Tim and I had dawdled a bit before getting out of the house this Sunday morning. That’s the good thing about a positive habit though, it doesn’t let you off the hook easily. So, there we were, once again on a hilly trail in the Sierra de Mijas and all set for running 10km of climbs and descents.
The dawdling that morning was due in part to the fact that I had run some kind of distance every day for the past week. I was tired. And if I was aware of this at home, as I considered liberating myself from the duvet, I was even more aware of it as the climbing portion of the trail began. As I faced my fatigue, I tried my endurance-enhancing tricks. One of these is to repeat a little attitude-boosting mantra: There is nowhere I would rather be than here, doing this! Only in this case, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would rather be in a hot bath taking a long soak.
The muscles of the butt and upper thigh are among the largest in the body. The glutes are large and powerful because they keep the entire trunk of the body upright and contribute considerably to our core strength. The quads are basically four muscles working together to extend the leg each time you take a stride. While these are not the only muscles employed in running, they are large muscle groups and, quite naturally, we depend on their strength when we run.
But now my glutes and my quads were tired! The muscles I normally depend on for strength and oomph for those rocky inclines were complaining and moaning from the bottom to the top. What would I draw on for the necessary energy and power to finish what I’d started?
I’m no physiotherapist but I can tell you what I notice from my own experience of running. When the naturally strong muscles on which I so easily depend are tired, I have to draw from somewhere deeper. In particular, I become aware of engaging my deep core muscles and I use my breath to help me do this. When my core is engaged and working to support the action of my body, I have extra strength and stamina that contributes to overall endurance on a run like this one. Indeed, the fatigue that creates awareness of my need to deeply engage at a core level is in fact training me in the crucial discipline of employing my core to a greater degree, at any time.