I love to sprint!! To me there’s nothing better than going all out, and feeling the wind whip past. To me it feels like freedom. So it should come as no surprise that my favorite part of soccer conditioning was the sprint workouts, and drills. Up on my forefoot, and light. It just felt natural!
There was nothing natural about the mile we had to run at the end of conditioning season to get on the team. Every year I dreaded it, and every year it was a battle. I was a sprinter, I didn’t run miles, didn’t know how to train for them, didn’t like them. Period! I labored, and huffed my way around the track four times, often stopping to walk as my teammates zipped by me rubbing in my feelings of inadequacy. Every year I would just barely make it in under time.
In 2007 I made a rather odd choice to sign up for m first distance race, the Peachtree Road Race (10k). I wasn’t a distance runner. I don’t know that I had ever run more than a mile. I did it, and slowly started signing up for longer races. That’s when the trouble started. Or more precisely that’s when the heel striking started. The pain in my ankles, and arches that would travel up my legs. The fact that I was always landing on my heels caused me to pronate heavily. I made it through all of my races, but there were shin splints, twisted knees, IT band issues, and sore hips. Then one day I started learning about stride rate.
I shortened my stride, and started feeling better. A friend loaned me her copy of Chi Running, and I started working on leaning, and using gravity to my advantage. What I didn’t realize that on really long runs I was loosing my form. I started adding strength workouts and yoga to my training. I kept feeling better, but I could tell that my shoes were getting in my way. They didn’t feel comfortable. In fact they even felt clunky at times. I was on DailyMile by this point, and was learning more about shoes and foot-strike. I heard about a company called newton who made shoes designed for people who were forefoot strikers. After months of hemming and hawing I got a pair, and I whole new world opened up. It hasn’t been an easy transition, and I still work on form all of the time. You have to, otherwise old habits will creep back in. More and more i learn that the smart things i do when i practice my violin can also be applied to my running. It’s easy to think that you’ve taken care of something only to realize that it’s creeped back into your running.
For those curious about making the switch here are somethings that helped me:
1. Practice leaning from your ankles. Stand in front of a wall and lean towards the wall (start close to the wall with just a slight lean). The point is to shift your center of gravity, which will naturally help you move forward with less work (gravity can be your friend!)
2. Skipping, yes embrace your inner child! The dogs love when I skip, but in terms of form you land on your fore-foot when you skip. So, have fun & work on your form 🙂
3. Jumping in place, or jump rope. It works the same as the skipping, plus you get some extra cardio work
4. In team in training we do dynamic stretches before running several of which also help with form. Examples, walking high knees or running high knees, and walking butt kicks or running butt kicks.
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