Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘running form’

About a month ago I went to my 20th year college reunion (yes, I’m that old).  To kick the festivities off, a few fraternity brothers and I decided to take to the links for 18 holes of golf.  I suck at golf.  I mean, really, really suck.  I’m so bad that I tell people that I essentially get to play twice as much golf as your regular hacker for the price of admission.

Yeah, I’m bad.  I’ve got this wicked slice that essentially means I lose at least one ball off the tee on every hole.  It’s so bad that I  play to my weakness on short par-3’s.  While everyone else is pulling out 7- or 9-irons for the short shot to the green, I pull out my driver, place the ball on a tee, line up the shot…and then turn 45° to 60° to the right (I’m left handed).

Last month initially my friends looked at me like I was crazy, but when the ball flew off the tee, began to turn to the left about 50 yards out and then land mere feet from the cup, they were dumbstruck (of course, I ended up 2 putting it missing my opportunity for my first ever birdie, but that’s my golf game).

Short par-3’s – essentially my only opportunity to keep up with anybody.

But then on the last hole we were presented with a situation where we needed to hit the ball off of the tee over a deep ravine to the fairway a good 100+ yards away.  The guys I was playing with could all easily make the distance, but with my awful slice off of the tee, I was pretty convinced I had no shot – the distance was too far for me to play to my weakness.  Even if I line up at a 45° angle, the ball was not going to cover the straight distance.  So I tried to relax.  I loosened my grip and just the club swing itself.  To my (and everybody else’s) surprise, my ball went straight and long, past everyone else’s save one (and it was close).

At that moment I realized that I had played to my weaknesses too long and that if I wanted to improve as a golfer, I would have to simply get back to basics and start all over again.

***

This past week I ran twice for a grand total 6 miles.

6 miles? Isn’t that a little short for you Luau? I mean even for like one run?

Yes, it is, but I feel like these two short runs may have been the most meaningful 6 miles I’ve run in a very long time.  Those two runs were done in my bare feet, on the sidewalks and roads of my neighborhood.  Because of the hard surface and complete nakedness of my feet, I was forced to run very carefully, more specifically, more correctly.  To say that the experience was totally painless would be a blatant lie – pebbles, hot asphalt, twigs; they all hurt when you step on them just so.  But what didn’t hurt were the arches of my feet, the joints in my knees and hips, my back or my neck.  The reason?  Because I was running with proper form – I had no choice.

A few years back when I first started this running thing, I made the early adoption to the Vibram Five Finger trend.  I was so gung-ho about it that my wife got me this as my birthday cake:

Yes, that is a Vibram Five Finger KSO Cake

I would end up running several marathons in some version the VFF product line including Boston 2010.  Eventually however, I moved away from the VFF’s.  I migrated to Saucony’s minimalist shoe, the Kinvara, and immediately took 11 minutes off of my marathon PR and qualified for Boston 2011.  The Saucony, though minimal in spirit and design, still afforded me some decent protection when my form would break down in the later miles.  They allowed me to to extend my stride forward when I was tiring without causing pain to my heel.

I happily ran in them for almost 2 years, even coming close to re-qualifying for Boston under the new standards this past May.

But something has been off.  Something has been wrong.

I love my Kinvara’s but they have allowed me to play back toward my weakness, which is the heel-strike many of us have grown up into with the over-sized bricks we grew up with as children of the 80’s and 90’s.

I recently watched this (courtesy of my good friend Pete over at runblogger.com)

And then I saw this (also courtesy of Pete over at runblogger.com)

One thing became clear to me, it was time to go back to basics.  Much like I was able to improve my golf stroke by going back to basics, I plan on improving my running and running form by going back to basics and starting all over again.  The 6 miles of barefoot running I did last week brought me back to the basics of running.  Stripping away all of the technology (and as much as I love my Kinvara, they are still a thick soled shoe) at least two or three times a weeks and going naked I believe is going to make me a better runner in the long run.

I will not be as fast immediately.  I will still probably do my longer runs in either my Saucony’s or my VFF’s, but this stripping down, this completely natural running I believe is the key to making me better, stronger, and eventually, faster.

I feel like someone who has just discovered running for the very first time…again.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Confidence.

Confidence is sexy, isn’t it? The thing is, none of us necessarily feel confident all of the time. However, there is a simple way to exude confidence, turn up your appeal and do something that is good for your long term health. It’s the simplest thing really. It takes just a moment to do.  It’s something you already know how to do, but it may take you some time to get used to doing again.

So what is this one thing that can improve how people (including yourself) see you?

Let me start with a trip to the pool.

Every summer, my family and I have joined a local pool. It’s been great for the kids and is a nice way to end the day after camp. It is also a fun place to people watch. You get to see all kinds. What struck me the other day was what a difference one thing could make in how I perceive a person. Two sisters walked by. They were around my age, maybe a little younger, a had a very similar look. Empirically, I think that they were equally pretty, but one definitely stood out from the other in terms of appeal. I’m not talking solely sex appeal either. It was that one was simply more appealing than the other.

The one difference between the sisters?

Posture.

That’s it. One was slouched over, arms crossed, back bent, hips pushed forward. There was no attempt being made to straighten herself out. The other had her shoulders open and down, her head held high. You could see the confidence beaming from her face.

I was instantly brought back to my childhood when my dad used to harangue me about good posture. He would threaten to send me to military school or tie a stick to my back (jokingly, of course…right, dad? Right?). It wasn’t until he passed along the wisdom of his former kung-fu teacher, Sifu Steve Williams, that I really got it though. My father hadn’t taken kung-fu in 10 years at that point, but this particular nugget had stuck with him. His Sifu (the kung-fu equivalent of Sensei) had told him to think of a very thin, taut, golden thread coming out of the top of his head and extending up to the sky, in the process slightly pulling him up. If he slouched the thread would break. The point was to try to keep the thread in tact throughout the day.

That was it. It’s that easy.

Go ahead. Try it.

You naturally fall into good posture.

Now take a deep breath. Do you feel it? With good posture, your lungs open up and allows your body to take in more oxygen. That extra oxygen can wake you up, sharpen your senses and give you an overall sense of confidence. And with that, we’re back to the beginning. Confidence. Confidence is sexy.

I could go on about the myriad benefits of good posture, from the increased oxygen intake, to the maintenance of good spine health, to better running form, but I’ll leave it at confidence.

If you’re feeling down, or think that maybe you’re not getting the attention you’re due, step outside your skin and take a good, hard look at yourself. Odds are you’re slouching and unwittingly shutting out the world. Think of that golden thread and see if you can go through the day without breaking it. Obviously you have to duck under things or nod your head in certain situations, but try to stick to the spirit of the golden thread. My bet is that you’ll end the day a lot happier than you ended the previous one.

Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

So lately I have been going back and forth between my VFF Treks and my old Brooks Defyance.  It’s due to a combination of things: the weather, the cold, the long treadmill runs.  I used to hate putting on my “regular” running shoes because, well, I hated them.  They’re heavy and I can’t feel anything with my feet when I run in them.  Lately though, I’ve noticed something.  I actually feel ok when I run in them.  I’m not doing anything exotic (intervals, fartleks, etc.) with them, just long slow distances on the treadmill or my shorter, typical runs outside if the snow is fresh and deep or wet and slushy.

Last November, while I was running my local half-marathon, my buddy Mike (he seems to be popping up every where in this blog) was volunteering.  He had planned to run it but had injured himself a few weeks earlier during a 5K.  He said to me after the race that he noticed that my gait was different from when we had first run together 10 months earlier.  It really didn’t register with me, except for the fact that I was running in my VFF KSOs.

But this past month has me wondering.  I did more running in my traditional running shoes in January than I had since June of last year when I started running almost exclusively in VFFs.  It used to be that if I put in a certain number of miles in regular shoes, my right knee would start screaming for a break.  Consequently, I would have to take a week off from running and I would turn into a grumpy old man.  But this last month has been different.  When I went back to do the math I was shocked to find that I had run well over 100 miles in January in my Brooks.

Yet, the knee is peachy.

Why?

Did the VFF’s improve my form or did time?  I remember reading early on in my rediscovery of running that you can very often tell the difference between a beginner and an experienced runner by the length of their stride.  The longer you run, the shorter you stride becomes because your body learns how to be more efficient.  The shorter stride means a quicker turnover and a lesser likelihood of your limbs flailing and wasting energy.   My stride is definitely shorter than it was in November of 2008.

I also read when I first discovered Vibram Five Finger shoes that running barefoot or with a minimal shoe like the VFF forces your body back to the way we are designed to run (not on our heels), which in turn, shortens your stride.  In the VFFs you tend to land more on the flat or balls of your feet.  Has running in the VFFs for the last 7 month altered my natural footstrike so I can run that way in any shoe?  I may have to take a trip to visit my buddy Pete’s lab to find out.

In the meantime, I ponder: was it the shoes or time that has made me a better, more efficient runner.  The shoes or time that improved my form and now allows me to run pain free.

As has always been my way, I will take the middle path and say that it is probably the result of both.

Bookmark and Share

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: