Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Just Good Running

As runners, we all have some vision in our heads of what we look like when we're on the move - posture, stride length, arm swing.  This may or may not be anything like what we actually look like - but we all picture something in our minds. 

Up until last week, here's what I knew about the way I run: I have a short stride/quick cadence and I run very upright, so much that I'm actually leaving backwards (though I've gotten a bit better about it over the years).  (It used to be really bad - yikes!)  That's it.  That's all I knew.  I gathered this information from seeing still photos of myself and talking to friends and family who watch me run.  I've never had anyone analyze me because I figure I'm fast enough, haven't had any injuries, and don't want to mess with a good thing.  We all have our quirks, right?

I've been doing Saturday group runs at RUNdetroit and a few weeks ago Justin and Alia (the shop owners) announced they would be holding their first Good Form Running session at the store.  I signed right up and my BFF Katie was able to get into the class, as well.  This would be a great (free!) way to have someone look at our form and give us some pointers on what we could do to improve.  Mid-marathon training isn't the best time to mess around with my form but I figured at least learning about it wouldn't hurt. 

As it turns out, Good Form Running isn't some new craze or a drastically different way to run.  No, it's just an easy, safe way to run so you don't get injured.  And it's basically how I'm already running...with a few adjustments.  

To begin, our instructor videotaped each person in the class running as they normally would.  Then we went through the 4 elements of Good Form Running: Posture, Midfoot, Cadence, and Lean.  As we learned about the elements, we did some drills to practice each one as we put them together one at a time.  Once we had everything in place we did a few practice runs before the final videotaped "test."  It wasn't until that point that we sat down and watched both the before and after videos and discussed with the instructor or Justin what we could do to improve our form.

As I stated at the beginning of my post, I knew two things about the way I ran before I started.  Here is what I left knowing about my form after the class:

1. Posture - I learned that my posture was already pretty good.  One way to make sure your arms are in the right place is to keep your thumbs up.  This ensures that your arms aren't flailing around in any weird way.  I've seen plenty of photos of me where it looks like I'm giving the thumbs-up and I always thought it was a little strange.  Turns out it's just proper form!  Thumbs-up to me!  (wink wink)

2. Midfoot - The idea of a midfoot strike is something that I never really understood.  I didn't know what part of the foot it referred to specifically and never found out.  Part of me was worried that it would mean learning some new way to run, which would interfere with my stride and affect my speed.  So I just ran in ignorance.  As it turns out, a midfoot strike simply means landing flatly on the bottom of your foot - not on your heel first, not on your toes (no Prancercise).  I saw that I have a slight heel strike but it's not bad.  (My heel strike is coming more from my problem with #4.)

3. Cadence - To help with cadence, we jogged in place to a metronome set at 180 steps/min.  Maintaining this target cadence will help with a faster stride and promote midfoot strike.  I already have a quick cadence, so this wasn't an issue for me.  In fact, 180 steps/min almost felt a little too slow for me.  For those who need to improve cadence, you could use a metronome app or listen to music set at 180 beats/min.

4. Lean - I knew going in that I needed to work on my lean.  This was the number one reason I wanted to take this class.  With Good Form Running, you need to lean forward by bending not at the waist but at the ankles.  And yes, I said lean FORWARD not BACKWARD.  (Why I started leaning backward I'll never know!)  We did some drills where we stood in place and simply leaned forward at our ankles.  I was standing there leaning forward with my ankles, yet still leaning backward from the waist.  Argh!  When we watched the "after" video, I wasn't leaning forward but I wasn't leaning back.  I was upright.  Well, I clearly had more work to do but it's a start!  Our instructor thought if I can work on my lean that should help with my midfoot strike.  AND she thinks I might be leaning backward due to tight glutes and hamstrings.  I know we all have tight glutes and hammies but mine are really bad and I am also terrible about stretching.  Gotta make it a priority.

One other thing our instructor pointed out from watching the videos is that I bounce when I run.  This isn't part of Good Form Running because I'm pretty sure they didn't anticipate a large part of the running population being so bouncy.  And I never knew I was a bouncer!  But after mentioning it to several friends I run with, they laughed and nodded like they've known all along!  They said they figured it worked for me and who were they to say anything?  Ah well.

SO, what do I need to work on after my Good Form Running class?

1. Stretch my glutes and hamstrings every day!
2. Lean forward from my ankles.
3. Land on my midfoot.
4. Stop bouncing so much!  We didn't do drills for that but I'm guessing if I work on the lean and midfoot strike the bouncing will subside.

Depending on how things are going, I might take another class in a couple months for a refresher.  We were encouraged to do so.  The great thing about taking this at RUNdetroit is that I'm there for the group runs so I can ask Justin or Alia to take a look at my form on a regular basis to check on my lean or midfoot strike.  Also, since Katie and I run together, we can help monitor each other for how we're improving or call each other out when we're getting lazy.

No matter where you're at as a runner, I highly recommend taking a one of these classes!  Take it with your running buddy.  You'll be glad you did!

Good Form Running is a partnership with New Balance.  You can learning more about Good Form Running and it's elements here.  

Have you ever tried to correct your running form?  Tell me about it!

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