Progressive Running

Running Form Correction

Category: Technique (Page 1 of 2)

Read this before buying running shoes

Thanks for stopping by to read this. Sometimes I feel like I am standing in the middle of a crazy highway yelling at fast passing cars: “stop using fossil fuel, switch to solar!”

What I am going to share with you here is exactly the story of sustainable energy versus unsustainable one resembled in the context of running.  We all know solar panels are expensive (it is quite an investment). We know hybrid cars like Toyota Prius or electric cars like Tesla’s are expensive, but they help building a better future. The benefits of using sustainable energy come in a long run, same as correct/efficient/sustainable running that I am discussing here.

There is a different way of running that can save you a lot of energy while being at the most optimum form to avoid injuries. It is like learning a new dance move but scientifically removes physical pressure from your body to some good extent.

It all starts with one simple fact: we do not have to generate energy for propulsion.  So how to move forward? Only fall like a timber tree and catch yourself at the end. Can you do it in form of a smooth and fast running? The answer is yes, and that is what I teach. If you want to know more, google “Pose Method of Running” or watch this:

 

I observe outdoor recreational runners and usually find one runner per week running correctly – or very close to Pose – out of hundreds iterating the same ubiquitous inefficient technique: pushing off the ground + landing ahead of the body (usually landing on heels first).

The shoe industry does something that looks divine in the first glance. They truly try to protect your feet. Putting aside the relatively small minimalist shoes production, the rest of the industry manufactures shoes that mainly:

  • Mitigate the harmful impact of landing ahead of the body
  • Help with effective push-off the ground

I do not blame the shoe industry for not telling you how to run correctly and instead monetising what people prefer to do (would not you do that too if you could?! or what is wrong with you?!) What I am to blame is runners for naive thinking that running is their second nature persuming there is not much to learn.

Our ancestor cavemen went through an experience since their childhood that we do not: they ran barefoot all the time, telling from the sensations (mostly pain) in the bottom of their feet how to tread to have the least impact to their body (lasting long chasing preys) while being able to run as fast as possible. 

At our age, the situation is terrible. We learn walking and running in shoes. There are even shoes for new borns! Parents out of pure honest love for their toddlers buy shoes with elevated heels and arch support too. All of these deter us from naturally learning how to run efficiently. Well, we no longer run for survival but if you pick running seriously you better spend time to learn its basics properly to make the right choices including what type of shoes suit you.

If you choose to learn Pose, prepare yourself to get humble, but trust me, your running will feel like flying once  you start running in Pose. Private Sessions for total amount of $150. 

Fill out this form to get in touch on this:

Does footstrike matter?

Watched a video in which a successful running coach answered questions by one of his clients and one question was on footstrike if it matters how to land, as in forefoot or mid-foot or rear-foot. He said it does not matter and he repeated that over and over moving his head implying if it is an overrated topic and he is simply washing away all the fuss to enlighten his dear clients. Once he was done with the phrase “it does not matter” he continued “as long as you land under you hips, it does not matter how you land”. That was true but the way he approached it initially reminded me of those tricky visually-concealed lines in terms and conditions of a contract, maybe even in small font, that would work against customers! If he clearly highlighted the importance of landing underneath hips first, then yes, I would totally agree with him that footstrike does not matter much thereafter.

Landing under hips is what all physios – those with medical degrees and those without any! – would have consensus over it that is the best way of landing at running. There would be less pressure on knees and it would not generate any force against the direction of running. The question is how to achieve it? Can it be enforced?

The answer by me, based on Pose method of running, is it is the outcome of other things that happen before landing and it should not be enforced. Landing under hips happen if:

  • There is no propulsion generated by muscular effort (no paw-back or push-off)
  • There is no reaching forward to elongate stride length (no over-striding)

In an ideal case when everything is done correctly prior to landing, mid to front foot strike is expected to happen. It is actually hard to land on heels when landing underneath the hips; it would take moving hips a little bit backward, bending over waist which causes its own problems.

Is forefoot strike better than the others? Not necessarily. I have seen runners enforcing it while landing ahead of their bodies. That is still bad and exerts extra pressure on some parts, like Achilles tendon.

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%.

A Critic on Guy Leech’s Advice on Running Techniques

The running enthusiasts at Sydney Northern Beaches should probably know that Pub2Pub is on 27 August and the serious training for it should start in around two weeks from this post (10 weeks training program would do).

Today I received an email from Pub2Pub organisers with some interesting content by Ironman legend Guy Leech. Mr Leech has prepared a series of very useful videos on Youtube to guide runners to prepare for a running race. While appreciating his great work and encouraging everyone to watch the videos, I would like to write this post on the first video which is on techniques, my favourite topic of discussion and the reason I created this small business, Progressive Running for improving public awareness and knowledge on the importance of this matter.

Here is the video:

I have to admire that he starts with technique in this series since technique comes prior to training. On this topic he raises the following main points in the video:

  • Selection of correct running shoes to avoid injury
  • Tips on good posture
  • Slight knee lift, quick turn over, and concentrate on cadence. Aim for shortest contact with the ground as possible

Here I am going to write my opinion on these points. My core opinion is constituted based on Pose Method of running and some other science-based sources as the reference for commenting on other techniques and approaches to efficient running. Up to this moment my take on Pose is that it is science and I faithfully follow what science states as true.

Selection of correct running shoes to avoid injury

Blaming shoes as the first cause of injury is not what I find a correct approach however it is very common and my personal experience tells me public opinion is with this notion. To my research the first culprit is the way we run and the pattern of training.

Have a read here for more information on this: http://www.drnicksrunningblog.com/runners-create-injuries-not-shoes/

The reason public opinion – and that of successful athletes like Guy Leech – is set towards blaming shoes as a very likely cause of injury lies in this simple fact that overwhelming majority of recreational runners push off the ground at running.  When there is a push-off involved, selection of shoes matters because the way shoes transfer forces around could apply pressure on some parts of legs more than the others and those parts might wear out quicker than expected, meaning an injury might happen in those areas. The alternative to push-off is to use gravitational torque for propulsion. Doing so shifts the pressure to bigger muscles in leg and also results in bringing all so-called metrics into the right range: Shortening ground contact time, having cadence as high as 180 strides per minute, and forefoot landing, etc.

Tips on good posture

These are the last things I usually mention to my clients. They are trivial and some of them are automatically sorted when the main concepts of Pose running are materialised into one’s running gait. For instance, arms are only for balance at Pose running whereas some coaches, if not many, emphasise on moving or pumping them back and forth along the body. The reason is, moving arms back and forth helps with “pushing off the ground”. When the standing foot is pushed down to the ground to propel the runner, that leg will trail behind the runner. For a better trailing, it is helpful to balance out the trailing leg’s weight with a forward-reaching arm.

Slight knee lift, quick turn over, and concentrate on cadence. Aim for shortest contact with the ground as possible

Back in 90’s, at analysing fast sprinters’ running techniques, the running coaches came to think that knee drive is what helps the sprinters run fast. Later on it was revealed, as per what Nicholas Romanov the founder of Pose Method says in one of his books, the sought after effective component was the unfolding of knees and the swing from it, not the knee drive.

One of the apparent factor by which pose runners are well known is their knees staying low. Driving or lifting knees is an up-tiring and unnecessary technique (usage of hip flexors). One can achieve the same time and pace at running without doing so.

Raising the point about cadence goes with my/Pose opinion on running, and cannot thank Mr Guy Leech enough for mentioning that. Cadence is like checking temperature of a patient to tell how good his or her health is. If cadence is below 180 strides per minute,  there is a push to spot when analysing the video of somebody’s running. What could not fit in Mr Leech’s short video is how to achieve a right cadence. Mr Leech also says that ground contact time should decrease. That is true. This is aligned with the point on cadence too. In fact they are the same thing in Pose method; however the question is how to achieve it? I wrote about it in more detail at this post.

Decreasing ground contact time while pushing off the ground contradict each other. Simply because for a proper push one needs to hold and press a foot down long enough to propel as fast as needed. How such runner can still move forward as fast if the push part is going to shorten?

Last word on this matter, not the least

Running is a natural sport and everyone knows how to run but running ‘efficiently’ is a skill. Application of efficient running is not limited to the race day, it comes more useful at training period because majority of those runners who experience injuries, happen to be injured during their training period as opposed to the race day.

Public opinion on running technique is not based on science and mostly established based on athletes’ anecdotes which are not necessarily scientific. On the other hand, knowing the target does not certainly help achieving it if not provided the right approach too. For instance, Mr Leech’s point on ground contact time is correct, but how to achieve it takes a full lecture.

There are experts and successful athletes like Guy Leech that sport enthusiast try to copy their training routine, their diet, and their techniques, etc, but beware that some of their doings may not be ‘universal’. They surely have superior genes that help them recover faster than an average healthy person so if they do something wrong or inefficient that trades health for speed, their body’s skill at repairing the tears is much better than most of us. If we do the same thing we might end up in hospital :) That is why I believe in finding and teaching things that work for everyone, or in other words: are Universal.

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.

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.

 

 

What is Late Pull at Running

taken from Fitmetrix.io

Running has three components: Fall, Pose and Pull. No matter how you run and what your running technique is, you go through these three at every stride of yours.

Each part has its own perfect form or way of being done correctly/efficiently. Regarding pull, there are a few issues in the recreational running community and one of them is late pull.

How to spot it in the video?

Simply, right after the moving foot passes the standing knee the back foot should be leaving the ground. If a video is taken from someone’s running, assuming each frame is around 30ms, in the next frame after the one in which the moving foot surpasses the standing knee the back foot should have left the ground, or the runner is making late-pull mistake.

Ok, got it but what problem does late pull cause?

First of all, note that even a simple tiny  mistake at running can harm you over time. Because it repeats so many times, it wears you off until it clinically becomes an injury. Regarding late pull, it meddles with the perfect timing you can have in your stride if you just let the front foot [passively] fall under your body. What happens is due to the change in the dynamics of running caused by late pull, the front foot lands ahead of the body adding unnecessary pressure to the landing knee.

Other issue is, in most cases, those who have late pull, push their back foot off the ground. Perhaps because they keep a portion of their body weight behind (the back leg of course), they need to exert an extra force to take their foot off the ground. This push would be unnecessary if they removed that back foot just in time (as aforementioned: after the moving foot passes the standing knee).

How to identify and fix it?

In the same way that high temperature (fever) shows infection, cadence at running indicates such mistakes. If your cadence is below 180 strides per minute you are pushing off the ground and most likely you have late pull too (otherwise why you keep that foot behind if you do not want an effective push forward?!).

The other more accurate way of identifying it is to have a video form analysis which I can do for free during special offer periods like now (Jan 2016). You can also ask someone to take a video of your running form and send it to me. That would be always free of charge. Best way is to flick me an email to get started: rez@progressiverunning.com .

To fix late pull, there is one way. You should gain your propulsive force from gravity. Falling forward must become the only source of generating force to move ahead. That is what I teach at Progressive Running.

Vertical Oscillation

Summer is on the way in southern hemisphere and am replacing lunch time long runs by early morning and evening workouts. Speaking of training at late hours, am pleased with a free running group down in Manly organised by Karmea Fitness (www.karmeafitness.com) every Thursday at 7 pm. We do interval training and is different from a week to another. It fits my plans and is always good to work on speed beside slow-and-long runs. If you do not have a speed workout in your routine and you can commute to Manly I would recommend these sessions. Nice atmosphere by the usual participants and of course the beautiful scenery of Manly beach are in the package.

And now about Vertical Oscillation. For those who do not know what it is, it is the amount of going up and down at running. For those who are confused because they think running is on a horizontal direction, you should take a video of someone’s running and watch it in slow motion to see how much the top of the runner’s head goes up and down. Minimizing this travel would be hugely cost effective. A typical marathon runner would almost climb a few sky scrapers during the course of a marathon. Let’s do some math to see:

  • Number of strides per minute: 170 (180-200 is the best, but  most of runners are below that)
  • Average time to finish a 42.2km marathon: 4hr
  • with only 5cm vertical oscillation at each stride there will be : 4 (hr) x 60 (min) x 170 (cadence) x 5cm = 2040 meters!

vo-1

Although this vertical travel is inevitable, there are  movements in runners techniques that increase it. One main culprit is the push-off the ground. As I must have said it a few million times at my blog posts, most of recreational runners push off the ground for propulsion (and that is my single goal I like to fix in the runners’ community).

Talking physics, this push (yellow arrow in the snapshot below) has two components:

  • Horizontal (green arrow)
  • Vertical (red arrow)

vo-2

The horizontal component is the only part runners are after. The vertical part, which comes as a by-product of the push, throws the runner upwards (the so-called vertical oscillation). So the question is, how bad is it? Is there any benefit in doing that at all?

Those who have a relatively higher VO travel longer in the air because they go higher upwards so it takes longer to come down. It is a symmetrical two-way move meaning by the same amount of time it takes to go up it does to fall back down. During this time the runner travels horizontally. In fact by this technique runners buy more time to move horizontally so end up in longer stride length. The downfalls are:

  • Higher impact with the ground
  • Landing ahead of the body
  • Longer ground contact time

The last one is an interesting consequence. Although the airborne phase looks longer, the ground contact phase gets longer too for another effective push-off so the overall airborne time does not find a higher ratio to the total time. Landing ahead of the body is usually an outcome of pushing-off the ground, and in most cases comes with letting heels touch the ground first; if not taking words from me on how bad it is, speak with your physio. Lastly, the higher impact with the ground is simply because the runner falls from a higher height.

At the alternative technique, Pose method, the stride length is meant to be kept short. What increases is stride rate (cadence). In fact we have a short window to make a stride before we fall back down from a shorter height. Does it make sense? Let me explain it from a different angle. At this technique the source of propulsive force is from falling forward. That means there is a short amount of time before falling flat on our face to make a stride! If you try it you will see it happens so quickly until you feel the urge to put a foot forward to avoid it. If you are not quick enough you miss the window. As long as you feel the need to have longer time to make the stride you end up in pushing for a slight upward jump to lengthen the period of each stride. Once  you mange making a stride within that window you end up in having higher cadence. This cadence falls automatically in 180-200 strides per minute. So interesting that this known right cadence of 180-200 is actually a by-product of running in pose.

Have a look here. Keep your focus on top of Dr Romanov’s head to see how far it goes up and down. The second focal point is to watch his feet, to see how passively they leave the ground after landing. Final point is the engagement of hamstring and how quickly they are utilized. Usually at leaving the ground knees push; they do not do it here. Constantly decreasing angle of knees frame by frame straight after leaving the ground is the indicator.

My Take on Minimalist Running

My first experience with minimalist running shoes goes back to 2011. I can tell it was one of my biggest discovery at running. I slowly transitioned into a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (TreckSport was the model to be accurate) and then increased intensity and distance as I progressed. I ran two full marathons in them in 2012, fastest at 3:11, and achieved the PB of 56:58 in City2Surf.

Despite ticking all the goals at high mark, the glory did not last long as I faced a benign Achilles tendinitis. I looked into the cause of that and found Pose Method of Running explaining it the best.

I certainly over-trained during that period but in addition to that the issue with my running form/technique was I used to push off the ground, mainly toe push off. I also had a wrong understanding of utilization of natural shock absorption in the legs which led me to forcibly stay on the balls of my feet holding my heels high all the time. I forced myself to hurt my right Achilles tendon, simply because of lack of knowledge.

What I gained during that glorious period was strong, lean and muscly lower legs. Interesting that recently bumped into this article as a proof to this experience of my own: www.shape.com/fitness/gear/should-you-wear-minimalist-running-shoes in which reads:

In a study conducted by Hong Kong Polytechnic University in conjunction with Harvard Medical School, researchers found that training in MRS (Minimalist Running Shoes) increased runner’s muscle mass and strength in the feet and lower legs…

I still run in VFF and recommend them to everyone however if you are not running in pose you might get yourself injured if you train too seriously in them. I always tell everyone, once you learn how to run efficiently you will realize how less important shoes are.

Coming at a different angle on this subject, we were looking for a new pair of shoes for my 4.5 yo son a few months ago, for sports other than running like soccer, and I could not choose anything better than Nike Revolution and then Nike Free, although was not totally happy with either due to their slight heel elevation (they are NOT zero-drop). All shoes at the shops we went to had lots of support in them which would not be approved by me the barefoot-running evangelist daddy especially when it comes to kids. Bad news is last week I took a video of his running form and was shocked when saw his over-striding, landing ahead of body and heel-striking! All the three devils were at the party!

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I asked him to take his shoes off and run again. That came with another shocking moment that the evils were still there.

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Cannot believe how easily we may deviate from the so-called natural front-foot landing technique, the outcome of human evolution in a few million years, over a short period of time running in cushioned shoes. Amazing how comfort leads us.

You must have heard of natural running but I have not come across any certain set of rules anywhere yet that clearly defines it. If there is any, it has to start with basics. If I try to write the basic rules down here I would start with these:

  • Legs shock absorption must be fully incorporated
  • Tendon elasticity must be utilized

These two are natural features in our legs that play important roles at running. Note that half of the tendon elasticity (second item) is within the first item, the shock absorption, meaning our tendons stretch out as our muscles load at landing time to preserve a portion of the kinetic energy. This is done along with the rest of shock absorption mechanism to slow us down on the vertical direction. After the last moment of vertical stopping, the tendons unload to unleash the energy, like a stretched rubber band that returns energy once released . This is a big saving that helps us getting off the ground for the next stride with less muscular effort.

The shock absorption feature is simply in the curvy bendy shape of our legs broken down with joints. Three major joints exist between torso and the contact point with the ground: hips, knees, and ankles. Tendons around these joints provide some room to smooth the impact of touching down, as well as the other soft tissues inserted inside and around the joints. The more number of joints engaged at landing, the better the landing shock is handled. That simply means landing on the front foot would engage ankles whereas heel-striking would by-pass it relying on shoes to absorb the shock, not to mention leaving knees and hips with more pressure to deal with.

Now do you see how shoes and legs differ in terms of absorbing the landing impact? The answer is the one done by shoes would send kinetic energy to waste whereas legs can release back a portion of it due to their elasticity. My honest advice, improve this elasticity and it pays back the initial training by saving a lot of energy as you go.

I would call a running form unnatural if the technique in it, no matter how or why or caused by what, prevents utilization of any of these two features, and call it natural if not only it uses these features but also it enhances them and make the running economy be relied upon them more.

If you are up to choosing proper minimalist running shoes consider these four specifications:

  1. Bendable: can you bend both ends of the shoe to meet in the middle?
  2. Big toe pocket: Our toes are meant to cling to the ground at landing providing a wider surface for balance to start shock absorption thereafter. This behavior is supposed to be maintained inside shoes.
  3. Zero drop: There should not be any elevation at heels, so there must be zero drop in elevation going from heel to toe.
  4. Light in weight

To name a few minimalist brands:

  • Vibram Five Fingers: Many models but Seeya is the lightest
  • Zem Gear: variety of options
  • New Balance: Minimus (afaik only one unfortunately)
  • Inov8 – variety of models

Just started reading this book The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease and it is already fascinating. Giving me insights into how we evolved and where we are heading to. Should write about it once I finish the book.

What is this 180+ Cadence?

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There are different grades and levels at every context with a flow of tips and knowledge going down from the elite level to the novice one. The same goes in the world of running and one of the great tips is to keep the cadence (number of strides per minute, both legs combined) at 180 or higher. While believing in it, I doubt everyone knows the reason behind this magical number of 180.

Stopwatches like Garmin 920XT measure cadence. It indicates 180 as a reference level and seems encouraging people to keep their cadence higher than that. Here am trying to explain why it matters and what is going to be achieved by adjusting cadence to this range.

To my understanding this cadence comes from the fact that the highest speed during a stride is at the airborne phase compared to the landing phase or the so-called ground contact. The longer we spend time on the ground the more likely we lose momentum. Simply put, to run faster we should leave the ground as soon as we touch it, which due to human body’s physiology it results in a cadence from 180.

The other benefit of having such a cadence is to utilize the elasticity of the tendons in our legs better. Tendons are elastic which means they help runners bounce off the ground after landing. Tendons get loaded as the landing phase starts and are meant to unload as the next stride initiates. Having low cadence results in killing this bounce or limiting the extent it can make running more efficient. It is a natural feature in our legs that to my opinion is negatively affected by too-supportive shod running.

According to pose method of running, elasticity in our legs can improve efficiency at running up to 50%, which always surprises me for being too high but that is what they claim and please do not shoot the messenger. In my own experience incorporating it makes running an easier activity. It recycles a chunk of energy that is going to waste (shoes and low cadence waste energy). To facilitate this recycle process you should train your musculotendon system to be more responsive, agile and bouncy. Exercises like fall jump, box jumps or simply doing skipping rope would help a lot.

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On the implementation side of this cadence, one would not be able to manage a proper one by pushing off the ground hoping to leave it soon enough to increase running cadence. Pushing off the ground, as explained in my previous posts , conflicts with cadence. For an effective push-off you would need longer contact time with the ground whereas for a proper cadence you need to leave the ground very soon after landing. The solution I know of – unfortunately or fortunately it sounds like a religion because it is the only right way of doing it – is to remove push-off and incorporate lift off the ground instead. Since push-off is the main source of propulsion in many runners removing it results in a big drop in speed and performance if not substituted with something as effective if not more. Therefore, the lift off must be accompanied with a technique that generates propulsion and there is no better way than using gravitation torque for propulsion. English translation would be to stay at a constant fall angle and catch yourself at every stride. Gravity is free and all you need to do is to pull your back foot and put it in front of you while staying in the constant fall (two focal points). It takes time and practice to learn new coordination but makes a big difference.

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