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I want to share what I’ve learned so far when it comes to running. The most important thing I’ve learned is that we don’t spend enough time on technique. Swimming is a HIGHLY technical sport. Cycling is also technical. When it comes to running a lot of us beginners only think of running as a pair of shoes and some miles that we’re supposed to put behind us. That’s okay perhaps on shorter runs for health and leisure say up to 5k twice a week but more than that and your asking for trouble. What kind of trouble? I’m talking about overuse injuries from going to hard too quickly. In my opinion running is the most dangerous of the three triathlon sports. It’s also the one I love the most.

Sharing what I’ve learned is one of the ways that makes me feel good. There are a number of people out there who have a thirst or in my case a strong desire for knowledge. That’s the reason I read a lot of articles, research and stories about people’s experience. Now that I’m focused on triathlon I’ve dedicated my spare time, when I’m not tending to my family, working or studying for the CFA exam in June, to learning about all things triathlon.

My approach to life is simple: Do the hard things first. Find out my weaknesses and improve them. Never accept that what I’m doing is good enough, absolute or right. Never accept that the way I do things is good enough, absolute or right. Never believe that I know everything. When I’ve started something finish it. When it comes close to the end FINISH STRONG!

As I get older I have learned a couple of lessons. One that I learned over the past year was

that training takes time. It takes time to adjust and acclimate to the stresses we put on our body. It takes time and patience. The muscles will adapt quickly and recover the fastest. What is not as apparent is the stresses that we put on out tendons. Our tendons take a beating until one day it’s too much. We can run through sore muscles and chalk it down as improving our mental toughness. When our tendons breakdown, continuing on often gets you in to more trouble, more pain and usually more time off recovering. Having almost recovered from abusing my recovery (or not scheduling in any recovery days) my plantar fascia is finally feeling better after 5 months. Check out my last post for details here. I’m doing slow 10k’s finally and looking forward to running my half marathon distances again. However I’m intent on learning as much as I can every day. I learned that technique is crucial in running and so are rest days. Spacing out the runs and making sure that my long runs precede my long bike days so that I’m not running on tired legs. I also make sure that the long runs are after rest days. I hope that by doing this it will provide me with the best chances at avoiding injury.

Points of note:

  • Long runs are AFTER rest days.
  • Long runs are BEFORE long bike days.
  • Schedule rest days.

I’ve come across some interest points of study. The first one I’d like to talk about is the run technique of what this YouTube video calls Gazelle vs Glider running.

The short of the video is that the Gazelle has a lot more vertical movement and as such has a greater time in the air. This allows them to “fly” further with each stride which essentially giving a greater distance per stride. The foot comes further away from the ground and the knee is brought higher. The Glider in contrast has less vertical movement and spends less time in the air. There is a greater number of strides per minute and the foot stays closer to the ground with each step. The difference comes at higher speeds where the glider has to maintain an extremely high turnover rate to be competitive at the pro level. I’m more of a natural Gazelle but have been trying for more of a Glider style running. The Gazelle I find is a very muscular running style where there is quite a bit of energy needed to propel the body through the air. I find it very taxing on my calves and shins. Having said that I also find it to be a free feeling when I’m “flying” through the air. There’s something about it that just feels so nice.

Since trying the Glider style of running I find that I need to focus more on the technique of running. I’m forcing my foot to stay closer to the ground and lean forward more to allow gravity to be the main driver of motion rather than my legs being the main driver. I find that the Glider style is more efficient in that it requires less energy. I find that I’m not fighting with the downwards motion as much to rebound my body from the greater vertical motion in to the next step . It’s more of a keep the feet under the body type of game as the body moves forward. It is also a type of running that requires patience and focus as this is an unnatural feeling to me. Mind you any change requires patience and focus.

When I refer to “keep the feet under the body” what I mean is that I’m trying to run with gravity. I’m a very upright runner and have been working to lean forward when I run, leaning forward with both the hips and shoulders. This way my body naturally falls forward and all I have to do is move my feet forward and step. I find that by leaning forward I don’t have to use my legs to propel me. In effect, leaning forward and using gravity causes me to use my legs less for forward motion which uses less energy and should enable me to run longer. RUNNING WITH GRAVITY. Add this to the Glider style which has less vertical travel and therefore less stress on the joints. The result – a more efficient run style.

Foot position when the foot hits (or strikes) the ground is another important aspect. Something to think about is does the foot strike the ground ahead of the body or underneath the body? Are you striking the ground with your heel or more of a mid-foot stance. I’m more of a heel striker and am trying to change to a mid-foot striker in hopes of greater efficiency, greater distance and I’m hoping speed will come after. With the Glider type of runner they are typically mid-foot strikers and Gazelles are typically more heel strikers. Having a stride that lands underneath the body will help to attain this mid-foot stance.

Understanding the type of runner and how they strike the ground paints a little more vivid picture. The Glider has:

•Less vertical movement.
•Feet stay closer to the found when in travel.
•Has a higher and quicker stride turnover.
•Is more of mid-foot striker.
•Less distance between steps.
•To compete at the pro level turnover must be incredibly high.

So the next time I run I’ll have a lot on my mind as I try to change my automatic behaviours into something new and hopefully better:

•Keep strides shorter.
•Keep the feet closer to the ground.
•Focus on high turnover.
•Strike more mid-foot.
•Lean forward in the run and use gravity.

Although as I see many benefits I never accept what I’m doing as good enough, absolute or right so I question whether this is the right thing to do. With every action there is a reaction and what will that be? Will it open me up to another injury? What are the downsides and risks involved in doing this? Is there a better way to run? How can I take what I’m doing and make it better? I know what I was doing previously didn’t work so I’m off in a new direction and hopefully better and smarter than before.

Happy Training.