My journey into fitness has been a relatively recent addition to my life, I’ve only really been interested in the last 3-4 years (out of 30ish). It’s been incredibly rewarding. Feeling physically able to complete any task I come across day-to-day is a very good thing.
I’ve seen a lot of extra runners out on the streets this week and hope that all those out as a result of new year resolutions stick with it and get the same benefits as I have (although I would recommend they to add some strength training).
I also hope the other extra runners that are kicking off their London Marathon training get the sense of personal/charitable achievement they are looking for out their training.
Seeing all these people hitting the pavement has highlighted a big thing I missed out of my previous blog on running: that running is a high skill activity.
That looks painful
Runners demonstrate a wide range of running styles. Some will be sleek like a jungle cat, others will look like a tired, injured gazelle in the seconds before it gets munched. These people often look like they are causing themselves a lot of pain (the face never lies!).
Pain shouldn’t be misinterpreted – it is a good thing. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to not repeat whatever you just did. It’s a warning sign, so if an activity causes you pain, and you keep on doing it, eventually you will run (ha ha) into trouble.
This doesn’t mean you should give up running because it hurts, instead look at how you run and change it so it no longer causes pain.
So what is running?
It’s like walking but faster, right?
Um, not really.
I like to look at running as series of mini jumps, as that’s pretty much what it is. So, keep that in mind and think about jumping from a table – you land softly and bend your knees to absorb the force.
Then think about jumping off of a step – you do the same thing. Jump off some 2×4 – the same.
Now run – suddenly we’re landing on heels with straight legs the same as when walking.
This is a mistake as running has far more in common with jumping as your entire weight leaves the floor with each stride.
Are you going to preach about forefoot striking now?
No, there’s tons of stuff in the interwebs that does that anyway.
Personally, I am a forefoot striker, it works for me and I would recommend it to others. It might not work for you.
The main thing is to land softly with your knee bent and absorb the force with your muscles and tendons not your bones. This blog has an excellent discussion on heel striking – interestingly they quote 60% of high level athletes in a race as heel strikers.
What to do
Be mindful of what you are doing and don’t just ‘run’. Think about how you are moving, what feels good and what doesn’t.
Try to move as smoothly and quietly as possible. I always think that the less noise I’m making, the better I am running. To be quiet, the landing has to be light.
As a test I would try running in your normal style without shoes, if you can’t then it’s not as soft as it could be.
Piling on distance before safety will lead to pain. Initially it should not be a workout. Instead think if it as learning a skill.
Aim for light, floaty, joyful running and soon you’ll love running for running’s sake, rather than hate the painful slog round the block.
Don’t be that gazelle, try to be like the cat.
If you do want to find out more about running with a forefoot strike this is a great place to start.