7 March 2008
Relearning to Run: Barefoot Running & Other Drills
Posted by Brad Hefta-Gaub under: Run.
Am I a runner? I run… but apparently I don’t know how to run. And so today, I started the first step in relearning to run. Learning to run properly for an injury free running lifetime.
Apparently, I’m not alone in not knowing how to run. According to my physical therapist, most of us don’t know how to run properly. We think we know how to run, isn’t it just walking really fast? After all, haven’t we been running since childhood? In reality, a difference of only an inch can have significant ramifications on not only your running economy, but the safety of your running style.
My problem– over striding. The result — hard heel strike, calcaneus stress fracture, patello-femoral cartilage “bunged-up-ed-ness” (to repeat the technical term my PT used), hip bursitis, and potentially back pain, and more…
So how do I relearn to run? The key will be to reprogram my muscle memory to not over stride, to condition the new muscles which will be activated by the new running style, and to ultimately (hopefully) become comfortable and natural with the new gait.
What am I really doing wrong, and what are the macro-systems available to fix it? Mind you, I’m not striding giant strides like a gazelle or something. My over striding is not obvious when you watch me run in real time. But with slow motion video playback, you can clearly see my heel in front of my body as I land. Where I should be, is to land with my foot under my body, landing on my mid-foot, and pushing off from there.
To fix this I am working on the following drills:
- Faster cadence - 180 foot plants per minute - the faster my cadence, the less time my foot has to travel forward in front of my body. Hopefully this means it won’t be in front of my body, and it will be under me, where I want it.
- Visualize landing on mid foot - Actually this feels like it’s landing on my toes… So I’ve got a lot of relearning to do here. But in theory, I will land on the back edge of the pads of my feet with my heel above the ground, and use my calf muscles to decelerate my heel as it just barely comes down to touch the ground ever so gently and ever so briefly.
- Quiet Steps - Uh… your heel makes a loud thunk as it hits the ground. You shouldn’t hear this. You should be able to sneak up on that other runner as you pass them in the final 100 yards. Really? Ok, I gotta work on this one for sure.
- Barefoot running - It turns out, that it REALLY HURTS to run barefoot if you’re running incorrectly. But if you’re running correctly , then it (supposedly) doesn’t hurt at all.
- One-legged drills - What? One legged drills for running? How do you run on one leg? Well, sort of… but really, its more like just focus on running with one leg, and ignore the other one. This drill is a little like using your “focused” leg as if you were riding on a skateboard… pushing off with one leg. This one is hard for me.
- Rubber band running - Running with a”exercise” band tied around my ankles. The band prevents my feet from going too far forward. The idea is to help reprogram the muscle memory of all my leg stabilizer muscles to not allow the leg to go so far forward.
So, today I rode my bike (that’s a whole other story) to the Shoreline College Stadium, with a nice rubberized track, where I practiced these drills. The headline is that barefoot running (with socks on) isn’t all that bad. And, you know what, you can really feel it when you land on your heel. I feel like I’m running on my tip toes, but the dirt on my socks clearly indicate that I wasn’t completely on my tip toes.
Rubber band running was the hardest… mostly because the rubber band was pulling the hair on my legs… I guess I need to wear taller socks for that drill.
After a workout at the track, I headed to my massage appointment feeling like I’d done some good work.
- Type: Run
- Date: 03/07/2008
- Time: 14:50:00
- Total Time: 00:40:00.00
- Distance: 3 miles
- Average Pace: 13:20/mile