Hey Baby, Nice Gait

I used to hate running.  To the point that when I was in 8th grade, I kept faking volleyball injuries so my track coach would only make me do non-running events like shot put.  Dude….I was HORRIBLE, but at least she wasn’t making me do the mile.  So when I got a wild hair and decided to start training for my first triathlon, I was SO nervous that I would not be able to do the run portion.  Or worse, I would fall victim to a jog-induced rage and go off-course, never to find the finish line (or home) again. And the reason I hated it so much?  Because I wasn’t good at it.  Go figure.

During those early Saturday morning practices, my triathlon coach taught me how to run CORRECTLY and low and behold….I started to enjoy it.    Here are some running techniques that I have adopted over the years, and are working for me.  Everyone has a different school of thought, so take what works for you and good luck!

2008: Training for the real thing, with a team "Mock-Tri". I totally let her win.

Shoes are muy importante when it comes to running. The wrong shoe can lead to injury and pain.  Take the time to go to a running shoe store or medical center and have your gait analyzed.  Your running gait is basically the mechanics of your body when you run. Where does your foot strike when it hits the ground? Are your hips in line?  Do you turn out your knees?  Once you know your habits, you can be fitted for a shoe that supports your stride or corrects your weaknesses.  That may mean you won’t be running in those sweet black and green Nike’s, but if you are serious about running you may need to take vanity out of the equation.

Foot Strike is the name of the game.  Ultimately, you want a mid-foot strike, which means you don’t want to be running on your toes or your heels.  With each step, the ball of your foot should lightly hit the ground then quickly roll forward onto your toes.  Try to spring off the ground, using your calf muscles to propel you forward.  The motion should be light and quiet, not heavy and loud. Think gazelle, not elephant.  If you’re not used to the new running style, no doubt your calves will be sore. Remember R.I.C.E- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevate.

The better your Posture, the less wasted energy you are exerting.  Ever see that jogger that’s basically running in the fetal position, with his arms flapping back and forth so vigorously you’re afraid he’s having a seizure?  If he would keep his shoulders and hips right over his feet, his arms at a 90 degree angle and look straight ahead to the horizon with a long neck, his run would be a million times easier.  Lean forward at your ankles, not your waist, to use gravity to pull you forward.  Your arms should swing from front to back, not across your body.  Let them hang loosely from your shoulders, with unclenched fists.  If you feel your shoulders creeping up into your ears or your fists balling up, just shake everything loose and keep going. Remember to run tall and don’t look down, as if you have a broomstick in the back of your shirt that runs from the top of your head to the bottom of your tailbone.  The taller your torso, the easier it will be on your lungs to breathe deeply.

Foot turnover should be quick, when it comes to long distance running.  And let’s assume that’s what we are talking about, because the only time I sprint is when I can see the finish line.  And by see, I mean less than a block away. What is foot turnover?  It is how many steps you take per second.  A good pace to start at is 30 steps for every 10 seconds, or 180 steps a minute.  This will train your stride to be short and quick.  Long strides just use up precious energy that can otherwise be used to blow the doors off that jerk who keeps farmer-blowing his snot on your shoe.  As your foot strikes the ground each time, it should land directly under your body with a slight bend in your knee. If your foot is landing out in front of you, or your knee is straightening out, your stride is too long.  Wear a watch when you run and either keep track of the time yourself, or ask a friend to tell you when 10 seconds is up.  Hit that 30 step mark at least 3 times in a row, and you know you are golden!

These adjustments might feel strange at first, and you will probably feel soreness.  But after some consistency, you will get stronger, feel taller and might run a little further and faster.  Your body knows what to do naturally, so let it.  See ya out there!

Coach Eric, the man who taught me how to run correctly. Look at that arm form - perfect!