For the past week a dodgy ankle has stopped me running. Instead I have been cross-training in the gym.
I have previously mentioned my mixed feelings about gyms. The are strange mildly unsociable places where everyone is in their own bubble and there is little interaction. I am no different. I plug in my Ipod and just get on with it, but I do like to look around me. I always watch people on the treadmills and examine the variety of running styles, seeing who lands heavily (not always the heaviest runner), who is graceful, who is too tense, who is economical. Sometimes it is surprising who moves easily and sometimes I want to say something like 'your shoulders are too tense, relax your hands' but I don't, after all we are all in our bubbles and I am not sure how it would be received.
I know that people argue about whether there is such a thing as a correct style with some people insisting you should land on your forefoot, whilst others are equally adamant the the heel strike is the best way. I am equally convinced that it is a futile debate. People run in different ways because their bodies are aligned slightly differently. Yesterday, for example, I watched two people side by side. The man was a heel striker, the girl a forefoot striker but both were very fluid and easy in their style, both were relaxed, both were compact. In other words they both had good form even though the mechanics were different. The common feature was that they were both upright and did not overstride.
There is one man who amazes me. He runs intervals and pushes the speed so high he has to hang onto the bar and bend almost in double (if he didn't I am sure he would go flying off the back of the machine). His feet land with such an almighty thud the noise blots out the music I listen to. I cannot work out what he is trying to achieve, surely going too fast in such a contorted fashion cannot help you run properly
There are other people though who are inspiring. For example there is an Indian man (probably in his twenties) who is badly handicapped. He can barely control his legs to walk and can hardly speak yet he comes regularly, with his mother, to maintain, or even gain, some mobility. I don't know who I admire more, him for trying inspite of difficulties or her for her constant, and obviously loving, support. Her whole life must be dominated by the need to look after her son but you can see the pleasure in her eyes when he manages to walk a bit further or throw a ball a bit straighter. One of the members of staff is often there to help, introducing exercises to test him that little bit more, encourage him by gentle teasing, whilst his mother will follow close by to stop him falling.
When I see the three of them working in this way I know I can put my reservations about gyms to one side. They are places where good can be done