28 December 2011

Re-Learning How to Run

I've never really paid much attention to how I run. Okay, that's not entirely true. When I was younger (like a teenager...30 years ago), I 'ran like a girl.' Knock-kneed and bow-legged at the same time, feet flying out to the side...really uncomfortable to do and watch. It was slow and painful, and I was the butt of many jokes. I hated running.

Apparently, that is still my 'go-to' style when I am completely and utterly spent.

One day, I decided I didn't want to run like a sissy anymore (not to intimate that you are a sissy if you run like that...remember, I was young and impressionable when I drew this conclusion).

So I completely changed how I ran...all by myself. No coach. No special shoes. No video feedback. It took awhile for it to feel natural and 'easy,' but eventually it did. As running got more comfortable, I was able to run farther with more ease...and run faster. But I still didn't like running.

Initially, running was something we had to do for crew. The running part of training was usually in the winter when we couldn't go out and row on the water because the lake (or river) was frozen, so it was fuh-reeeee-zing. This was in the days before wicking fabrics and water-resistant-yet-breathable workout gear, so I extra didn't enjoy running. I guess maybe even with my new gait I was, in fact, still a bit of a sissy.

Back then, when I was making changes to my gait and running in cotton in sleet and snow, no one was talking about barefoot running or forefoot striking or midfoot striking...we were just running. My 'new' gait served me well for close to two decades, with nearly no running-related injuries and setting all of my still-standing-and-unslouchy PR's. But now things are different.

Primarily, I am coming back from a really long break, and that break was due to a weird injury and 8 years of chronic pain. A few months ago, my physical therapist suggested adjusting things to a midfoot strike as a way to keep my hip healthy and pain-free. Do you know how hard it is to change the way you run? I've already done that! And now you're asking me to do that again? Sheesh.

I was reluctant to do things differently. I was okay doing it same-old-same-old...more or less. And adjusting would take away from training, and I run precious little as it is...kind of the bare minimum to be able to complete a half-marathon in decent shape. But last night I ran for the first time in well over a week...and only the third time since December 4th. And I ran in my new shoes...

Interestingly, the combination of some time off and the new shoes directed me to a new way of running!

Without even thinking about it, I was not heel-striking. I actually tried to make myself run 'normally' and couldn't do it comfortably. Luckily, I remembered that changing one's gait should not be done hurriedly, so even though it felt great, I kept it to a mellow 3 miles. My calves were feeling it. Thorough stretching, rolling and icing followed the run, and today they feel fine. So does my hip :)

I figure that at this point in my training cycle it is okay to make this kind of change...things are just starting out and aren't too hot n' heavy yet. If I find out that I am wrong, I'll just figure something else out :P Minimizing pain and injury is more important to me than speed. For now, anyway.


  1. I'm the same way. I went from Adrenalines to Mizuno Inspires two weeks before CIM and it worked out fine--but those have light support. Now I'm in the Newtons and my calves were feeling it for a first week or so but now I don't feel sore and I've really transitioned off my heel! I feel the same way about the cycle, I'm not in strict training right now so it's a good time to play around. Good luck!

  2. I've had to change the way I run, too! I started out with some way of running that really hurt my knees but then I had a forefoot strike, but that also hurt my ankles!

    Now I am doing a mid-foot strike and I think that is working for me.

    I hope we both have an injury-free 2012!

  3. aww love the throwback pic! I had to change my form too. Getting minimalist shoes really helped with that

  4. I like your purty new shoes. Glad the transition seems to be going well for you. Keep up the great work!

  5. Keep it up and think about it when running. Watch your gait and increase turnover. Eventually it will become second nature but will take focus in the beginning!

  6. It's really impressive that you changed your form, all on your own. That is very neat.

    I have always run very naturally on my forefoot and I've always had a very quick but short stride. I remember someone telling me that I should land on my heel and lift my knees higher. So I worked at doing this, only to find out that my natural stride was far more efficient.

    I love that picture, by the way!

  7. I like the new shoes! I just bought some mizunos to try out this year and Brooks and I have always run in Asics.

  8. Yeah for no hip pain! Hopefully the new form will help keep it that way.

  9. I am a total newbie runner so I have no idea what a midfoot stike is. So interesting to hear you (and your commenters) who have a long history with the sport talk about it.

  10. Yay to getting back on the band wagon again! Glad you're not in pain anymore, dear friend. And those new shoes... they rocked!

  11. those are nice shoes....too bad they are not the mizunos I need!

    I have inspire 7...
    the midfoot striking...after seeing the king Dean K in person do it to perfection I decided to change and try to copy him...took 2mos to get used to
    I hope this will end up working out for you my friend

  12. You are pretty amazing. Since I've been walking all over NYC, I've started to think that once I've lost about 15 pounds, I may slowly start running again. You inspire me.

  13. Interestingly enough, I've been reading about how our natural stride is the most efficient for us and "learning" a new style is actually counterproductive. Post to come after more research.

  14. I know if I didn't change my stride to a midfoot, I'd still be in horrible heel pain (that, along with a few other things). I 100% believe shoes can play a big factor in how we hit the ground, too, and a low heel drop shoe will force you to land more on your midfoot. I had to take 35 years of running incorrectly and change the way I run, too....and honestly it was so hard at first and I was so frustrated, but after about 4 months, it all came together and nowadays, whenever I "try" to heel strike, I can't. It's so interesting to me.

    I hope 2012 brings you tons of pain-free, happy miles with your new foot strike!! :)

  15. I started running when I was on the crew team as well. That was what really got me excited about running. I also have a hip injury and when I start running again my PT told me I need to run with a faster turnover because I have long legs and my stride is a bit too short for them.

  16. After I had my knee injury issues I realized I must be doing something wrong with my form. It was amazing how changing shoes and being aware made me realize I was doing okay. I wonder what they will be telling us about running in 10 years!

  17. I need to get my gait analyzed again. I know I over pronate, but I don't know if I heel strike or what. I bet it would do me some good to do a little research. Good for you making the change and YAY! for no hip pain!

  18. I'm just starting to think about running--on a treadmill and SLOW. I've got some spanking new reebox, the kind with the super flexible sole but now I've got a weird ankle injury that seems to have happened without my being aware of it, so running will have to wait a bit. But I'm curious--what IS a mid-foot strike and how did you figure that out?


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