I’ve touched on this topic before, but I want to talk about it again in a little more detail.
In addition to improving our form, changing our footwear helps us avoid injury. I never wear the same pair of shoes twice in a row. I have several pairs of shoes (mainly minimalist shoes or racing flats, of course) most of which I purchased at a deep discount from such place as runningwarehouse.com and runningshoes.com. If you wait long enough, chances are a pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on will eventually be marked down to make room for a newer model.
I suppose that changing shoes every day changes our gait a tiny bit and perhaps changes the way our foot strikes the ground. This seems to keep the legs from getting into a “rut” and I think has been one of the reasons I haven’t been injured. I even have a couple of pairs with a more elevated heel and more cushioning that I’ve thrown into the mix. Running in minimal, low drop shoes can eventually take its toll on your calf muscles, so more cushioned shoes with a higher heel give these muscles a break.
It seems that running often becomes more about managing injuries than anything else. I have truly enjoyed the challenge of finding a way to do this a lot without being in pain. Some may say that running 30-50 or so miles a week isn’t very much. Well, it’s certainly a lot for someone who used to think running 4 miles was an epic distance. There are many who run far less and still get injured. I’m convinced that having many pairs of running shoes is an important (and easy!) way to stay injury-free.
I swear, I could read and write and talk about running all the time. I wish there were more websites, with more new posts by runners about running. There must be some that I don’t know about. Anyone have any favorites? Anyone? Hello?
The weather has been better, and I’ve had a bit more time to run lately. Every week I still have to take 3 or 4 days in a row off because of work, but I run the other days. I did 8.3 today and 9.5 yesterday. Both around a 7:40 pace, which might be too fast to reap any real benefits, but I felt good, so I just did it.
I’m still thinking I might do a marathon or two next month, but it might be smarter to just work on running a good time in a half. I’ll be on vacation in June, and perhaps it would be better to save the marathon for that month. I will almost certainly run a 5K next Wednesday, and a 10 mile race the Saturday after that.
I keep waiting for an injury, or for my interest to wane, but it hasn’t happened yet. My ideas about form appear to still be working for me.
I’ve mentioned before that we should strive to not be too stiff when we run. A good way to do this is to have good shoulder rotation. I’ll explain what I mean.
When we walk or run, our upper body should naturally move in opposition to our lower. What I mean is that when you step out with your right leg, your left arm will move forward, and vice versa. I think our shoulders also play a part in this. When our arm moves forward, the shoulder on the same side will move forward as well and produce a slight twisting motion of the upper body. When this movement is absent, or when it is inhibited, the body ends up looking stiff. This stiffness can lead to injuries eventually.
Here is a video showing good shoulder rotation. The man featured is well-known running expert and sub 2:30 marathoner Dr. Mark Cucuzzella. Please watch and pay particular attention to his upper body. The movement I have described is so pronounced that he even moves his head back and forth a bit along with his rotating shoulders.
I’ve talked before about running and marching in place and then stopping on one leg. This exercise is designed to help us work on balance. By deliberately adding a bit of shoulder rotation to this exercise, you should find that your balance will improve. Being better balanced helps us avoid running injuries.
Had a great run in the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 today. A lightweight (5-6oz. maybe?) and minimally cushioned racing flat. The other day, I went 9 miles in a pair of Mizuno Wave Universe 5. This shoe weighs less than 3 oz. Best run I’ve had in a long time.
I still occasionally try to run in more substantial shoes, like the Kinvara 3. I never enjoy my runs as well in shoes like this. The extra cushioning and structure to the shoe makes it feel like I have to work harder. I seem to function best in a shoe which doesn’t try to protect or guide my feet very much, if at all. I like it best if the shoe is truly flat. Any structure that tries to prevent pronation or reinforce the arch just prevents my feet and legs from working like they should.
I do pronate a bit, and my feet don’t have a very pronounced arch. I say embrace your pronating, flat feet! Just work on keeping them pointed straight ahead when you walk or run.
Check out this awesome picture from my 3rd marathon. This was the first time I ran under 4 hours. I felt great the whole time and had a blast. In the picture, I’m wearing the white racing flats, and you can see my foot and ankle squashing down, which in my opinion, helps my legs absorb shock, and helps prevent injury. The guy in front of me is wearing motion-controlling shoes which keep his ankle looking perfect. However, in my opinion, these heavy shoes can often actually make running more difficult:
Yesterday I had about the worst run I’ve had in months. I was planning on going possibly 9 miles or so, but after about 2 miles, I actually had to stop and walk. I just felt bad. I only ended up running a total of 3.2 miles. I think it might have been because I had too much coffee and sugar earlier in the day. It must have affected my energy level.
I was tempted to start to think “how in the world am I going to run a marathon next month if I can’t even run 3 miles today?” But then I remembered that past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results (at least, that’s my experience with running) so I didn’t worry about it. If you feel bad one day, try to figure out why and fix it. So today, I had no coffee or sugary snacks.
Here are the results from today’s run, downloaded from my GPS watch. Much better:
It’s apparent from some comments I’ve gotten that my running tips may not work for everyone. It is possible that my advice is not being followed correctly, though. Regardless, it’s probably the case that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I think I’ve said that before, but I still have a tendency to believe that my tips should work for most people.
Maybe the best thing to take away from my blog is the idea that we don’t have to accept certain things about ourselves that we assume are true. I used to accept that I was an injury-prone and incompetent runner. However, I eventually decided to examine the problem, and utilizing all resources at my disposal (mainly scouring the internet for information), I found a way to change that situation. By researching running technique and obsessively thinking about the problem, I was able to become a MUCH better and pain-free runner (17 miles so far this week after 2 weeks off and feeling good).
I have said pretty much all there is to say about how I approach running. I’ve talked about cadence a ton. I’ve mentioned the importance of an arm position that is compact and held high and close to the body. The last major piece of the puzzle is a posture that is not too rigid and hysterically upright as some recommend, but is more natural and similar to what we would adopt when simply walking. The head is balanced atop the shoulders correctly by adopting a “running within ourselves” posture. This can be quickly achieved by simply directing our gaze down and in front of us 10-15 ft or so.
So that’s it. These ideas may not resonate with everyone. What I do hope people find really helpful is the idea that who you think you are, and what you think is true may not necessarily be so.