberant Animal video above. It was a lot of fun trying out games and there was a lot of laughter and cooperation. I look forward to trying more ideas from this book and finding away to integrate play into the daily work of my 27 fifth graders.

Finally, here is a wonderful and thought provoking TedTalks video presented by a pioneer in research on play, Stuart Brown, called "Why Play is Vital, No Matter your Age." Have fun watching this and then get outside and play!