Oops! I did it again! I disappeared for another summer.
I called last summer the best summer of my life. That was the summer I jumped into triathlon with a group of amazing women… and every day was a new and exciting training adventure. This summer has been equally memorable, but for different reasons. I’ve been busy immersing myself in all things running theory. When I first took off for Boulder for my running coach certification, my only goal was to become a better runner myself. Within about two minutes of being in the Newton Running Lab and meeting the other coaches, I couldn’t wait to start telling everyone all the things I was learning.
It’s interesting that once you’re officially a running coach, you spend a lot of time defending your beliefs. I’ve never been good at that, and so this has been a challenge for me. I have done a lot of reading this summer–books about running anatomy, running form, books by every respected and successful coach– and I know what I believe. I suppose defending your running philosophy is a lot like defending religion. You find common ground and focus on what you can agree on first.
When thinking about form and shoes, here are a few things to consider:
1) It’s not about the shoes. Yes, I have some strong beliefs on what shoes are best. But, I also know that what is best for me is not best for everyone. It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes you are wearing… if you are not getting hurt. If your body starts breaking down, we might want to talk shoes. And even then, if the new shoe is a big change from what you previously had, you need to TRANSITION to the new shoe. You can’t change your form or cushion/stiffness or the heel drop overnight, unless you want to introduce the possibility of a whole new injury. And, new shoes won’t fix an injury. Bad form in new shoes is still bad form.
2) Elite runners share a common form. You might have gone to a form clinic and walked away thinking the style of running was funny looking, or that it was too much work, or it wasn’t for you. If you are not injured and can run as far and fast as you want to, there’s no need to change. But if you are someone who wants to get faster, or who is in what seems to be a never-ending cycle of injury, it might be time to look at something new. Poor form causes injuries. A few things most experts will agree on: optimum cadence is 180 steps a minute (might be a little faster or slower for you… but most elites land very close to 180). Your foot should land under your center of mass– not ahead of your body. And, it’s ideal to land on the mid-foot and not on the heel (a hard habit to break, and it’s not a huge problem, unless you are over-striding. Then it’s an invitation for injury.)
3) A video analysis is a great way to see how you are running. The best bet would be to have a professional gait analysis done. But, you can probably get a good idea of your form by having a friend shoot some video as you run. Look at where your foot is landing, listen to how hard your feet are hitting the ground, notice if your upper body has excessive rotation, etc.
4) A few strength and mobility exercises will tell you if you have significant muscle imbalances that need to be addressed. One of those is the single leg squat. Running is a series of single leg squats. Right?! With running your weight is always on just one leg. How is your balance? Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds? With your eyes closed? Can you do a single leg squat without your ankles rotating or your knees popping to either side or your hips dipping? This test is also a great exercise to improve this weakness. A stable core, with hip and glute strength, is critical if you want to avoid injury and run longer and faster.
And, then there’s the whole science of putting together a training plan. Would you believe that “run hard every day” is not a good way to train? It makes sense that your body needs rest, and a variety of paces and that there is science behind how you put that part of the plan together. But, it’s hard to convince people that there’s a smarter way to train because we’ve had “no pain, no gain” and other phrases beaten into us forever.
I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with all of you! And, I’m excited to begin my new coaching adventure.
I am a Level II Lydiard Running Coach. If you live in the Kansas City area and would like to talk running, take a look at Running Social-Johnson County for information on group runs and coaching clinics. And as always, if you want to stay connected to a larger running community, “like” Power of Run on Facebook.