Progressive Running

Running Form Correction

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Importance of Slow Long Runs

As some of you might know am preparing for a half marathon race in May this year (2017). My main training will start in a couple of weeks and am preparing for it. I like to try breaking my PB this year so am supposed to go for speed but in contrary am not pushing for speed at this stage and that is what am going to talk about here.

In every running program there are 3 main workouts: slow long run, speed training, and goal pace run. What am working on for preparation is to focus on slow long run because that is the bread and butter of running. The reasons are:

  • Improves capillary network. Burning fat requires Oxygen. The penetration of blood into muscles indicates how well oxygen can reach out to cells so that fat burning can be utilised better in activities. The less penetration the more we have to burn carbs instead that do not need oxygen to burn. The downside of consuming carbs is that it generates lactic acid which if not washed out in time from the working muscles, the muscles cramp and their performance drops (that is when we have to slow down due to the pain). Efficiency in fuel consumption, which simply comes down to burning fat rather than anything else, is another aspect of this capillary network development. The other great improvement is growing more mitochondria in our muscle cells. Mitochondrion is the engine of body cells for generating energy. The more we have the higher we produce power.
  • Strengthen legs. Think of slow run as working out legs for longer time. It looks like as if you are pounding steadily on your legs on the spot. It is a tough workout that creates resilience, strength and stability in legs.
  • Improves mental toughness. Such running simulates hard stages of a long running race where the so-called mental breakdown plays in. Slow running tires up legs due to making them deal with your full body weight for longer amount of time with not much rest in between strides. Although you are capable of running faster that comes with longer airborne time to let your legs unwind a bit, you refrain and it simulates the tough moments of pushing through fatigue in a real scenario.
  • Provides basis for form correction. Unlike speed training, you find a chance to focus on every step you make and spot issues you might sense. Are your legs straight? are your toes pointing straight forward? are you pushing off the ground or is it totally switched off? are your arms moving only for balance? are you shortening stride length on both uphills and downhills? and a lot of other form check-points.

I used my new wearable today, Garmin Vivosmart (not quite happy with it since switched phone to the Android base Redmi) and that is what I did:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1606061867

I did not push for speed at all and compared to my goal pace I was 30-50 second slower per km. Look at my heart rate, 143 avg. Given my max heart rate is 182 bpm and my rest heart rate is 55 bpm, this falls around the top range of the fat burning zone, which is still in the zone I should do this workout.

 

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.

Special Offer – Free Video Form Analysis

For the entire January 2017 am offering free video form analysis which is normally at $59.

Drop me an email on rez@ProgressiveRunning.com or go to Contact page to submit a request, if interested.

Resolution for 2017

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Again is the time for the typical line of “time flies” in preparation for the new year. In advance I wish you all the best in the new year.

2016 was a good year for me, started this business and managed to find some clients. My aim was to introduce the business and advocate what I believe is more important in running than the usual public understanding which is ‘techniques first’. It is going well and I contribute to it as much as I can besides a full time job and a busy family. Everyone lives their life only once and if cannot spend all of it on their passion why not spending as much as possible?!

Getting straight to the point, for those who are thinking of sporty new year’s resolutions, am going to list here some major running competitions in Sydney in 2017:

SMC Road Series

It is an ongoing series of running races for those who have not already signed up. Might be a good idea to jump right now and stay with them in 2017. It recommend it for serious runners to have ongoing short term goals for quite a long time to build up their skills very well. Check them out here www.sydneymarathonclinic.org.au or their event calendar here www.sydneymarathonclinic.org.au/event-calendar .

The interesting fact about these series is at every event there are a few options for distances. You can run 5km, 10km, Half Marathon or 30km, etc.

Another interesting running series is Sri Chinmoy.

Sun Run – Dee Why to Manly (4 Feb)

It is a fun run to start the year with. Not long left to it, if you can run 4-5km right now you should be able to accomplish the race by then. If  you are into swimming, you can also sign up for the Cole Classic swimming race on Sunday (running race is on Saturday) to go from Shelly Beach to Manly, to refresh your legs!

The priority at your training routine should be:

  1. Long run (it is the bread and butter of preparation for any sort of running goal)
  2. Hill training
  3. Speed training
  4. Strength workout

Six Foot Track (11 Mar)

It is Australia’s 5th largest marathon and by far the largest 100% off-road running event. If  you are into trail running, this is one of the best.

Check out their official website here: www.sixfoot.com.

SMH Half marathon (21 May)

It is the largest half marathon race in Sydney (21.1km), held 21 May 2017. The course is slightly hilly. It starts from Hyde park, goes into the city, Pyrmont, the rocks, and ends at Hyde park.

If you want to train for this, you should be able to run 6-8km in one go right now. If so you should be able to build up to the race very well. Start with two long runs per week, then add speed training.

The priority at your training routine should be:

  1.  Long run
  2. If newbie or intermediate: more strength workouts, if veteran: more speed workouts
  3. Hill training

Caveat:

  • At your long run aim to increase the distance gradually (10% per week, rounding distance down to be in the safe zone) up to maximum 18km by two weeks out to the race.
  • The second weekly run is shorter but should be faster than your long run pace, slower than your goal pace.
  • Make sure you rest between the sessions, the ideal case is to tuck 3 days of training between 4 days of rest (1 week in total). If two sessions happen to be in consecutive days, see if you can do one in the morning and the other in the evening of the following day.
  • Plan for deliberate rest and change of routine in advance. Cycling, crossfit/bootcamp, or swimming are common options.

City2Surf (13 Aug)

It is the largest fun run in the world and one of the most iconic running races in Sydney. It starts from Hyde park and ends in Bondi beach. This year, 2016, they slightly changed the ending part of it to be more convenient to cross the street after the race to access the shops and public transport.

It is 14km with around 11km uphills. Heartbreak hill is the most notorious part of it, but do not be scared, by proper hill training you may not even notice it during the race.

Priorities would be:

  1. Long run
  2. Hill training
  3. Speed training
  4. Strength workout

Notes:

  • Add hills to your long runs
  • You might need to give strength training higher priority at the beginning and then bring it down later on
  • Consider variety of speed training methods (tempo, fartlek, etc). You will need the benefits from all of them!

Pub2Pub (27 Aug)

Certainly the most iconic running race in Northern Beaches. It is from Dee Why to Newport with its course slightly changed in the recent years to go down to Newport beach rather than Newport Arms, the pub at the end of the line.

Sydney Running Festival (17 Sep)

Also known as Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon. There are a few races on the same day and the full marathon is the one Sydney marathoners usually plan to do as it is the most iconic full marathon race in Sydney (42.2km). You can do half marathon, bridge run or family run instead.

Priorities for training

  1. Long run
  2. Strength training
  3. Speed training

Notes:

  • Bigger goals come with bigger problems. Avoid too much, too soon, too fast
  • Call me to check your form!
  • Find a training plan online or flick me an email to create one for you based on your schedule and level
  • I would say strength training is more important than speed training for such a race. The reason is speed training may cause injury (due to high intensity). Strength training mitigates the risk of injury.
  • Regarding strength training, you have to be make a choice in what techniques you are running in. If you run in pose, your regimen of strength training would be quite different than the common understanding of strength workout for runners. If you push off the ground at running (like the way most of my potential clients do! lol) and you want to stay with that technique, you have to spend time on different set of workouts.
  • Do not run longer than 30km too often. Do it once or twice to gain confidence that you can actually go near 42km as it might wear you out before you reach your goal.
  • Beware of injuries from the get-go. You will be running that distance cumulatively every week especially closer to the race day, that might be too much on your body. Plan rest weeks in advance, boost your diet with highly nutritional foods, and do research about improving your recovery methods.

 

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!

photo-11-10-2016-12-02-31-pm

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

photo-11-10-2016-12-03-21-pm

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.

Sustainable Success at Running

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I have discussed success once or twice before in my previous blog posts  but this time am going to be more specific. It is about how to maintain success and to see if there is anything helpful towards that from the notions advocated at Progressive Running.

I follow variety of experts on the net: personal trainers, physios, dietitians, and running coaches. I was reading blog post of a running coach a long time ago where he raised a point about “not touching something that is working” and it sounded very right to me at the time however found it debatable later on.

Back in March this year I wrote a post on Heel Striking in which I described an invisible roof resembling our limits, hitting it means injury. It is a roof because we might hit it when we jump high for a greater goal. I still believe in what I said because we do not know at what exact stage our tissues fail at sustaining the pressure. Even by state of the art technology the medical science cannot accurately predict injuries.

Staying with the notion of the invisible roof, the more athletes progress in setting higher goals and picking harder challenges the closer they get to this invisible roof. It sounds reasonable to assume everyone picks a higher challenge once they tick off one. That is mankind’s nature to look for more; however as we pick harder challenges the scale of the necessities to achieve the set goals grows too. Training for a full marathon takes longer distances to run than for half marathon. That means a full distance marathoner is closer to his or her invisible roof than others aiming for shorter distances.

My interpretation of sustainable success is to find a way to push this invisible roof higher. Someone like me choose proper technique that would not overtax any particular body part more than the others. I aim for efficiency at the core techniques to spread the pressure between working parts the best way possible so my running economy would not stop half way through because of a failing part. Others might take different approaches. The debate stays forever on which one is universal, meaning definitely works for everyone.

Some coaches like Jason Fitzgerald mostly recommend strength training as a means to run efficiently and in a less prone to injury way. In other words they use strength training for sustaining success at running. Surely it is a working solution, I do not deny the benefit of strength training, and this method has worked for them too perhaps but my argument on it is that the followers of the notion might be fighting their own body without knowing it. Trading a bit of health to gain speed is what many runners do at running whereas they do not have to. For instance, as long as a runner’s cadence is below 180 strides per minute, he or she is over-straining knees and/or lower leg. What they gain is an extra propulsive force that results in speed. With the emphasis on strength training the runners build up strong enduring tissues that would tolerate the [extra] damage from the technique. This may work for some but am not sure it does for all. There is an excessive expenditure in such runner’s technique that is not addressed properly; instead a patch is used as fix. It is like someone who drink too much alcohol work extra hours to cover the cost of alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a trade of health for joy, and many are Ok with that but I wonder who would work extra hours to sustain this life-style.

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.

Lessons From City2Surf 2016

HarrySummers

City2Surf 2016 was just last Sunday, the 14th. Another world’s largest fun run event finished with me going back into the red group (!) and Harry Summers winning it after coming 2nd and 4th in the previous ones.

Due to various reasons I was not able to run at this great event in the past two years and lost my spot in the red group. This year I unbelievably caught Pneumonia exactly four weeks out to the race and am lucky I could recover in one week to finish it with a good margin better than 70 minutes or whatever cut off the organisers are going to set for qualification to be in the red group next year (they make it harder every year). Made it in 64:39.

In a free training group sponsored by Adidas this year I met Harry Summers who led our running group. He used to run in Vibram Five Fingers but the one I ran with this year was not. Very fast and strong; however to my criticizing mind his cadence was lower than mine and I know mine is well tuned to be 180+ which means he pushes off the ground. I even noticed he is not meticulous on how he lands, and I caught some proprioceptive heel striking at the three sessions we did together. Such things happen at top professional levels, and that is fine. They do anything to be fast, and as long as their super genes can recover the wears and tears in time they should be fine. What I always look up to these successful runners is how often they train, what they do at training, what they eat at every meal, and how they recover fast, but one thing I do not copy is the way they run because IT IS NOT UNIVERSAL. It only works for them and those who can handle it. Others are better to stick to safer techniques that work for everyone.

Back to me, first three times I ran City2Surf, which was from 2009, I made it in 64, 66, and 60 minutes and they were all in thick Adidas shoes with motion control made for rolling-out feet. Besides, I was not running in pose. Back in time I just trained regularly and pushed my hardest on the race day. I got myself up to 60 minutes but could not break it.

2009: https://secure.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2009/03594

2010: https://secure.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2010/03140

2011: https://secure.tiktok.biz/results/view/city2surf/2011/06708

It was August 2011 that I found out about Vibram Five Fingers and the idea of minimalism in running footwear’s. This finding gave my running career a good boost. The first one I noticed was although I went through some painful muscle soreness (mainly calf muscles), none of those shinsplints and runner knees turned up any time I ran since then. It was amazing. My feet and ankle started getting stronger and by having a stronger hold to the ground I could push better and for longer time too. I ran from home to the office once a week in the morning for cumulatively 10 months and each run was between 25-33km (I made detours a few times). During this period of glory I ran two marathon races (42.2km) at Canberra in 03:27, and in Sydney in 03:11. I ran my personal best at City2Surf in 56:58 . I was all over the moon. It felt like being an invincible robot.

Quite pleased with achieving all the goals I had, I started feeling weak after the last race. Perhaps two marathons and a PB at a hilly race track in period of 6 months for a person with a full-time sedentary job was a bit too much. I fell into ITB syndrome followed by a benign Achilles tendinitis.

Having these injuries made me think that being [almost] barefoot would not make the mother nature take care of me! There were other things I needed to learn. In the hindsight I can tell the reason I had ITB syndrome was weakness in leg stabilisers perhaps due to some improper techniques plus muscular imbalance would contribute negatively to that, making me lean to one side more than the other when was fatigued during running workouts. My right leg was two or three times stronger than the left one back in time. The Achilles tendinitis was somehow related to this aforementioned imbalance and more importantly to over-training. The other thing I relate to this tendinitis was my running technique: I used my calf muscles mainly to push off the ground on top of absorbing the landing shock. I actively landed on the balls or even between the balls and toes thinking it would absorb the landing shock even better. Wrong intuition.

That was when I realised I seriously need to boost my knowledge about running and it was by the time I finished my degree to become a personal trainer. I came across Pose Running and attended a personal training session to learn it. The actual training did not strike me as a proper technique but the theory sounded right. So I kept practicing and studied the material by myself. Two books and a whole website to browse and a paid youtube channel to watch. In a year or so I got it right and changed my form to run in pose and have never looked back.

This year I ran the race in 64min and it was completely in pose. I had pneumonia before the race and I am 4 years older (am 39 now) than the time I ran my PB at City2Surf but I still made it around the time I was much younger and more active. All credit to pose running. It is easier, less prone to injury and highly efficient which means it takes less effort to run the same distance.

During the race I observed the muscles I used for going up hills and surprisingly I did not feel much pressure in my quads or calf muscles. I clearly remember I used to have pain (tolerable) at going up hills, even in my glory year of 2012. Why? because I pushed off the ground and I did not know of any alternative way of running.

Last thing before I finish this long post, and thanks if you have read it all the way to here, am no longer running my races in Vibram Five Fingers. I train a lot in them but racing is a different category to fitness. There are times during the race that we get puffed out and it would be hard to maintain a good form. A little cushioning in the shoes would give a bit of comfort. If I could train more hours I would run my races in VFF but having a busy life is a big obstacle. These days I run my races in NB Minimus which is still at the extreme of minimalism but is a little more comforting than VFF and can be forgiving if I carelessly land on my heels just because am knackered. Ignore what am saying if you are not a competition freak! Anyway, some might go for more supportive shoes but as far as they have to train in those shoes before the race it may cause trouble before being fruitful. I personally keep it minimal and that works for me. I still believe the strength developed in feet is gold compared to the support in shoes bought off the shelf that I rank as bronze ;)

Hope it was helpful. Good luck.

Get on the road sooner – Financing a car and supportive shod running (WTF?!)

Car-Finance

Was passing by Ford dealership at Brookvale the other day and saw their Ad: Get on the road sooner, Ford Finance. What does it have to do with running? Surprisingly it does a lot.

The benefit of financing a car is you can drive away your dream car without having the money in your bank account. As long as you can afford repaying the principal and the interest you should be fine. The downside of financing is the interest of course. The reason some people finance cars is its affordability, so they choose the immediate comfort over the hardship of saving, budgeting and the initial delay to have a car.

How does it relate to running? Remember I said before (like here: successful-runners vs good runners) that Shoes do not make you a good runner, they just help you get into running more quickly ? Car financing does the same thing. You need a car right now, like you just have decided to get into running because you are getting married in 6 months time, or you just picked up a goal to run in a race which is usually not too far in future. You do not have time to learn how to run properly. The only thing you want to think of is to achieve your goal. The damage you cause is you run inefficiently, you may overtax your lower legs, you may put too much pressure on your knees, Achilles tendon, or plantar fascia, etc, at your training. That is the resemblance of the interest paid at financing.

What I have to offer is how to run with less amount of effort. First of all, you have to slow down and be patient. You have to stop what you are doing for a full-check up to see if you need to revise the way you run or not.

There are many micro and macro movements in feet that are affected by shoes. As I explained in The Most Natural Sport , one should learn how to run with minimal amount of effort and the best framework to practice it is to have minimal support from shoes, or even in bare feet. Once you master that, your eyes will open to what is going on in the shoe market. You can choose the right shoes that can extend your bio-mechanical abilities and do not manipulate the way you naturally run. Am not being cynical here but shoe industry like car industry want you to buy their products as frequently as possible. Easy car finance prevents your attempt to learn how to budget and save. In the same way comfortable cushioned shoes would make you not bother how to run efficiently because it feels comfortable to run in supportive shoes and you can start getting fit forthwith. If you learn to run in pose, which takes a little patience, you will be independent on shoes thereafter. You will develop strength in your feet/legs (gold) as opposed to buying incomplete strength off the shelf (bronze at max!).

Do you get the picture now?

 

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