5K PR Today

Yesterday, I found a race scheduled for this morning and decided I would run it. Placed 1st in my age group and 2nd overall. My time was 20:12, which is a minute and 3 seconds faster than my last 5K in June.

That’s a big chunk of time to knock off of a short race like this. I felt great the whole time, too. I kept a cadence faster than 180 the entire time. I was aware of my posture, and even at the end, when I was thinking maybe I felt tired, I made sure to run within myself, keeping my gaze focused down and ahead about 10-20 feet. 

When I got home, I ran 6 miles at a 7:19 pace. I needed more miles because I’m planning on running a half marathon next weekend.

OK, I’m a pretty crappy runner, but I came close to winning a 5K today. Yeah, maybe a lot of the faster runners were out of town because there’s a pretty big marathon nearby today, but the fact remains that I lopped a large chunk of time off my previous PR. I hope someone is paying attention to the advice I’m giving, because I think it works. 

Another important element of my running form that helped me today was how I used my arms. Few people at this level get it right. I’ll talk about it more soon.

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Why Increasing Your Cadence Will Make You a Better Runner: Part 2

Running at a higher cadence makes the runner take shorter steps that land more underneath the body as opposed to longer, slower overstriding steps that land in front of the center of mass. The foot also tends to contact the ground more towards the middle or front. Here are a couple of pics: 

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Though it looks as though the runner in the top picture is overstriding a bit, his center of mass will be over the foot when it touches the ground. The bottom photo is me at about mile 20 of a marathon last May. You can see I am not about to heel strike, which is much different than the picture I posted last time. Many experts claim that foot strike is something that can’t be changed, and that some people will always be heel strikers. That is obviously not necessarily true. 

When you run at a faster cadence, instead of reaching out with your foot and crashing on your heel, your feet kind of spin underneath your body. This is more efficient and requires less effort and straining. People who have a pronounced heel strike will find that it is less with a faster cadence. All of this adds up to a more efficient and less injury-prone runner.

Why Increasing Your Cadence WILL Make You a Better Runner: Part 1

Last time I mentioned that elite runners tend to have a foot speed of 180 beats/minute or faster, while most recreational joggers have a much slower turnover rate. Some may think that amateurs shouldn’t try to emulate runners at such a high level, but I know from experience that “normal” people can improve a great deal by adopting a faster cadence. I’ll explain why it really does improve running efficiency.

When people run with a slower cadence, they tend to take longer, more awkward steps that cause them to land heel first in front of their body. Here are a couple of examples:Image    Image

The second picture is me from about 3 years ago, and my form was so bad, I’m striking with my heel and stepping off with the other foot at the same time. Wow, I sucked. Anyway, you can see from both pictures that by sticking the heel out like that, the runner actually creates a slight braking action with each step. Some people believe that the force of the heel strike also causes injuries.

Part 2 will show the right way to do it.

The Single Most Effective Way to Improve Your Running

There is one aspect of your running that you can change right now that will improve your form and efficiency, and decrease your chance of injury immensely.

During the 1984 Olympics, legendary running coach Jack Daniels observed runners from 800m up to the marathon. He noticed that just about all of them had a cadence of 180 beats per minute (bpm) or higher. Cadence is the speed of their footsteps. So their feet were moving pretty quickly, especially compared to recreational joggers.

It turns out that this higher cadence isn’t just for elite athletes. It works well for all runners. By running at this faster cadence, we are more likely to strike the ground with our feet in a much less injurious manner than if we run at a slower cadence. It also helps us utilize the natural springiness of our legs, so that we are using less effort and “muscling” less, which makes running easier.

So how do you know what this speed is, and how do you maintain it? Well, go online and Google “songs at 180 bpm” and you’ll get a list of songs you can keep in your mind or download into your Ipod. You can also buy a thing called a metronome, which musicians use to keep a steady beat. If you search for “clip on metronome” on ebay, here’s a good one you’ll find:

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It clips onto your shorts, and it’s got an earphone jack, but even at the lowest volume it’s pretty loud in your ear. You might have to get creative with ways of kind of muting your earphones. And set it on 90 bpm (half of 180). You’ll still know the right cadence, and the metronome will sound less frantic. Oh yeah, you can also download metronome apps for your Iphone.

Alright, but perhaps 180 just seems way too fast for you to run at. It’s not. This video will show you how to start out. Skip to 9:32 to see the part about running with a metronome. You can run forever like he shows you at first, and you will get faster eventually. Trust me, do it slowly like he first shows, and you won’t believe how easy it is. Stick with it, and in no time, you’ll be better and faster than ever.

If you have the time, you can watch the whole video, but I wouldn’t bother.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYNZUioUdHQ

How to avoid crapping your pants in a marathon

In addition to figuring out how to avoid injury, another thing that has helped me run so much has been changing my diet. About a year and a half ago, my wife convinced me to go gluten-free. I know, I know, the whole gluten-free thing is annoying, but just hear me out. Before I stopped eating wheat, one of the reasons I never even entered a 5k was that I was worried about my stomach. Before going gluten-free, my GI tract bothered me just running around the neighborhood sometimes, so I thought I’d never be able to run anything like a marathon. 

Here’s a very good article supporting making this change in your diet. It’s a little long, but I’m sure people can manage to read it all:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/many-athletes-tout-the-gluten-free-way-whats-the-science-behind-the-claim/2013/10/14/cc0b601c-d42f-11e2-b05f-3ea3f0e7bb5a_story.html

My approach to injury: Forget it.

Hey, it’s me again. So I just wanted to share my recent approach to worrying about injury. By recent, I mean since last March or so, when I feel like I discovered a way keep injury at bay. And I say “worrying about injury” because I think that a lot of times it’s the fear of injury that causes us to do weird things with our bodies that may actually make injuries worse.

When I feel as though something may be starting to hurt, I’ll take off my shoes and march in place in front of a mirror. Then I’ll jog in place (always letting my feet fully settle, and letting my heel touch the floor). Occasionally, I’ll stop on one foot, then the other, making sure that I feel balanced and stable on that foot. I’ll keep doing this until it feels really natural and easy, and I feel balanced and stable in a one-legged stance as I said before. Then, instead of worrying about getting hurt, I’ll put on a pair of my minimalist shoes, like my Altra Samsons (another good shoe is the Merrell Vapor Glove, which I don’t have yet) say to myself “forget it” and then just go run 9 or 10 miles. Works every time. I mean, so what if I do get hurt? I don’t care. I’ll just keep pushing until something breaks. Hasn’t happened yet, though. And did I mention I’ve run 4 marathons, 3 half marathons and many other races since last spring? Oh, I did? Well anyway, I run a lot. Oh yeah, and I’m in my 40’s.

This blog is on FIRE!

Well, it looks like my videos aren’t too popular. That’s understandable. I don’t really like watching them either. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can adequately describe what I want to explain with text alone.

I don’t feel like putting forth the effort to try to make myself or these videos more appealing, so I think I just won’t make any more. I think I’m done posting too. Perhaps I’ll come back if/when I qualify for Boston (haha). That’s everyone’s goal, right?

Some of the topics I still want to cover include: arm carriage/use of the arms, foot speed/turnover/cadence, midfoot/forefoot/heel striking, shoes, nutrition/diet, tapering?/recovery runs?. I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting. Anyway, it seems to me that running proficiently without injury mainly involves using common sense. There are many resources out there already to help guide people, but sometimes one has to trust one’s own judgement and experience.