Good Form Running

I went to a running class on Saturday held by the Naperville Running Company. This was one of the first local stores I found when I moved out here that I was really happy to find. There are some gems even in the suburbs.

The class was about Good Running Form. They dissected the importance of landing on your mid-foot. I’ve read a bit about this before online and in magazines but had not fully understood it. New Balance has a good site explaining the form. For now watch this video then the rest of this post might make more sense.

It is the antithesis striking the ground with your heel. I’ve known I have poor form and heel strike for a while, it is probably why I’ve routinely felt injured. Striking with your heel makes for harder impacts that travel directly up your leg and joints. Moving the impact region further forward on your foot is supposed to absorb the energy better. Striking with your mid-foot is the form most people will naturally take on when running barefoot. Yet, barefoot running can be a shock to the system and is not recommended for high mileage or to be done multiple times a week.

They break the form down to posture, mid-foot strike, cadence, and lean. They are all related, but working on a single element at a time should help the along the way.

When I went for a run after the class later that day, I focused on my posture, by re-aligning every few minutes (posture), and keeping my cadence up. Focusing on posture is always helpful for me, it’s like a bit of yoga mid run. Keeping my cadence up forced me into a shorter stride, which felt like I moved my foot strike more into my mid-foot. It’s hard to stretch your foot way out front when your turning over at 180 BMP. For reference here’s an mp3 of what that cadence sounds like.

I’ve traditionally have had a slower cadence, probably around 155 BPM. By the end of my run I was comfortably running at 176 BPM. They say to aim for 180 BPM.

I’m hoping that focusing on my form will turn into a healthier injury free running season. When I was around mile 7 or 10 of the Detroit Half Marathon in 2009, I could feel my right calf tighten and knee throb more than usual. I don’t think I really ever recovered. The last two years have been hard to keep a consistent running schedule. This last summer was particularly bad. So for this winter I’ve been working on injury prevention. Running much less, doing some weight and core strengthening. I think this class will be the final step toward getting back in a really good training schedule. Fingers crossed and I’ll sign up for a big fall race.


Pixels Matter

When the news came out about Mountain Lion I went to Apple’s site to read about what is to come. Some of the graphics on the page stuck out as not quite right. I was reading on a XP machine with IE 8, the borders around these buttons did not line up right.

Notice the thin grey outline around “Overview” creates one side that is thicker than the other.

When I got home I checked it out on my Mac’s Google Chrome browser.

Sure enough the graphic is displayed as intended, with rounded corners and an even border all the way around. I know Internet Explorer is not a modern browser. But its lack of support for web standards is eye twitchingly bad. It hurts every time I have to open IE up.

A New Lion and My Mac

Apple announced on Thursday the pending update to their desktop OS, Mountain Lion OS X 10.8. A week before the public announcement a few Apple executives gathered in New York and hosted a handful of journalist for one on one presentations of the new features in the OS. John Gruber gave his account of the meeting. I wish I could find a list of all the people who had these meetings, but can’t seem to find one.

I have kept up with the OS updates on my late 2007 15″ MacBook Pro every time there has been a new release (it shipped with 10.5, Leopard). I think I will still be eligible to do the same when Mountain Lion is released this summer. The limiting factor is what the minimum requirements will be.1 I bought it as a refurbished model and recently crossed 4 years with it.

The amazing thing to me is that my laptop has been operating smoothly ever since I got it. Even after installing two major OS updates. With Lion I did switch out the 2 GB of RAM and put in 4. I had a big Dell tower that I started college with for three and a half years before switching and was very exciting to make the switch. I started following Apple around 2004 and patiently saved and waited for the right time to switch. Once the Dell got too slow and noisy I have never looked back.

At the time I could have gone for a high end MacBook and saved of few hounded dollars. The big difference was the MacBook Pro had a separate graphics card2 and bigger screen3. Sure enough I believe the graphics card is the spec that will keep my machine eligible for the upcoming update.

The MacBook line is now no longer in existence. The current options are a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. An Air is right around the same price point as MacBook’s used to be and it made sense for the line to be brought to end of life.

I am really impressed that my 4+ year old machine is running the latest and greatest OS and feel like the investment was well worth it. I’d like to have some of the new hardware features available (bigger touch pad, longer battery life, unibody construction, SD card reader, and HD iSight camera) but can’t justify a new hardware purchase knowing that my current laptop has been so reliable.

It might be a little odd to be writing about a purchase I made four years ago. But it was a major purchase I made as a poor college student and the laptop is a little sentimental. It got me through the end of my undergrad and all the way through Grad school. It has gone on many trips, though multiple airports and car rides.

  1. As I had this post in a draft my Dad actually asked me about this. 

  2. This also ended up being an issue because the graphics card had to be replaced because of a know issue with the model from Nvida. The fix left me without a computer for a few days but I was back up to where I left things, thanks to a time machine backup. 

  3. The bigger screen was important. I have always been picky about how to maximize the pixels on my screen. This continues to be a big frustration I have with the way Windows has designed their OS. I work on XP I set my desktop theme to classic just so the start menu is not the big blue default. It changes it to a slightly thinner grey bar. 

Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

Since last years Imported From Detroit Chrysler Super Bowl commercial I’ve paid close attention to their advertisements throughout the year. The Imported From Detroit tag line resonated with a lot of people especially Detroiters. That day I changed my Twitter description to include the line. The line feels like it reminds others that Detroit’s the place where people can take flat sheet metal and turn it into dreams on wheels.

Back to the commercials.

The 2011 commercial set the stage for a years worth of advertising. It featured seemingly non-sequential sweeping shots in slightly muted colors. Nothing was poppy or too bright, with the exception of the cars. It also exclusively featured scenes of Detroit.

The same styling was applied to a few other commercials released throughout the year. They we again primarily or exclusively shot around Detroit. I had to do a few searches to confirm locations. One of which includes a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The styling changes stuck out to be when comparing the 2012 Super Bowl ad to the 2011 ad. This years ad was much less Detroit centric, it focused on a broader swath of America. It was also a bit more dramatic. The production values felt a little cleaner and more produced. It was also not in a 16×9 aspect ratio (typical widescreen TV), like in 2011. In 2012 they used a cinematic aspect ratio.

Maybe the cinematic nature was fitting for using Clint Eastwood as the actor and narrator. The more universal imaging was probably also used to better relate to a broader audience too. The focus of other Chrysler brands was probably a good idea too. A Jeep or Dodge vehicle is probably more of a family car than the 300. The post production effects did not go unnoticed too.

I like both ads. In fact I’ve downloaded the source files from Youtube and have them sitting on a hard drive as a kind of historic archive. I’ll have them ready to share with future generations, when I just want a Detroit pick me up, and just in case things get pulled down.

My friend David also shared his take on the commercial here.

2012 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

2011 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

Friends – Teach For America

I’ve had a handful of friends from college become core members in Teach For America. At least three that I’ve kept in touch with and discussed their experiences. They give two years of their lives to work in underperforming schools. Some have worked in urban cities and others in more rural communities.

They are beyond intelligent people and give so much of themselves for an adopted community.

It has been really interesting to follow the different experiences each has had. They all have modestly said that they miss the mark some days in the classroom. I’m sure their schools would argue differently. None of my friends in TFA went to college for education, but they become certified teachers in their respective states in order to be in the classroom. Their preparation is intense the summer before starting their first positions and that intensity carries through their TFA careers. They are full fledge teachers employed by the school they teach in and on top of that work for TFA meeting all their additional requirements.

Another common point is that they have all talk about being in positions they would not have expecting when signing up.

My friend Caroline1 shared a moving story this week about her class. For background, here’s a quote from her post.

I’m friends with a chunk of TFA Detroit, and as a result my kids are pen-pals with a nice bunch at a charter. Yesterday talking with a Detroit CM, I learned one of our pen-pals died Tuesday evening. She was at home, inside, when three bullets came through her door and into her “skull and ribcage” as stated in the news. While the CM is understandably numb, I started crying immediately.

These are the kinds of real life events that you never wish to happen to anyone. Yet this is just one of those stories I’ve heard from my friends in TFA. Caroline teaches in the Mississippi Delta. So I would imagine Detroit is a distant place in perspective for her students. She decided to tell her classes about what happened.

I decided to tell all my classes (she was one of my student’s pen-pal, after all), and ask them to donate anything they want to so I can send flowers to Detroit, and maybe send some cash to the family. All classes were visibly shaken, but after 4 minutes of processing, we moved on tI decided to tell all my classes (she was one of my student’s pen-pal, after all), and ask them to donate anything they want to so I can send flowers to Detroit, and maybe send some cash to the family. All classes were visibly shaken, but after 4 minutes of processing, we moved on to other things.

Letting these kinds of conversations fall into the classroom feels dangerous. It’s filled with emotional liability, skipped standards, and irresolvable issues. But what is school teaching if we’re not teaching how to cope with arguably the one certainty of life? Death is guaranteed to everyone, and when asked, about 80% of my kids can tell you they’ve seen quite enough of it already, at 12.

Second period was not done in four minutes. Second period was the first class I told, and it was hard for me to not cry, which incited an emotional response. Students volunteered to tell the class that they wanted to send cards, that they have felt death, too, that they had had hard times…

It is worth the time to read the post in its entirety here.

Those brave enough to commit themselves to TFA, get involved, and try to make the possibilities of life a little more attainable for our youth by both teaching what is in the text books and what is not. What I’m continually amazed by is their ability to deal with real life difficult situations that you can’t imagine or ever be fully prepared for.

  1. As a side note, I’m pretty sure I could write a small biography on Caroline just through her writing. She’s prolific and as reader I would say writes with a very honest voice. If you follow her TFA blog she will sometimes post a list of what her class needs and request donations. Please support, if you can. 

An App Suggestion – Instapaper

If you read online…that would be you. I would recommend a web service called Instapaper. It was developed by Marco Arment, formerly of Tumblr. Instapaper was a side project he took full time.

Instapaper saves your articles you are reading online and makes them available for easy reading on the web, iOS app, or Kindle. There are unofficial apps on other platforms too.

The best of the world collided today when Marco was interviewed by one of my favorite NPR podcasts Planet Money.

For extra points you can listen to Marco on Build and Analyze, a podcast about iOS devices, app development, and sometimes coffee.