Jogging past some shops early on a spring morning, I saw my reflection
The result was a visit to a posture expert and now Adrian Chiles knows what to do with his arms and legs
Adrian Chiles and Gordon Ramsay during the 2005 Flora London Marathon at The Mall in London. Photograph: Niki Nikolova/FilmMagic
Joggers are coming in for some stick, what with all their droplets and rule-infringing pavement hogging. I feel no anger towards them, only concern and pity – because there are some gaits from hell out there. Arms flail around, above legs unco-ordinated with them; often the legs barely co-ordinate with each other. They are making it so hard for themselves and will surely get injured. It’s not their fault; it’s unlikely they’ve ever been taught how to run properly.
I got into running when I was about 30. I weighed 18st (114kg), about three stone of which I plainly needed to lose. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of this HIIT fast interval training caper around; it was all about putting in lots of slow, steady miles. As we all keep saying, it is very important to follow the science, so that is what I did: hours and hours plodding streets, parks, river paths, hills, fields and mountains. After each run, again following the science (well, my interpretation of it anyway), I troughed carbohydrate-heavy fare in great quantities. My longest training run lasted six hours. My biggest post-run feed involved an entire wholemeal loaf and bunch of bananas.
My first marathon was in New York. I romped home in several seconds less than five hours. For a week I couldn’t get up or down stairs, or on or off a toilet, without assistance. In all I ran three more marathons, running many hundreds of miles in training, without losing an ounce. In my last race, I beat four hours by all of 17 seconds; if there was an 18 stone-plus category, I may have been well-placed. I only eventually lost weight by running less, and eating a lot less, but that’s another story.
Slow and heavy as I was, I still rather fancied myself as a runner. But then, jogging past some shops early on a spring morning, I saw my reflection. And what a shambles I was, lolloping on, shoulders hunched and head bowed. My posture is terrible at the best of times. On a good day, I resemble the chap in second place on that drawing of the five evolutionary stages of man. On a bad day, I’m the one behind him. While running, I was the one behind that.
There is a lot more to it than this, but I will pass on a couple of tips
I went to see a running coach, Mike Antoniades, who filmed me on a treadmill. The most bizarre thing was my arms. The left one pumped backwards and forwards, while the right arm pumped to and fro across my body.
“Do you carry a shoulder bag much?” he asked.
“That’ll be it.”
I called Mike this week and, predictably, he is in despair at what he is seeing out there. There is a lot more to it than this, but I will pass on a couple of tips. First, the arms, which Mike says are important: “Think of them as pistons.” They should be bent at around 90 degrees and should pump back and forth in as straight a line as possible, and never across the middle of the body. Concentrate on thrusting the elbows backwards a good way, and the arms’ forward movement will look after itself. It is similar for the legs: keep them moving in a straight line and make sure that each time a leg goes back, the lower half (the calf bit) of it finishes at least parallel with the ground.
Sadly, my joints are now so knackered from the mega-hours of plodding I put in 20 years ago that I can’t run much these days.
I am still embarrassingly slow, as the grandparent who overtook me pushing a pram yesterday will confirm, but by God, I’m good to look at. Poetry in slow motion. – Guardian
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