Progressive Running

Correct Your Running Techniques, Run Efficiently

Category: Injuries (Page 1 of 2)

If you are a regular follower of my weblog you probably know what “running technique means, but if you are not, you might have heard the buzz phrase of “running technique correction” or the like. My question for you is, what is the reference to analyse somebody’s running technique? Without a reference one may only come up with a bunch of anecdotal tips heard here and there from “successful” runners, not necessarily “efficient” ones.

At any given context without a reference, you cannot analyse, criticize or evaluate anything correctly, or let say scientifically. So what is my reference for analysing running techniques? Yes, you know it, Pose Method of Running.

Here I am going to write down pretty much all major wrong doings at running raised by Pose Method.

Late Pull

Pull is one of the three components of Pose running. It is when the foot on the standing leg is lifted off the ground. The best moment for doing so is when the moving foot has just passed the standing knee. Late Pull is identified in slow motion video analysis when the foot of the standing leg delays to leave the ground after this moment. The main culprit causing late pull is the need to push off the ground. In fact, the back foot stays down for a hearty push.

Late Pull

Push off (pawback)

It is an unnecessary action mainly done by the lower leg to push the ground backwards for generating propulsion. The reason for being unnecessary is that the gravitational torque is enough to propel the runner forward. One way to spot it in slow motion video analysis is to check the direction of toes right after leaving the ground. Toes pointing straight down reveals it. Other way to identify it is to measure the change in the angle of the ankle joint before and after leaving the ground, the minimal the better.

Pawback and Late Pull are usual siblings meaning usually runners hold the standing foot down for a strong push-off.

Over-striding

Is when the runner extends the landing foot forward, reaching a point in front, perhaps to make an elongated stride. Because it usually comes with landing ahead of the body it should not be mixed up with, they are separate things (landing ahead is discussed down this post). Also, most of the over-striders land on their heels first however rarely there are front-foot landers that over-stride.

To my own observation and understanding, over-striding is a reaction to exploit pawback/push-off. When there is push-off, one common way of getting the most benefit from this unnecessary action is to extend the legs for a longer stride.

You can tell over-striding when the shin is not pointing straight down around the landing time. The knee is extended a bit to get the foot to reach further away for an “elongated stride”. Note that the landing may be with front-foot, mid-foot or rear-foot, however in most cases it is with rear-foot first, aka heel-striking. It is further discussed in Active Landing.

Overstriding, simply caused by trying to reach forward.

Active Landing

That is when the runner intentionally exposes a particular part of the foot to land first. It can be any part of the foot, but in barefoot or extreme minimalist running style it would be either front or rear, and in shod running there would also be mid-foot landing because shoes have mid-foot, whereas an actual foot has arch instead (no mid-foot concept in barefoot running). According to Pose Method of Running, runners should let the landing foot just fall, along with the whole body that is falling, to land underneath the hips, as if the landing detail is autonomously left to lower legs. In proper form the shin is vertical to the ground or the knee is above the ankle at landing time.

Exposing front-foot or mid-foot first

Exposing heel first

Landing ahead of the body

Happens when the landing spot is ahead of the vertical line crossing the centre of the body mass. Landing ahead of the body results in a ground reaction force that is against the runner’s movement. Additionally, it exerts extra pressure on the knee of the landing leg.

Landing ahead of the body is the usual sibling of over-striding but as above-mentioned, they are different things.

Trailing (the leg) Behind

Usually another consequence of pawback but generally it happens when the direction of pulling feet upwards is not towards the hips so that the leg trails behind the runner. In fact the runner’s focus is in front on where to land so the leg is left unattended trailing behind. It shifts some weights backwards so it negatively impacts the fall phase where energy is injected into the momentum. By moving feet towards hips the legs turnover would be faster. Pulling towards hips can be interpreted as “all runners should do is to fold unfold knees”. It is a buzzword about Pose runners that their knees are low. If knees stay down, feet would almost kick the bottom, do not they?

Knee Drive

Another unnecessary movement although it generates a lot of energy and might come handy at occasions like a quick vigorous sprinting uphills. This movement is found inefficient especially at long distance running.

In Pose running knees tend to only fold and unfold. It feels like as if knees are pinned on the sides so they stay where they are to work like a hinge, merely lifting shins up and bring them back down.

Driving the knee forward and a bit upwards too

City2Surf 2018 – I went against the stream!

City2Surf 2018 is ticked off and the top news is I accidentally broke my PB! If a reader is not familiar with the abbreviation PB, might think I broke a leg or something (haha).

I went against the stream at City2Surf because apparently Australian runners are getting slower year by year but I managed to be slightly faster. Will discuss that later on in this blog post.

I was not aiming for improving my record at City2Surf this year because since last year I decided to pick one [main] goal per year and this year I had picked running a full marahton at Sydney Running Festival, aka Blackmore’s marathon, in September as my main goal for 2018. I did not even participate in SMH half marathon in May – I usually run that – to avoid any over training. I always do City2Surf, I never tend to drop out of this iconic race unless I am injured so bad.

My training went really well until early July. I had a 20 week plan and I followed it passionately until school holiday started and we went on holiday two times during that period (4 weeks for us). Although I ran as much as I could when was away and my daily calorie consumption was around 5k on some days, the distance I made was way less than what was designated in the program. On top of that I had a cold for a couple of days and then an upset stomach on another day. Besides, right knee was not too happy either due to perhaps too much speed training  or maybe playing indoor soccer. So all of these contributed to a prolonged drop-out. Anyway, I started August anxious that not only I would not be able to do my main goal, I may not even be able to run City2Surf fast enough as per usual. If I had been able to keep up my training in July I would have expected to run City2Surf relatively well due to the fitness I had gained from my regular training but I was in doubt. I had one week to train and I spent most of it on tempo running (gradual speeding to goal pace, maintain it for a short period of time and slow back down).

At the start of the race I did not rush at all. Usually the adrenaline kicks in and despite the fact that running the first half of a race slower than the second usually gives better result, statistically I run the first half faster. I have been successful this way (telling from breaking my PBs) but I am coming to conclude to stay away from this strategy.

Back to the race, I maintained a steady effort and thought wisely about when to push and when to set back. Looked up the hills in front of me and tried to remember which one it was and how hard I should push at each. When I arrived at the notorious heart break hill, I was in a good shape and for the first time ever I was not intimidated at all. I got my heart rate under control at the flat piece of course before the hill in Double Bay. I ran it up with full confidence I can manage no matter what thinking I could recover at the short downhills after that. Then hill after hill I pushed and recovered while keeping my pace high on the descending side of the hill. Check out this post of mine on how to run downhills safely and fast.

When I passed 11km mark, I buckled up for the descending part of the course. There is a gradual elevation up to that mark. The last kilometer out to the finish line became too tiring but the joy of arriving did not allow thinking too much about it. When I made the last turn and saw the official clock at the finish line could not believe that if I sprint fast I would be able to break my PB, and I did it, finished by 21 seconds better than last time in 2012.

My previous PB in 2012 was 56:58. I remember I was gasping for air at many occasions during the race due to pushing too hard. It was a cold day and my face was distorted from the cold weather. This time, although I felt I was at pretty much my max effort, I was on top of what I was doing. It was a pretty cold day too but I ended up in doing better without suffering much. How? Running in Pose saves energy. The limit was my fitness level but my cardio still had capacity due to saving on oxygen consumption at this method of running.

Official Results 2012: https://secure.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2012/04075

My tracking : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/209875848

Official Results 2018: http://live.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2018/00572

My tracking: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2928405907

(proud of my pace at the last 40m sprint to the finish line)

Contributing factors

Despite being 6 years older and in a new age group, I find these items contributed to the boost in my performance:

  • Constantly looking for improvement in my techniques: a few months ago I found one more issue in my techniques at sprinting. At very high speed I would tend to actively hit the ground to bounce off quickly as an additional method of gaining speed. I have heard about such a method from top coaches, to treat our body like an inflated swiss ball, the harder bounce it to the ground the higher it goes, but that is totally against Pose Method. Although it works, it is unnecessary. So I picked this “issue” from an unexpected soreness I got after a speed training session and dropped the habit. Instead, focused on improving my falling angle to gain the required speed from it. Patience is rewarding.
  • Ketogentic diet: I lost 4-5kg of weight and found my recovery time faster than before. Getting the body to use fat as the only source of energy for some period of time is very beneficial however the extreme keto diet cannot be maintained when speed training starts (carbs are needed at high heart rates) but taking carbs as low as possible only to replenish what lost at workouts would keep the body in the same shape. Do your own research, speek with your dietitian, and give it a go. The whole world will be against you (lol) because bread, starchy foods, fruits and sweets, etc are overwhelmingly a part of our daily diet. Abandoning them leaves us with not much options unless you learn new recipes (check out Natural Nutritionist, they also have keto recipes). A bit of hassle, I know, but again, rewarding.
  • Walking: I cannot believe how much it could help runners. Walk as long as your time allows after your running sessions; incredibly it refreshes your legs and helps soreness. It is also a good substitute for running when you are injured or too sore to do a proper session. I am sure you can find a lot of online articles on benefits of walking.
  • Smiling(!): Yes, it does truly help. Not sure how though. Anytime you feel tired or under too much pressure, just force the muscles on your face to smile and see the benefit. It works for me. Hilarious to say, I even practiced smiling at my running workouts and it helped a lot overcoming tough moments.

Runners are getting slower, good or bad?

A few months ago I happened to read this article on ABC website that Australian running community is getting slower than some period of time in the past:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-14/australian-male-elite-marathon-runners-are-getting-slower/9653760

This goes completely inline with my ranking in total from 2012 to 2018. My ranking in total was 882 in 2012, and 745 in 2018. Do you think by being 21 seconds faster I surpassed 137 runners? I do not think so. If the city2sufers were as fast as they were in 2012 I would expect only a slight jump in my ranking. Given these figures I would say there were less number of runners around me this year than were in 2012, meaning those making this race around such a time have dropped off and not replaced by newcomers (we have also had constant population growth since 2012, hence higher population of runners perhaps, so normally we should expect more people ahead of me).

So is it bad? In my opinion, not necessarily. According to my account, speed is a more contributing factor to injuries than distance. Anytime I suffered from any sort of pain that hindered me from training was after a period of time that I did a lot of speed training or picked up an unrealistic goal pace. Never suffered as much from running long distances. Perhaps we are ending up in a healthy growing community of runners that do not wish to push too hard (thumbs up!). Proper studies to be done (or might have been done already) to prove this but that is what I speculate to be right.

How to catch up with training for my full marathon in September?

My main concern is what I have missed out in July were a few times running up to 28km. What I am going to do now is to revise the plan and replace some speed training sessions by long and slow runs, building up to reach close to 30km. Given tapering is two weeks for full marathon I do not have much time. The trick for preparing fast for marathon is to focus on slow runs, thanks to Jason Fitzgerald for the tip in one of his articles here. Speed training does not help me at all at this stage. City2Surf was a good benchmark that my muscle memory for speeding is good enough, what I need going forward is to improve my stamina for long running courses. Wish me luck and my best wishes for you too!

Shin Splints Explained

What is Shin Splints?

Almost every runner I have met knew or heard of Shin Splints, one of the common running injuries that inflicts pain at the front side of the shins. It comes and goes in some cases, and sticks for long in some unfortunate others.

Some people relate it to running shoes, because once they change shoes the problem goes away. Some believe it never happens in barefoot running. Their explanations are not very accurate although they might get these solutions to work for them. The basic issue with these solutions is they do not discover the cause of the problem first; they go straight to prescriptions. That is why they randomly work no matter how this randomness is close to perfection.

Types of Shin Splints

This is a good article explaining types of shin splints although I skip its explanation on why the issue happens: http://elitesportstherapy.com/shin-splints . Based on this, there are two types of Shin Splints each linked to a different muscle:

  1.  Type 1: linked to Soleus muscle with the function of plantar flexion
  2. Type 2: linked to Tibialis Anterior with the function of dorsi flexion

Functions of these muscles

One end of Soleus is on Tibia bone also known as shin bone, and the other end merges with Gastrocnemius, or the calf muscle, into Achilles tendon. Soleus plays a dominant role in moving toes away from the shins (plantar flexion) when the knee is bent. If the knee is not much bent, Gastrocnemius (calf) comes in more effectively at plantar flexion. This action is called push-off or pawback in Pose running lexicon.

Tibialis Anterior moves toes towards the shins, called dorsi flexion. One end is on Tibia bone (shin) and the other end goes to the foot.

Type 1 shin splints and Soleus Muscle

One scenario I suspect the soleus muscle would be used much is pushing off the ground right after landing deep on the knee. The knee is bent so that soleus is used more than calf muscle to move toes away from the shin.

I have had clients with cadence slower than 180 at their jogging pace.  I helped them manage removing toe push off but they still had a push somewhere. Further investigation with slow motion video analysis transpired that there was a knee push off in the running cycle and that starts with landing deep on the knees, to load the knee for a good push. That significantly slows the stride rate due to the range of motion of knee joint. Going back to when they still had the toe push off on top of the landing deep on the knees, they would have to push off the ground to compensate for the delay caused by landing deep on the knees to maintain the momentum/pace. The push of course starts from the lowest point during landing when Soleus is more dominant than Calf muscle.

Here is how pushing off the ground can result shin splints in my own understanding.

Type 2 shin splints and Tibialis Anterios

Over-striding and landing ahead of the body is ubiquitous these days. While the comfortable cushioning in popular running shoes mitigate the damage by protecting some parts of foot and leg locally, the magnitude of such landing impacts other parts anyway. Landing ahead of the body usually comes with landing on heel. Note that landing ahead of the body can also happen in fore-foot landing and I have seen runners doing that. If the runner allows the heel to gently land, then it should be shin-splints safe; otherwise if toes are actively lifted to expose the heel to the ground first then there would be a good chance for this type of shin splints. There are running shoes that hold your toes up so you would not have to drosi flex to expose your heels (Ok, no hard feeling, let say it is because shoe makers love you and want you to feel comfortable at running) … and I never recommend going down such track. It is like counting on fat-removal surgery to binge on food. Better stop the wrong doing in the first place, do not you agree?

Here is how active heel striking can cause such shin splints, and it is all my understanding shared in here.

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