Progressive Running

Running Form Correction

Month: December 2015

Think You Can Run?!

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“No offence but I do not pay for running”

I get that a lot. Actually, I used to think like that. First time my eyes caught an issue of Runner’s World magazine I thought to myself what could be new in there and how they could manage new content from an issue to another?! At the time my understanding of running was to put gear on and run like a proud mammal! In the hindsight, I was not doing right.

A few years ago when I was at peak of my activities, more than over-training I exhausted myself with inefficient form. I had no idea of efficiency and proper running form, I just followed my nature, trained spontaneously and the only thing I knew about form was to ensure landing on my toes/front foot like a barefoot primitive caveman to absorb the landing shock in the most natural way.

Although I was right about fore-foot striking, it was not enough to prevent injuries and extreme exhaustion. I learned that everything takes education, even the most natural ones, especially when you take them into a competitive level.

What I find interesting is that out of my small circle of elite runners I have rarely bumped into someone who are aware of their running form; such questions perplex them sometimes:

  • do you know you toe-push off the ground?
  • do you know you are a heel-striker?
  • do you know your knees are out?
  • do you know your hips have excessive movement?

and there are a lot more I can tell them about the angles they can improve their running form. That is when I say to myself: “yeah, I have been there, I used to think I could run”.

Why Progressive?

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Did you know that our body realizes the benefits of an exercise within 8-12 days after the exercise? This fact simply means that our body receives a signal, a hint, about what our expectations are, and it grows towards the expectations. But does it mean we can perform exercises at any level of intensity expecting our body to evolve on the right track? I would say no, though the body moves somehow towards the hints. The reason is if it is not properly recovered from an exercise, we are risking our health and may face injuries, so we are not practically going on the right track.

We stress our body at training, this stress creates the hints, and two major parts in our body grow to meet the requirements:

  1. Muscles, tendons and other musculoskeletal tissues
  2. Nervous system

To my experience, most of people are after the first item, getting strong and building lean muscles. No doubt that is more or less the ultimate outcome in appearance, but most of us neglect or do not know about the second point on what role Nervous System plays here and how important it is.

By nervous system, am covering the wiring in our brain combined with the physical nerves going all the way down to the target muscle group and the penetration of the nerves into the area. In this picture, the more nerves grown into the target muscles, the better and stronger those muscles can contract as ordered.new-banner

Developing nervous system helps your strength a lot. It is a like a shortcut to hours of repeating the same activity to make a muscle or muscle group stronger. Do it right (aim for perfection) to get it faster. Regarding strength and its relation to nervous system,  here is my dear friend David Mace, who is a personal trainer specialized in Calisthenics with this post on strength: 12 Rules For Gaining Strength.

Recap,

  • Stressing our body is the key to make it shape up but we have to make sure it would be able to catch up
  • If it cannot repair the muscle tears before the next wave of hints, we may end up injured.
  • The training program should allow our body developing in stages until the final goal is met. Kind of a safe approach with short-term milestones.
  • Then comes the importance of adopting perfect forms which results in better nervous system – can also be interpreted as coordination – that can command muscles in the best way to perform the desired activity right.

 

The Most Natural Sport

iStock_000019394249_Large_webRunning is the most natural sport. What does it take to prepare for a run? I would not even say clothes! Well we all know it does not even need shoes.

The idea of running being very intrinsic and must be kept in the same manner inspires me, though it does not mean am against shod running. Shod running is, at least in theory, faster and allows covering longer distances than barefoot, or minimalist running styles. At the same time it has its own downfalls.

Through experiencing several running styles, I believe now that utilizing drills of minimalist running (like  running in Huaraches or my favourite Vibram Five Fingers) into the whole running program is highly beneficial, however to make a good time at a running race wearing shoes is pertinent. To list a few benefits of incorporating minimalism at training, can say it helps with:

  • Proper understanding of self bio-mechanics
  • Adopting a more efficient running form
  • Deep strengthening of lower leg muscles and other soft tissues

Benefits of shod running could be for example:

  • Provides more protection and comfort to feet, as foot, the tiniest part of the whole human’s running machine, is the most prone to injury body part
  • Lessens the negative impact of incorrect landings and improper forms (forgiving effect)
  • Unites forces into forward propulsion for speed

 

Once you learn how to run barefoot or in extreme minimalist shoes, you can choose better what shoes to wear for going forward. Note that, there are phases in natural running that can be skipped or bypassed in shod running. You have to understand what they are and if it is worth skipping them.

For example, one main natural feature in our leg is the springiness in its soft tissues that would let us save energy. Our legs can reserve a portion of the energy that is going to be wasted at hitting the ground and release it straight back like a spring as soon as we head off to take the next stride. This bounce off the feet can be improved with practice (if not merely done by running, there are exercises I can show you). In contrary, shoes, mainly speaking of padded and heel-elevated ones, decrease or completely remove this bounce, perhaps focusing more on  shock absorption at landing.

Many shod runners land on their heel, roll towards the front end of their foot, and use everything to propel themselves forward compensating for the lack of that natural bounce, a feature that mother nature worked out in millions of years of evolution to help animals  run more efficiently. If you are not using this feature, at least know what exactly you are throwing away.

Efficiency is built in the nature, you have probably observed some real examples. Even at areas with abundance of resources, plants and animals still have features to reserve energy for a rainy day because it just takes a couple of days in a row with no food to die. That is where I come in, efficiency.

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