Monday, February 28, 2011

How to Run Better

The other day I was wasting time surfing FB and came across a status update from one of my cousins about this cool new thing she learned that has helped her and her husband run better. There  were lots of replies about wanting to hear more so she typed up a note and I wanted to share that same info with you!

I, like Karina, do not claim to be any sort of expert on running. Honestly, I don't like to run at all but I have another Triathlon to complete this year and running is a must. Karina and her husband, Alan, are participating in Ragnar race in Cali. (very ambitious!!) This is great information for the person who wants to start running, the beginner runner and the advanced!

This is what Karina wrote:
"We took a $5 class at Runner's Corner in Orem and I really wish we had taken it a long time ago! The class was taught by a guy who does ultra marathons (100 miles!) and another guy who has been running forever and won lots of races, but I don't remember which ones! First they had us run around a track and took a video of us and then they had us take off our shoes and they took a video of us running around the track again (I'll get back to the video later--it blew my mind!). Then we gathered back together and they told/showed us the 4 most important things to remember when running to avoid injury, be more efficient, and reduce fatigue.

1) Balanced Forward Posture--stand tall and straight, looking ahead. Slightly lean from the ankles without bending at the waist while having your chest forward with shoulders back and relaxed. The way they had us practice this was stand straight and then lean forward from the ankles and when you feel like you need to step forward because you are going to lose your balance, start running! They called it "controlled falling".

2) Compact Arm Swing--Short, relaxed arm movement, elbows should not extend in front of the waist. Pump elbows back and relax/recover forward. Arms should not cross your body (it makes your body sway and causes hip pain among other things). I pretty much wasn't doing any of this and it was slowing me down/tiring me out!

3) Proper Foot Strike Under a Bent Knee--Landing on just your heel is bad (can cause shin splints and all sorts of other injuries and it slows you down because it pushes your energy behind you instead of forward) and landing on just the ball of your foot is bad, too. You should land on both the ball and the heel at about the same time (mid foot strike). The feet should strike the ground under a bent knee (to avoid knee injuries). Although the foot will contact the ground slightly in front of the body, it should feel like it is directly underneath. In other words, you shouldn't be taking gigantic strides in front of your body.

4) 180 Cadence--They said this is the most important of all because if you can do this, everything else falls into place. This is what I focused on when I ran a little over 7 miles and it was, dare I say, easy! Your goal is to run a minimum of 180 steps per minute. That means 30 steps per leg in 20 seconds. So they had us count how many times our right leg hit the ground in 20 seconds. Alan and I were both at 25, which is too low (30 is what you are shooting for). This was a revelation to us! It was as simple as stepping quicker. I was all focused on stride length before but when I focused on getting 30 right foot strikes in 20 seconds (I got a cheap watch with a timer from Target), my steps were smaller and lighter and it took way less energy because I wasn't spending too much time in the air or on the ground. You can also run to a metronome set to 180 or a song that has 180 beats per minutes. START BY FOCUSING ON 180 CADENCE.

Ok, so back to the video. I can't tell enough people about this part! We went back to the store and all watched everyone run in suuuuper slow motion. On the video of us with shoes, almost EVERYONE (there were about 25 people in the class) was landing on their heels when they ran. I kinda already knew heel striking was bad so I was making a conscious effort not to so I was shocked when I saw in the video that I was landing on my heel with a straight leg. I could actually see how that was causing all my soreness. I mean, just think about jumping up and landing on your heel with your leg straight. Not great. Also, I looked like I was LEAPING through the air. After all the things they taught us, I could self-diagnose what I was doing wrong before they even said anything. I had wayyy too much air time and I could see that my cadence was so slow. Also, I had the dreaded criss-crossy arms (very common in women; the ginormous forward and backwards arms are more common in men). It was making my body twist and that would explain my hip pain when I first started running. My posture was actually ok but a lot of people had "broken" posture (bent at the waist) which is bad for your back, etc. The awesome thing is that I would have never known these things about myself if I hadn't watched it. So I highly recommend taking a video of yourself running and watching it in slow motion, as painful as it is!

THEN, we watched the video of us barefoot/in socks. WHOA. Every person had near-perfect running form. What the...?! Everyone was landing midfoot with soft knees and we were leaning from the ankles and everything. And what they said made perfect sense. Without shoes our bodies naturally try to protect themselves, which is a good thing in running. I had seen a few barefoot runners and had heard about it and thought they were weird hippies but now I get it. Most running shoes are way higher and heavier in the back and they encourage heel striking. Some companies now make "zero drop shoes" that are super light and don't have a clunky heel and you also might have seen the Vibram five-finger creepy ninja-turtle-looking feet glove things. I'm a convert and I think I will transition into the barefoot/minimalist running world after the Ragnar. A survey was done with different groups of runners and by far the runners with the least injuries were barefoot/minimalist runners and ultra marathoners (because how else could you run 100 miles with inefficient technique?).

The good thing is, you don't HAVE to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes. I applied the 4 techniques with my normal running shoes and it worked so well it was liberating! I honestly felt like I could run longer when my 100 minutes were up because my energy was being conserved the whole time. My strides were much smaller than before because I am still not a fast runner, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that I am not taking gigantic and slow heel strides and I know how to be efficient now. I am so excited about all this that I had to restrain myself from saving random runners on the track from injury by telling them that they were doing something wrong.

Before this class I just thought I was still a beginner so I was just going to hurt everywhere in my legs every day. My legs would slow me down before my lungs would I was so sore I could barely sit down to stretch! After a few days off and running this new and improved way, I'm barely sore!

Anyways, running barefoot for 30 seconds before a run can help a lot. Also, they said you should run 1/3 of your mileage on natural or uneven surfaces to strengthen your stabilizing muscles. They warned us not to start running miles barefoot because your feet need to get stronger and stronger. You should just start with a minute and then keep adding to it on each run. Whew! That's a lot of info and it would make more sense if you could just see the videos. I found a link to this site on the Runners Corner site: and they talk about almost the exact same 4 points (go to videos and there are some good ones that can show good form vs. bad form and what a good cadence looks like). This turned into a really long note, but I wanted to share what I learned with the world so everyone who is a runner or wants to be a runner won't get hurt. Thanks, Runner's Corner!
Good Form Running"

So there you have it. I read this like 5 times and practiced it a little yesterday with the boys. We all ran barefoot down our long driveway several times while Scott taped us in 30 degree weather. Then, we ran with our shoes on and then counted our cadence. It was eye-opening! I am excited to practice it later today at the gym. I am excited to run!!


Chera Pierson said...

Thanks for this! I am going to be participating in a few races this year and even though I ran in Track all through Jr. High and High school, I didn't know some of this. I always land on the balls of my feet. This was GREAT info!!!

The Feuerleins said...

It really has changed my running! I totally feel like I can do Ragnar now!

Stephanie Shumway (and family) said...

As you know, I thoroughly enjoyed this post.... and posted it on my blog! thanks for the information!!!

Brynn said...

I finally read it! Haha. Now I'm going to practice it next time we go running at the gym together. yay! Thanks belle. Love ya!