Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

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My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013

Wise Resting: Playing It Safe

wise running logo 7_25_12

“You will be faster in the long run by playing it smart and safe today.”

I really want to run today, but I will not.

I have lots of pent up energy to expend.
I need to unwind from my busy day.
I feel the need to get outside and feel the breeze.

I feel the need to run, but I will not.

Yesterday I felt some pain in my heel area.  I have felt it on and off for a few weeks.  On most days, it has gotten better once I warmed up.  It has gotten better over time with a more careful stretching regimen and more careful running form.  It got a little better each day, until yesterday.  In my 7 of my tempo run yesterday, it started getting worse.  I was supposed to run 9 miles yesterday, but I remembered the warning given by Hal Higdon:

“If you have pain at the beginning of a run and it gradually gets better, then keep running.  If the pain gets worse as you go, then stop.  Walk.  Take a cab if you can.”

I was on the greenway and I didn’t have any cash on me anyway, so I did not take a cab.  I did walk 3/4 of a mile to my car.  I do not believe that I have a major injury, but that pain was a signal that major injury could be coming if I was not careful.  That is why my planned 9 mile tempo run became a 7 miler with an extra slow walk at the end.

After I returned home, my foot got an ice bath and some time elevated.  I took some ibuprofen and I looked at my running schedule.  I decided that today and tomorrow would be short and easy run days.  I have a half marathon on Saturday morning and I want to give this heel a rest.

This morning my heel was still feeling twinges of that pain.  Hence, I made the tough decision to let go of the idea of running today.  Full rest today, even though I had a rest day just two days ago.  I looked at my mileage for the week and thought about how I could make up the miles later.  No.  Bad idea.  I know better than that.  It is better to let go of those lost miles.  Full rest and consider those miles to be totally out of reach.

Yes, I will miss out on some of the adaptations that those miles could bring, some growth, some speed.  I have to choose to let that go.  That is speed that I will not gain for the marathon in March.  I have to let that go.

Remember This!

It is better to spend a day or two healing now rather than a month or two later because I made it worse by running through the wrong kind of pain.

When it is muscle pain because I am shredding it in a workout, then run on.  That will heal.  You can tell the difference between healthy workout pain and unhealthy injury pain.  Rest. Live to run another day.  You will be faster in the long run by playing it smart and safe today.

___________

Train hard. Race easy. Enjoy the run!
[when you can safely]

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The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

Ask P. Mark: Finding Your Running Form and Stride

Today’s question comes from a newbie runner who has just started using the “walk to running a 5K” plan from your book The Gift of Running.

Question:   How do you find your perfect stride?

P. Mark’s Answer:  I will give you the same answer that I give to experienced runners.  It is a bit unorthodox, but it is very effective.  In fact, I have to work on my form from time to time and I always use this method.

Remember This:

The quickest way to find good form is to run barefoot.

No, don’t run your entire workout barefoot.  Just find a nice clear path on some concrete or asphalt/blacktop and jog a few hundred feet.  Don’t sprint.   That might do some damage to the bottom of your feet.  Just start to jog and gradually pick up the pace – just for a few hundred feet, relaxing your body as you stride.  That relaxing is highly critical.  This will not work if you are not relaxed.

We choose a hard surface for a reason.  Your body will naturally tend towards moving in ways that protect your feet and knees, absorbing the impact as best that it can.  We are counting on that.  Its called Good Form.

As you begin to pick up the pace, pay very close attention to your barefoot form:

1)  How is your foot is making contact with the ground (footstrike)?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you should find that your foot will begin to contact the ground very lightly on the front of your foot, as if you were testing out the ground.  As you shift your weight onto that foot, however, you will gradually place your entire foot flat on the ground.  This distributes the weight to ALL parts of your foot:  a little on the front,  a little on the heel, and a lot on the middle part of your foot.  You should find that:

  • Every part of your foot made contact with the ground in a gentle way.
  • No part of your should foot take more weight than it can hold.

2)  How long is your stride?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have shortened your stride.  The majority of runners have strides that are too long.  The consequences of overextending your foot too far ahead of your body are large:  sore knees and other joints, heavy wear and tear on your body, and a slower pace.  Yes, sticking your leg to far forward actually puts the brakes on.  You can run faster with the exact same amount of effort and a shortened stride.  You will find yourself moving to a faster cadence as well.  In perfect form, with your new shorter stride, the number of steps you take during each minute of the run will tend to be somewhere close to 180.  That is true of newbie runners and elite runners.  You can actually find playlists of songs for runners in which every song keeps the beat at 180 beats per minute.  :)

3)  How is your body positioned in this relaxed running state?

In your relaxed barefoot jog, you will probably find that you have very erect posture.  The most common mistake made by runners is to lean forward at the waist when they are trying very hard.  This actually slows you down and takes more effort.  You do need to lean forward a little to run faster, but you lean at the ankles, not the waist.  In other words, you don’t lean the top half of your body, you lean your entire body.  From your ankles to your head, your body should be fairly straight.

I have found myself doing short barefoot runs at least once a week, either on rest days or just before a run.  It reminds me of good form, saving me energy and saving my body from injuries caused by bad form.

Check your form frequently.  Be good to your body and it will be good to you.

Enjoy the run!

_____________

The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

- Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

- Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

- Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

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Barefoot Running: Why, Where, and How

I have started running barefoot again.  For the last few days, I have run at least 1 mile each day with no shoes or socks on my feet.

Why am I running barefoot?  Because I want to improve my form.  The logic is this:

    1. We were created to run.
    2. We were not born wearing shoes.  We added that later.
    3. Hence, our natural running style will emerge if we run in bare feet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up shoes.  Shoes were created to protect our feet from a variety of things that can cause pain.  Shoes are good.  The problem is that it has been so long since I ran without shoes, that my feet and legs have adapted to running in them.  Too much support and protection has allowed my naturally active foot and calf muscles to relax and take it easy.  My form has suffered.  Eventually, I became less efficient.

This was not always the case.  When I was 8 years old, I would play outside for hours with no shoes.  I specifically remember sprinting down a hot blacktop street in the middle of summer.  I could make it as far as Johnny Williams’ house before my feet were too hot to continue on the pavement.  I clearly remember the relief of stepping into the cool grass and eventually into the shade under the big tree in John’s yard.

How is this relevant to my current goal of running a marathon under 3 hours?  Simple.  When I sprinted down the street at 8 years old, my form was natural.  I leaned at the ankles, not the hips.  I didn’t put my foot too far in front of me.  My strides were short and efficient.  I landed near the forefoot.  None of these things were true of my form when I turned 44 a few months ago.

After decades of running in shoes, I knew that I needed to get back.  For the last few months I have studied books, web sites, videos, and anything else to find out what the best form for running would look like.  I tried to emulate the best ideas that were consistently in the most trustworthy resources.  Nothing felt natural.  It all felt forced.  I ended up pulling muscles trying to force myself into an efficient stride and footstrike.

How can I return to my natural, efficient running stride?  As I studied, one of the themes that emerged was that the most efficient stride is our natural barefoot stride.  Once I gave up the fight and accepted that I needed to try barefoot running, I stepped out on to the hot blacktop.  That is when my memory was triggered.  I could see that bright summer sun back in my old neighborhood.  I could feel the heat coming up from the driveway of my old home in St. Louis County.  I could feel myself start into a sprint, driven by the intense heat as I stepped onto the blacktop surface of Fairmeadows Lane.  I remembered the thrill of accelerating to a full sprint and being in wonder at how fast I was passing the mailboxes that lined the path to Johnny’s house.

At that moment, as this memory overwhelmed me, all of that running research made a lot more sense.  Run like a barefoot kid on hot pavement.  Don’t worry about form.  Just take your shoes off and run.  I realized that I do not need to work on my form.  I need to run barefoot and allow my form to emerge.

How do you run barefoot without pain?  I don’t.

Skin:  My eyes guide me around big rocks and other dangers, but I can’t avoid the tiny rocks that scrape my feet.  Over time, my feet are getting acclimated.  There is less pain every day.

Joints/Muscles:  As for the support that shoes provided, I am a pronator and always enjoyed soft cushioned shoes with motion control.  Barefoot allows for none of those things.  What pains have I experienced because of that?  Very little.  That is the point.  Shoes actually caused the need for all of that support.  My natural stride and footstrike have emerged as I run barefoot and try to avoid these pains.  My muscles are getting stronger.  I do not pronate because I have no shoe to lean on.  I have to stand up on my own.  If I run barefoot with poor form, a pain will start to emerge.  I naturally begin to tweak my form based on the feedback from my body.

In short, better form means less pain and more gain.  This is the reason to adopt barefoot running as a part of your training regiment.  I am not forcing myself into good form, I just listen to my body and naturally move towards good form.

My transition was made much easier because I have been running in Vibram Five-Fingers shoes.  I started using these for the same reason that I run barefoot.  Vibrams are very thin and have no support, so training in them has moved me towards good form.  I am adding barefoot runs to keep me moving in that direction.

It is worth repeating:  Better form means less pain and more gain.

I am using barefoot running to move me that direction.  If you can manage to improve your form without going barefoot, then do it.  If you are struggling to find that good form, then think about trying some barefoot running.

Important guidelines for Barefoot and Minimalist running:

  1. Start slowly.  VERY slowly.  Many experts suggest going barefoot 3 times a week to start.
  2. Start short. VERY short.  Your first few weeks should go from 50 yards gradually up to a quarter-mile.
  3. Build lower leg & foot strength.  Exercise your feet by picking things up with your toes.  Do calf raises.  Stretch your calves and feet regularly.

I have worked on  these three things on and off for months before I worked up to doing a daily mile in bare feet.

I have not decided how far I will end up running in bare feet.  I may build up to doing a few 5k races, but I have no intention of doing my long runs in bare feet.  My goal is better form, and that is starting to work.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  :)

Happy Running!

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The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & e-book

- Paperback Version – Amazon.com

- Ebook Version – Kindle Store

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