Progressive Running

Running Form Correction and High Intensity Training

Category: Technique (Page 1 of 6)

How to run downhills safely?

I bet you have always heard that running downhills is dangerous because it can injure you and running uphills is safer than all, even safer than running on a flat path. I would say they are some kind of true, especially about uphills. Regarding downhills I know of a way to run it fast and less prone to injury.

Why running downhills is risky?

It is simple, because gravity affects you more [than on flat paths], your speed increases a lot and if you travel too much in the air from one stride to another your impact to the ground will be higher than normal and that might hurt you somewhere in your legs. Getting technical with physics here, the formula is v = g.t in which g is gravity acceleration (varies around the globe between 9.8 – 10 m/s2) and t is the travel time. You should consider this formula on the vertical component of your speed, the one that is made by gravity pulling you down. Clearly, the longer time spent in the air, in a linear way the velocity increases resulting in hitting the ground harder.

If you have understood the above paragraph, to mitigate the injury risk of running downhills fast, we have to simply minimize the travel time in the air. Decreasing that time would keep you close to the ground to lessen the impact hence the chance of injury; but how?

As mentioned in my previous blog posts I am against some active moves, like active landing, active push-off, or active impose of stride length, etc. This time on running downhills I am not against being active at shortening stride length because at this situation gravity meddles too much with running form so that we have to do something for damage control. Here comes enforcing shorter stride length, allowing for higher cadence (stride rate)  to touch the ground more frequently. Easy on paper, tricky at practice, but that is the way to run down safely.

Note that what concerns you in here is the vertical component of that velocity not the horizontal. The horizontal one can increase with no issue and if you do not manage shorter stride length/faster cadence, the vertical component will go up too. Recap, simulate wheel by touching the ground more often to lessen the pressure at landing and allow the horizontal/forward speed roll you down as fast as possible. Mainly your lower legs move; each leg in turn beds at the knee, hamstrings pull a little, unfold the knee quickly to bring the lifted foot back to the ground, otherwise you will travel longer in the air by holding that foot up.

Is it that easy?

Not at the beginning but I assure you, once you learn it you will automatically switch to short stride length mode to run down any hills, even short ones.

No need to mention that on top of theory must come enough practice to master the whole thing. You should practice it when you are fresh (start of a running workout) as well as while being tired (towards the end of a running workout).

I can share a few notes to bear in mind to be able to perform this method correctly.

  • Make sure you do not push off the ground at all or what I am saying here will be useless. Pushing off the ground on downhills opposes the strategy of staying close to the ground. Read my previous posts on what it is and how to switch it off.
  • Activate your core and gluetus maximus (butt muscles). It is my own anecdote that squeezing tommy and gluetus maximum helps this technique a lot. The reason is, in my opinion from my own experience, this technique is mainly impleneted with lower legs due to the small range of movements required. So when only lower legs move much, upper parts of legs are pretty much for stablization and to provide a base for lower legs to move in the way required. This stablization demands gluets to hold and core to keep the turso affixed to hips.
  • Lean backwards to slow down and forward to speed up. Well, this is the same as what I would say for running on any surface using gravity (falling forward) to move on, but you may still keep that fall angle on entering the descending slope and end up in a high speed too quickly. Make sure you control it by slightly leaning backwards initially, then increase it as you feel confident. Remember your falling angle is your accelerator pedal.
  • This is a side note to the technique but is as important. Control your breathing on downhills. This is my own anecdotes again. There seems to be a direct connection between brain and eyes and other receptors that acts unconciously to incresae heart and breathing rate from perception of speed. Running downhills is usually faster than what we can manage by our pure effort on other surfances; this running downhills either causes excitement or our body prepares for taking more oxygen to our muscles by increasing heart and breathing rate due to apparent increase of speed, perhaps effort. Whatever it is, it is not necessary and a misperception. You are using less energy to go down a hill, and the only handle you have to control these two rates is your breathing one. Slower and deeper breathing always helps with slower heart rate. So look at it, you go faster while your cardiovascular system rests, is not that amazing?!

Hope this helps you run downhills better. I personally work on this technique a lot, somehow more than or at least equal to the time and effort I put on running uphills because it can actually save you more time during running races. Runners usually maintain the same form and rate of pounding the ground whereas they must, IMHO, switch between different techniques. Practice it on bumps on some roads if there are any around your usual running courses. Go up the bump and switch to quick and short strides on the way down. Turn around and do it again.

Good luck, any questions please email me on rez@progressiverunning.com or use the contact form.

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.

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. 

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