Progressive Running

Correct Your Running Techniques, Run Efficiently

Category: Injuries

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.

One PB a year, keeps the doctor away

City2Surf 2017 was on Sunday 13 August with Harry Summers and Celia Sullohern winning men’s and women’s top spot on the podium. Congratulations to both. Harry Summers won the race last year too and came second in the one before that. He was injured this year and only had 6 weeks to prepare, and there you go, he made it!

Although this race is my favourite I took it easy this year because I had planned for improving my PB in half marathon earlier in May (and it went well) so I decided not to push for another one in the same year to avoid any chance of injuries. That is why I came up with the title of this blog post. Well, if I had Harry Summers’ super genes I might think differently! Anyway, I think I did ok at the race as I did not even expect to go sub 60min but I just made it in a few seconds better: http://live.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2017/00658

Back in 2012 when I was pushing hard to make good time at any race I ended up in growing a bone-spur right in the back of my right heel bone that still annoys me every time I run. Worst thing this bone-spur did back then was tears in the [right] Achilles tendon. It stopped me from running for 6 months which was depressing however there was an enlightenment for me from this injury. I used to run – and still do a lot – in extreme minimalist shoes like vibram five fingers. Back in time I was on this notion that running like a caveman must be injury free due to being completely natural. There is a misunderstanding in this approach and that is “not everyone knows how to run correctly efficiently”.

Please do not think I am going to say running in Vibram Five Fingers causes injury (from my last conversation with Harry Summers on this in June 2016, he did not agree with me). I still run in them and cannot recommend anything better for training. My point is something else. At running in cushioned and supportive shoes what is protected by shoes is your feet “locally”. What you may not see through is the magnitude of improper landing on the higher parts of your legs. Moreover, design of most of running shoes is based on the [true] statistics that most people “push off” the ground so that running shoes try to make it more comfortable and effective (monetizing the current trend). The alternative to this approach, and in fact the opposite view, is that pushing off the ground is not really right/efficient. The chance of injuries is higher when the runner pushes off the ground due to “unnecessary usage of muscles”. If you could do less to get the same result, would not you think it would be more efficient and less prone to injury?

The opposite approach, which is fully explained in Pose method of running, is to use gravitational torque as the only source of propulsion. What is left to manage would be to learn how to redirect forces to properly run within this framework. That is why running correctly efficiently is a skill.

One immediate noticeable difference you would experience once start running in Pose is you hardly get sore from your running workouts. Calf and quad soreness is usually caused with pushing off the ground. Not getting sore is a great benefit because otherwise you would have to slow down or postpone training for the soreness to go (safe approach). The other great benefit is the lower chance of injury (nothing can beat over-training though). It is more likely to get injured at training rather than the race day, comparing the amount of time spent and the distance taken at training with those of the actual race. That is how running in pose can keep you on the safe side during your training period, and besides it helps you save energy up to 20%.

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