Progressive Running

Running Form Correction

Month: May 2017

It is not all about training

Cannot believe one year passed since I wrote this on SMH half marathon 2016: Getting subconscious mind under control talking about mind challenges I went through last year. I had it better under controlled, while observing what I was missing to get better at running the race next time.

As the followers of my facebook page should know I was aiming to improve my PB at this half marathon race to be sub 90 min and here you go I just made it:

Official site 1:29:17

and my own tracking with Garmin 910xt

I was stuck at 94min time at this race for the past two years that I picked it up and to name what made the change since last year to this one I would say:

  • Better application of Pose running on uphills and downhills (technique)
  • Better plan/program to follow that did not wear me out prior to the race

These days my post-race favourite conversation is that my lower legs are not sore at all. The only sore parts are quads which either inevitably get sore or that is the room to improve for next year. Soreness is caused by intensive eccentric contractions. Absorbing shock with knees at landing time can cause this, mainly at downhills. My anecdote on soreness is if an eccentric contraction is immediately followed by a concentric one the soreness is likely to be severe. For instance if you toe-push off the ground after landing, your calf muscles get too sore. If you do not push off, they may not even get sore. The reason my quads are sore is vertical push – adjusting height – happens automatically and quads have an important role in doing so. Besides, running up hills take certainly needs gaining heights and this race course is known for being hilly.

When I finished the race I joined the stand of the charity organisation that I support at this race: Running for Premature Babies. They have been extremely successful at attracting runners to join their charity (this year they had 500 runners) and managed to raise more than $300,000. At the stand I met a runner whose PB was 83min made in 2016 however although he had done the same amount of training he ended up in 86min this year. He wondered why and the only thing I had to say was, well, sometimes it is not all about training.

Again talking about the usual missing part of most recreational runners’ training program: techniques. Public understanding of running is not efficient for serious running. Here is where a particular way of running as a skill works much better than the second nature everyone knows about.

One funny thing happened after the race, I also wear a Garmin wearable, vivo smart, for heart rate and other activity tracking. I wore that during the race but when I got into the car to go back home it vibrated telling me “Move!”. Funny, but not a good news for the manufacturer, huh?!

Insights to Share

Taking a look at my own tracking reveals an interesting insight that am going to share with you here.

Very high heart rate at the beginning

Some people run the first half of the race faster than the second one. I am one of them. Not saying this is the best way of running a race. Maybe I have to revise this strategy going forward, I do not know and I have not made my mind about it. I fell off almost one KM in the second half of the race but maybe I had saved a lot of seconds by running fast in the first part so I could rest a bit in the hardest part? Anyway, let’s leave that for now. I should write something about it later once I have done my homework.

Running the first split of the course faster resulted in my heart rate to go higher than what I expected. It was surprising to see it reached 204 whereas my record of every Max heart rate test I had done before the race, or any hard speed training I had pushed myself in to my max effort, was that my Max HR is around 185 bpm. Going up by 19bpm only means I burned a lot of carbs during that part of the race which makes sense because I started feeling low energy from kilometer 10 where I started taking gels. That feeling low is due to low blood sugar that feeds the brain. Go find videos on Youtube of people who get dizzy from pushing too hard. Apparently it is a terrible thing because some say they really feel they were going to die!

Room for Improvement for 2018

Looking at my splits (per km) I fell off my goal pace at 7 splits, meaning if I can improve my hill running to maintain the same goal pace I should be able to shave another 2min off my PB.

I ran in zone 4 most of the time

If my Max HR is 204, given my resting HR is 55, my HR zones are:

Zone 1: 129-144 (50%-60% Max HR)

Zone 2: 144-159 (60%-70% Max HR)

Zone 3: 159-174 (70%-80% Max HR)

Zone 4: 174-189 (80%-90% Max HR)

Zone 5: 189-204 (90%-100% Max HR)

It is recommended to run races mostly in Zone 3. You can see at the end of the race that I am depleted of carbs my HR goes to highs of zone 3 and before that it is at the lows and highs of zone 4. Relying too much on burning carbs meaning I cannot do it  again without taking gels. Good or bad, I do not know. It is subjective.

Please note that I had a sugary toast in the morning and that is where the required carbs were sourced in the first half of the race, as well as the reserve of carbs in the muscles; the one that is fueled with the so-called carb loading before the race.

Hope you find this post useful. Please feel free to contact me on facebook or on my email: rez@progressiverunning.com for any question or discussion.

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Barefoot Running, good or bad?

Recently happened to read this article on barefoot running here: https://www.jenreviews.com/barefoot-running-shoes . From its few first lines everyone can tell it is pro barefoot running. You might even also think I am so excited and am going to highlight every bits and pieces in it, but you are not quite correct this time.

Yes I advocate minimalist running as I think maximalism is unnecessary, if not hurtful. There are great benefits in going light however do not think mother nature will take care of you if you go barefoot.

Here am going to list the main headers from the article and comment on them.

1. Barefoot Running Promotes Recovery

Regular shoes may cause you to land on your heel, which is unnatural, may impair balance, and makes you at risk of getting ankle strains, among other leg and foot injuries

Striking rear foot is NOT unnatural. It is a valid technique for running. The problem is when heel-striking is used for long distance running. That is where it comes inefficient first, then it causes trouble due to those so-called over-striding and landing ahead of body issues.

2. Running Economy is Improved with Regular Use of Barefoot Running Shoes

Agree with this from this point of view that it has been proven by studies that running in barefoot/minimalist shoes strengthen lower legs and that can result in better running economy.

3. Oxygen Consumption, or VO2 max, is Heightened due to the Specific Motions that Simulated Barefoot Running Requires

That is not a bad News however what I know is VO2 max is less important than in the past to rank runners. Someone with lower VO2 max might still run better than the others at higher one. There are factors that more accurately can rank runners by very high accuracy. VO2 max although has a high correlation with performance, it is not that much accurate to tell, for instance, who runs faster.

4. Barefoot Running Shoes Strengthens Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments of the Foot

Totally valid based on the study I shared previously in this post.

5. By Running with Barefoot Running Shoes, You Can Develop a More Natural Pace or Gait

I do not think there can be an exact definition for “natural pace or gait”. What does ‘natural’ really mean? how can it be defined accurately? You might find this term in my earlier blog posts but these days I use it more carefully. There are only two natural features in our legs that if used properly I can call that way of running “supportive of our nature!” but still not “natural running form” because the terms is a bit vague:

  1. Our tendons are elastic
  2. There is a great shock absorption mechanism in our legs

6. Running with Barefoot Shoes Can Improve Your Balance and Proprioception

This is true. Most of our nerves end at the soles of our feet. Wearing shoes do not help them get better. Going barefoot improves the sensation and along with strengthening ankles and other lower leg parts we should be able to manage better balance. Moreover the  better sensation of where the ground is and how we are landing can help the proprioception.

7. You Feel More Encouraged to Run Outside, which is Better for Your Health then Running Inside

Objection, subjective!

8. Barefoot Running Shoes Allow You to be Connected with Yourself and the Earth or Natural Surfaces, which Can Improve Sleep

That matches what I know of that Chinese medicine on the relation of parts of soles and body parts. If that is true, this one is true too.

9. Running in Barefoot Shoes Can Improve Short-term or Working Memory

I skip this one :)

10. Barefoot running shoes help prevent Plantar Pain or Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis happens for several reasons, two of them I know of are:

  • Going frocibly against the gravity
  • Running too fast, too soon, too much

Going against the gravity is in the technique and is when the runner [toe] pushes off the ground. You should allow your feet to peel off the ground with your momentum and let falling forward generate the propulsive force. Pushing off the ground causes too much stress to Achilles tendon and plantar fascia and if this stress is too much such soft tissues may get inflamed and cause trouble.

It goes on the same track as the three too’s: too fast, too soon, too much. Any time you rush into training after a relatively long period of rest and going lazy (!) you may fall into a benign to severe plantar fasciitis.

11. Using Barefoot Running Shoes Can Boost Blood Circulation

I find it plausible. Simply put your feet are not restricted by shoes so they can spread as much as needed. Those shoes claiming to be natural running shoes have wide toe pocket to allow feet move naturally. The meaning of natural here is letting feet move freely while observing how they go at landing.

12. Earthing, or Running on Natural Surfaces, has a Positive Effect on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

Maybe it is a new sensation different from what we do most of the time at this modern life. Most of the time we sense our in-soles :) then the synthetic surfaces at home or at work if you work at a relax office as I do. Anyway, from my experience sensing the ground was great plus it massaged my feet, although beware of blisters. You have to gradually increase distance as your feet develop strength and skin thickness to handle it.

13. Exercising in Barefoot Running Shoes Can Improve Overall Health

No special comment on this.

14. Transitioning to Barefoot Running Shoes Can Reintroduce You to a More Natural State and Can Increase Your Chances of Survival

I know this one looks has gone a bit overboard but my comment on that is going barefoot develops a different type of agility that can come handy some time somewhere. At the end of the day those with better nervous system do better and going barefoot is aligned with this notion.

15. Using Barefoot Running Shoes More Often Gives You the Sense of Freedom, Healing, and Other Positive Emotions

Cannot disagree with the sense of freedom. It feels great, so true. The idea of not being dependent on shoe wear strikes me.

 

 

How Mel managed running pain free

Running season is already started in the southern hemisphere and as I go out running for my own training almost every day per week I see more people outside running. That is the spirit I like to see in where I live. On the flip side, I rarely bump into someone with a correct cadence – number of strides per minute – which is to my understanding is the best way to tell if a runner is running efficiently or not. Referring to my previous post about cadence of 180 strides per minute , based on a research done in 1960’s the best way of incorporating elasticity of tendons into running starts with a cadence from around 180 strides per minute. If you are slower than that you might want to talk to me.

At this post am going to talk about a dear client of mine, Mel, who signed up for training with me in Sep 2016 and has been at various training sessions with me since then. Am going to explain what issues she had in the past and how I could help her.

When she approached me for the first time, she had been advised by her physio to stop running due to an injury felt in the knee. She found it a good time to check her running technique wondering what in it could have caused the issue. That was a wise move because correcting running technique is best to be done at either off-season, downtime like this injury that only prevents hard workout, or when there is no big goal in the horizon. Here are some snapshots from that day when I took a video for the form analysis. I go through one by one and explain how I analysed each.

At this shot you can see “toe-push off” a very common technique by most of recreational runners. Runners push the ground backwards using lower legs aiming for propulsion from the ground reaction force. What they end up in is a horizontal component which is expected, plus an extra vertical component which does not work in their favour somehow. It throws the runner upwards so that the runner spends longer time airborne for an extended time to increase the stride length to cover more ground. All sounds useful on paper but causes trouble in practice. First one is creation of this vertical component is waste of energy because it is not in the forward direction of running. Roughly calculating the negative impact of it, at running over a course of a full marathon (42km) this results in an extra vertical oscillation that is equal to climbing up a couple of kilometers. The two lines highlight vertical oscillation in the following image.

The second downfall is that runners usually over-stride and also land ahead of the centre of their body mass when they push off the ground. It is reflected in the following snapshot. The yellow line almost crosses the centre of body mass and the white one does the landing point. The further the landing point is ahead of the body the more pressure on knees.

Pushing off the ground usually increases the average stride length (same distance would be done in less number of strides). That means the runner’s cadence would drop below 180 strides per minute so that the elasticity of tendons would not be used at maximum capacity. Mel’s cadence was below 180 by 10-20 strides per minute before she switched to running in Pose. She was aware of it and wondered how to fix it.

One more issue that usually comes with over-striding is rear foot landing. Landing on heels although is natural and legit in some style of running, is not an efficient technique for running long distances.

Main reason for it not being efficient is it does not utilise elasticity of tendons in the ankle joint for a proper bounce off the ground. In front foot landing ankle joint is engaged so that not only Achilles tendon participates in absorbing the shock it can also preserve some energy to release later (bouncing off Achilles tendon). There are experts that might argue this, perhaps warning likelihood of Achilles tendinopathy. My counter argument is that the reason some runners get injured from doing this is they “push off” the ground (using calf muscle that is linked to Achilles tendon) right after “absorbing shock” (again using calf muscle and Achilles tendon). Two jobs performed in a row at every single stride. That is too much. If they allow their Achilles tendon to rest after landing, their risk of injury decreases massively. They will see it more tangibly when they feel less sore in their calf muscles from running in Pose that engulfs all these correct practices.

After a few sessions of training and Mel’s running in her own time gradually building up while practicing this technique, I took a video at one of our sessions a few months later and here am sharing the result. It was early morning hence lack of light affected the quality of the images however the points can still be seen in the blurry snapshots.

One major improvement in Mel’s running form is she now lands under her hips. In pose running the runner is meant to relax his or her landing foot, letting it land on its own as opposed to active landing. Active landing means that the runner aims for or enforces a particular way of landing, either front foot or rear foot.

The other improvement was she pretty much rectified her late pull. Late pull as fully explained in a previous post of mine is the case in which the foot on the standing leg is not removed off the ground in time after the moment the moving foot passes the standing knee. If too confusing, in simple words it means when frame by frame reviewing a sample video of somebody’s running, in the frame after the one in which the moving foot is next to the standing knee the back foot is expected to be completely lifted off the ground. In Mel’s case it is pretty close to perfection at the following snapshot.

Last improvement was her cadence reached 180 spm. One immediate outcome of increasing cadence that is tangible to runners is how short the strides become. Agility and the skill to be agile play important role in adjusting cadence into the right range.

By making these subtle changes Mel managed to run pain free while increasing her max distance and her pace too. Her words:

“By seeing you I have definitely learnt about running methodology and why it’s important and whilst I am currently injured, I did manage to go a long time without any injuries since starting with you and was able to considerably increase the distances I could run pain free (managed to get up to 22kms). I was also able to increase my running speed doing a PB of 24:19 over 5km.”

Pose method of running is what everyone should learn before jumping into training straight away. Techniques at running although are not too complicated compared to those of the other sports like tennis or soccer, they still play an important role and should not be neglected. Running is totally a repetitive activity so that one small improvement scales up to a massive advantage. Running a full marathon race in 4 hours takes more than 38000 strides for an average runner at that level, not mentioning the total distance/strides run at the training for the race. Now one can picture better how much a small form correction cascades and blossoms to benefit the runner.

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