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Posts Tagged ‘Form’

Softer

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This time of year we see a lot of people in the gyms.   It’s a combination of all the New Year Resolution-ers and those that don’t want to/can’t take the cold.  This past Saturday, while my older daughter attended a skating lesson, I opted to go to the gym next door to put in a few miles on the hamster wheel.  The rows of treadmills were almost filled to capacity, occupied by a wide range of runners, encompassing all shapes and sizes – it’s one of the things that I love about running – our diversity.

What caught my attention however, was not the wide variety of runners that day.  It was the cacophony of heavy footfalls – a banging away that made me wonder how long before someone’s knee or hip popped.  As I hopped on to my station, I saw that there were three runners, again, in a variety of shapes, in the row in front of me who seemed determined to smash their machines to bits.  I wondered if they were running out of anger.  I resisted the urge to interrupt them and try correct their form.

Among the many things I have learned over the last two years about running, one of the most important is that “how” you run makes a difference in both your performance and enjoyment.  A lot of people, whether driven by a New Year’s Resolution or not, will simply hop on the treadmill or go outside and go.  The problem is that many of theses runners are running as if they are trying to achieve their resolutions in one angry, hard run.  If you go out too hard, too fast, and without paying attention to your form, you are likely to a)hurt yourself and b)give up after only a couple of weeks.

No matter how heavy you are, others shouldn’t be able to hear, much less feel your footfalls from 20′ away.  I know that as runners we like to say we are “hitting the streets” when we run, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Ideally, a runner should glide along as they run.

Obviously, your feet make an impact on the ground with every step, regardless of whether you are walking or running, but you can control the intensity of the impact.  By softening you footfalls, you lessen the impact on your knees and hips, decrease the likelihood of injury and may actually increase your base speed and enjoyment.

So, how can you soften your stride?

There are a couple of things you can do.  First, if you are new to this running thing, don’t feel compelled to run at other people’s pace.  Start slowly, get comfortable.  There is absolutely no shame in running a 15:00 mile.  Think of all those people who are still sitting on the couch.  Once your legs adapt to running, the speed will come.  Second, try to land with your feet UNDER you instead of IN FRONT of you.  The whole minimalist shoe vs. modern running shoe/mid-foot vs. heel strike is a topic that has been talked into ground and doesn’t need to be re-hashed here (if you want some in depth discussion on the topic hit up my friend Pete at www.runblogger.com). Suffice it to say that if you focus on landing with your feet directly under you, you will be working WITH your forward momentum, allowing you to run softer and eventually faster.  Finally, try shortening your stride and increasing your cadence (the number of stride you take per minute).  The shorter stride will naturally bring your landing closer to directly under you.

I am convinced that anyone, ANYONE, can become a light-footed runner.  It’s not about size, it’s about form.

Do you think about your form when you run?  What advice would you give to those trying to soften their steps?

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