Progressive Running

Best Ever Techniques to Run Efficiently

Category: Coaching (Page 1 of 8)

To vibram or not to vibram?

When I meet running enthusiasts for the first time I am usually asked variety of questions about Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), my favourite running shoes. I have been wearing them since 2011 and have never looked back. There are benefits in minimalism that do not exist in the opposite direction towards maximalism. Comfort level increases towards maximalism and efficiency drops. It is your call where about on this spectrum you like to settle.

Here you go, an FAQ about wearing VFF. Please do write me comments here or message me directly if any questions or different points of view.

Do VFF shoes help with your running form?

Shoes do not matter as much as the way you run matters. Wearing these shoes might force you to correct some movements but until the time you stop what you doing to start running in Pose you are just hanging around in the darkness repeating same mistakes hoping for the best. You gain some strength by wearing these and you mind your landing a bit more because you have less cushioning in your footwear which might help with some aspects of running techniques but these things are some dots that one day you have to connect to see the full picture, to understand why the rule of each dot has to be followed. The connection between these dots is explained well in Pose Method of Running, and only by that. Period.

Do you run faster in VFF?

My time improved at all the races from the time I switched to VFF but it was my own experience and may not apply to everyone. What I ignorantly did not do back in time was to run in Pose. When I had an injury I looked into running techniques, then I found about Pose Method of Running and found out it is not shoes causing injuries, it is the way we run.

My mate ran in these and got injured

Does he run in Pose? If no, I do not care. If yes, what was his training plan like? Was his goal realistic? Did he over train by any chance? What injury was it actually? For instance, I do not think you can get away with ITBS by running in VFF. Some injuries have nothing to do with techniques or footwears.

As you see there are plenty of plausible reasons before pointing fingers at VFF as culprit.

Does running in VFF mean having to run in Pose?

No but when you learn Pose method of running, you will see how less important the cushioning in your shoes are, or actually how that cushioning might work against you. So the answer is no, and it is your personal choice if you like to work out more muscles in my legs to have stronger feet (who said having big biceps and pecs are sexy only? lol).

One thing about cushioning in shoes, do a research about elasticity of tendons and its usage in running. That would help understand why this comfort in your shoes work against efficiency. Building a bit of strength in your feet would bring out the benefits of this elasticity.

Are you a barefoot runner?

No, I have tried it and my feet bled and I did not – still do not – have the passion/patience to build up strength for that. One would have to grow calluses on the soles of their feet to be able to run comfortably. I appreciate what barefoot runners do but I am not one. I take this thin protection for my feet from VFF and experience nearly the same.

Why do you bother running in VFF? Is there any benefits?

That is a valid question. It is a harder workout to run in VFF. Having said that, sensing the ground is a great feeling that might offset a bit of the pain from that hard core workout. You would go through some transitioning that might be painful. In fact, after years of shod running you start using some soft tissues (like tendons or muscles) that you had not used as much in the past, and they can get badly sore. Once you pass this transition (or if  you do a research first on how to gradually build up to avoid pain), I would strongly say running in them is a better workout for your feet. Like Leo in Matrix, transitioning to the other side!

Let’s take look at this example: In the usual two-handed pull up if your dominant hand is way stronger than the other one you always cover that weakness by using  the dominant one more. No one really cares how you perform pull-ups and as long as you do many you are considered fit (result orientation attitude); but behind the scenes one of your arms is weak and the other one is two times stronger. If you care, you will start working on one arm workouts for pulling yourself up to the bar which means a better workout for your arms. Similar example applies to planks: do it one handed, lift one leg off the ground, do it in variety of positions to cover all core and stablising muscles.

Wearing VFF works out many small muscles in your lower legs that would surely come handy somewhere sometimes in your life (strength is an asset). Wearing cushioned shoes might prevent some muscles to act properly, for instance the arch support can meddle with the action of Tibialis posterior; or standing on big toe which involves pulling plantar fascia is limited when being shod.

How about sharp objects on the ground?

I have never happened to step on something sharp since 2011 when I switched to them though I ran a few times for a couple of strides on gravels which was not pleasant; however, looking at the bright side, it was like those spotty massages for plantar fascia. Sydney and most Australian cities are clean and well-maintained, so I take the opportunity for doing a better workout for my legs/feet.

Does it limit the distance you run?

Initially yes but as you build strength and tolerance in your feet the distance you can do in one go will expand. In fact you face the reality of your strength instead of borrowing a bit of strength off the shelf for a quick result. Quick result is luring, I understand and I fall for it in some other aspects of my life. At running I have chosen not to go for quick results. I want sustainable outcome, and I would rather develop strength in my feet rather than buying something not as good off the shelf.

What is the main caveat  at running in VFF?

Your feet are more exposed to the ground and if your technique is not right/efficient you may wear your legs out faster by just running the way you run. Almost all conventional shoes are built based on the assumption that runners push off the ground. I doubt there are many people out there advising against it. Most people are result-oriented, and not as much into how to get the result. This pushing off the ground is the main culprit to common injuries like Achilles tendinitis or shinsplints. If you push off the ground at running (aka paw-back) your chance of getting injured is higher in VFF. That is my opinion.

What I advocate here is the path to your goal matters and the first step to get it right is to fix your technique. You should not suffer from the way you run. You might make mistakes in picking realistic goals but you should avoid inefficient running techniques that by nature, no matter what your goals are, make you incur extra costs.

So is it just a personal choice or what?

Everything is a personal choice. You can choose to be inefficient at running and it is totally respected. Back to what I said earlier on this page, your footwear does not matter as much as the way you run does. Once you sort out your running technique you may see my point that the best way of getting result out of it is to go minimalist unless you are unable for physiological reasons.

In a nutshell, it is a personal choice that comes with extra benefits, mainly efficiency. It is a harder workout, and you know, no pain no gain, but please fix your techniques first before jumping into these.

You sounds badly opinionated!

No, prove me wrong to see how I turn my back to everything I said here; till then I will go with these:

City2Surf 2018 – I went against the stream!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributing factors

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

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

Runners are getting slower, good or bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017-2018 Running Off-Season

Running season in Sydney pretty much terminates with Sydney Running Festival and in this year it was held on 17 September. The next large race is SMH Half Marathon in May 2018.

This means from now, September 2017, till May 2018 is the best time to look into your running technique. Most of recreational runners start with and mostly rely on shoes and methods of training for results whereas there is a missing step in this structure that by addressing it you can improve your mechanical efficiency by up to 50%.

Watch this video. I can help you understand and practice this technique in a few sessions.

3 x 1 hour private sessions, or 5 x 1 hour group sessions would cover all theories and drills.

Private Sessions for total amount of $150. 

Group Sessions for total amount of $75.

Please also fill out this form and I will be in touch with you soon.

Page 1 of 8

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén