I don’t have a brother, nor did I ever play softball, but the one-stepper in me loved this blog. I didn’t start running with an easy 10 miler. I started with 200 meters on the local track in college. “…all you need to do is take that first step.”
And, of course, this is all it takes to start something new. What if, however, you’ve been doing something for a long time and need to start over? As I’ve mentioned prior to this post, I’ve had at least one injury every year since I began running in 2002. Here’s the short list:
- busted meniscus in my knee
- stained hip flexor multiple times
- plantar fasciitis
- calf strain
- lumbar strain
I’ve continued running, swimming and/or biking through all but the giant, swollen, unbendable meniscus issue. And, it’s true, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Well, I finally had to admit that it’s broke (excuse the poor grammar).
I’ve strengthen, supported, foam rolled, adjusted, acupunctured, taped, RICEd, and stretched my way through my pitiful form, but I am due a running make over. Do they not have some extreme, sappy, overrated reality show for this yet?
I attended a Newton Running Clinic a while ago courtesy of Red Coyote Running. I learned about natural running styles, the 10 Laws of Natural Running, and “land, lever, lift”. At the time, I was sporting some fantastic foot pain, running in shoes with a 10+ mm heel differential, and rethinking my life as a runner. I got some good feedback: I was landing on my mid-foot while not letting my heal come down OR I was heel striking…the worst of both worlds. I worked at correcting these issues and focused on landing mid-foot, letting my heal come down and then pulling my knee forward. I performed the one-leg drills we learned for about 3 weeks and revisited doing approximately 5% of my running mileage barefoot. I started feeling really good and noticed that the foot pain had diminished significantly. So, I did what any diligent runner does, I stopped doing everything except tacking on the mileage. Those 20 minutes spent doing one-leg drills, stretching and using the foam roller equalled at least 2.5 miles.
Guess who took 2 months off from running shortly thereafter?
We know the story from that point…I became a triathlete, completed my first triathlon and first 1/2 IM within a 4 month window. And, just 8 weeks later, started training for my first marathon, which brought me back to Red Coyote this past Monday for new shoes.
I wish I could remember the name of the running coach that worked with me. He spent time with me outside, while I battled my way to a proper running form. Funny, after the fantastic natural running workshop and talking about running with so many friends, something he said made me finally change my stride for the better. I could focus on the landing all that I wanted and never change it, because once gravity was brining me down there was not much I could do to correct it. However, I needed to quit dorsiflexing in mid-air. Why the heck was I doing this anyway? Such a waste of energy. The next problem he corrected was my jarring the landing foot into the ground. I guess after all those years of dance, I wanted to make sure my foot was planted under me dadgummit. Rather, the goal is to push through, much like a bull pulling at the dirt before charging. It was so easy to correct my form in the Newtons. This stride was much more efficient. I wasn’t even out of breath. My goal going into Red Coyote was to find a shoe with a 7-9 mm heel differential. Turns out, the Elixer and the Structure are the same flippin’ differential, the Structure is just a taller shoe. I am patiently awaiting the call that my Newtons have arrived.
For Tuesday’s easy run I focused on my form. I can’t stress enough how much easier it is to run properly. It’s not a battle. As easy as it is to fall forward, that’s how easy it is to run properly, with the added bonus of not landing on your face. I’m sure I looked like a buffoon walking in place, doing high knees in place, and then slightly leaning forward to go (all attached to a dog). But, meh, who cares? The run went well and my foot/ankle hasn’t bothered me at all since changing my form. My calves, on the other hand, are sooooooo tight. I could not understand why some runners hated the foam roller. Now, I get it. My calves wanted none of that.
This morning I was excited/nervous to implement a more efficient running form for my 10.5 mile (2×4 mile @7:30) speed workout. I struggled. It was simple to hold form on the warm-up, however, 3 miles into the first speed set my calves were screaming at me. I switched back to my old form. Well, as I write that, I realize that I didn’t switch totally back to a straight leg, heel strike, but I did revisit heel striking with a slightly bent leg. It helped my calves, but, almost immediately, I could feel my ankle pain creeping back. I decided I could deal with tight calves post-run and opted for the natural running form. I felt like I had slowed tremendously; the pace just didn’t feel as hard. I looked at the Garmin and was pleasantly surprised to be running sub 7:30. I ran 0.5 miles of my cool down barefoot. Fabulous!
I want to remind anyone reading this that it is all about taking small steps toward improvement! Whether you’re just starting out or rebuilding your form like me, listen to your body. It knows you better than you do. Your body will tell you when you’re doing something wrong. Mine always has. I’m finally choosing to listen.
I’ll leave you with some running inspiration: