Running Is NOT Only About The Legs

Running is not just a leg movement, it’s a whole body movement and a skill to develop and improve continuously.

Take for example the simple movement of arms and legs. Here are a couple of exercises for you to test the connection between your upper and lower body.

Exercise 1

Walk as you normally would over a 50-100m distance if you can.

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms and shoulders only, again 50-100m. Everything else moves normally. What are your legs and hips doing? How do you feel? Are you in control of your movement?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your legs and hips only. What are your arms and shoulders doing? How do you feel? Are you in total control of your body?

Now walk exaggerating the movement of your arms shoulders as well as your legs and hips. Walk faster, then slower, then faster and notice how your feet are moving and are positioned with each step, notice the level of control you may or may not have and your overall coordination.

Now hold your arms tied to your body and your hands to your thighs. As you walk move your shoulder and whole arm forward. But remember the arms and hands are tied to the legs, so the whole side of the body moves forward, each side at a time

How do you feel? Do you feel your body is moving efficiently? I’m not looking for a specific answer, although you can guess that should happen. I’m interested in your becoming aware of what’s happening to and with your body.

 

Exercise 2

Here’s another example: walk with your arms behind your back.

You will probably notice that your shoulders still want, and struggle to move your arms but the arms aren’t going anywhere. It’s a struggle, you have to put in more energy than usual. If you continue walking like this at your normal walking speed you’d feel tired, more than you’d normally feel.

Notice how much effort the legs have to make to move you forward, how your core muscles do extra work trying, in vain, to move your arms.

Now release your hands and arms and walk normal. How easy is that. It’s just right, natural.

 

Do the 2 exercises above while running as well, you will see a massive difference between when using your arms and shoulders and when you don’t. Replace “walk” with “run” in the instructions.

 

Your body moves the way it moves because it was designed to move like this, this is the most efficient way to move, with the whole body as Jack Heggie says in his book Running With The Whole Body.

Yet many runners hold their arms tight to the sides. You don’t have to strain your arms and shoulders but they do have to move in co-ordination with your legs and hips.

When you move in co-ordination there is a spiralling motion in your spine. Certain muscles contract  storing energy, while opposite muscles stretch and energy is released. You run faster, easier, and, most importantly, you reduce the risk of injuries because your body will begin to move like a well oiled machine, rather than pushing, pulling, struggling and straining.

However that doesn’t mean you have to move your upper body excessively. It’s enough to release tension in your shoulders and allow the arms to move like pendulums back and forth from your shoulders, as if you are hitting someone behind you.

Keep your body moving the correct way, keep your joints as healthy and strong as you can and run for as long as you want.

Explore and develop an effortless and injury-free running style in our fast-track 4 weeks course 1-2-1. You will have videos and material after the course to help you continue to develop your running style. Want to know more? Just contact us here.

Solving The Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury causing pain and inflammation, usually felt as a dull or sharp pain along the back of the Achilles tendon, usually closer to the heel.

Possible causes of Achilles tendonitis

1. Weak calf muscles
2. Excessive pronation
3. Excessive stress being transmitted through the tendon
4. Excessive power to begin a new stride – push off

 

Solving the problem

Fist of all, allow the injury to heal. Take a break form running, give it time to heal. There are strengthening exercises you can do to speed up healing, such as Hakan Alfredson’s heel drop, which I used to do a few years ago, when I could barely walk from Achilles tendonitis, and found very useful. Also avoid aggressive stretching. The tendon is injured, it doesn’t need more aggression.

Second, once you are back and ready to resume running observe HOW you run. It might be that the cause of your injury is in your form. You might be placing excessive stress through the tendon with every single step. This is very common and, if the cause is in your form, it can be eliminated.

Here’s what to look for:

 

1. Landing under the body

The muscles on the front of your legs are considered braking muscles (tibialis anterior – shin; quadriceps – thighs). Muscles on the back of the legs (gastrocnemius and soleus – calf; hamstrings – thigh) are considered propulsive muscles that work with the Achilles tendon (Natural Running – Danny Abshire).

Most runners absorb too much impact from breaking when they land ahead of their body and use too much muscle power to keep moving forward. This “power run” style leads to high impact, long strides and push off which puts the propulsive muscles under great stress.

By landing under the body or the GCM (general centre of mass) and landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot, then allowing the heel to touch the ground lightly (without putting weight on), you are using the muscles and soft tissues in your foot, ankle, legs and knees (which should be flexed) as shock absorbers to reduce the destructive impact.

This is the first thing to change in your running. All the following bullet points usually take care of themselves once your landing is straight under the body.

 

2. Midfoot/forefoot landing

Modern running shoes allow us to land as heavily as we wish. We can’t feel anything, but the impact is there, the damage is happening with symptoms showing up months later.

If you were to take your shoes off and run around a little you’d realise just how aggressive your run actually is. We do this sometimes on soft ground and clients are always shocked at how heavily they land. Without me saying anything their form slowly changes. Why? Because your body doesn’t like it so it will adapt. That doesn’t mean you have to give up regular running shoes, you can land with a midfoot/forefoot strike in any shoes.

Landing on your toes (high heels) or on your heels causes a lot of problems including damage to the Achilles tendon. What you are looking for is a light landing on the ball of the foot and then a light touch with the heel before going on to the next stride.

 

3. Flexed knees

Many runners land with a stiff leg and ankle, which means the muscles will not absorb the impact and so joints and tendons will suffer. Flex the knees and allow the ankles to bend and flex, don’t hold them stiff and don’t point your toes.

 

4. Pull, don’t push

When you begin a new stride try to pull the leg under your body rather than pushing your whole weight forward. It’s much easier to pull the leg than push the body. Makes sense? After this a slight lean from the ankles, with a straight, aligned body, will move you forward. It’s light and almost effortless. Here’s a video on how to pick up and pull your feet off the ground.

 

If you are a long distance, experienced runner you might find that getting these elements into your running form will slow you down and make you feel tired. You’ll probably run less than usual. But the question is: how bad do you want to solve your problem? Addressing the cause of your pain is the only way to permanently get rid of it. Any treatment will last for a while but repeating the same movements what lead to the injury in the first place will cause the injury to recur. Mileage can increase back to your normal, but if your injuries keep coming back you will probably stop running for good.

If you are interested in exploring and developing an effortless and injury-free running style you have a few options including a fast-track 4 weeks course 1-2-1. You will have videos and material after the course to help you continue to develop your running style. If you are interested leave a comment below or contact us here.

Pick Up Your Feet And Run Faster

Have you ever thought about what your feet and legs are doing when you run or even walk? Do you lift your feet off the ground, bending your legs at the knee or do you just drag them just above the ground, shuffling, one after the other?

If you have noticed your running form then you have already changed the way you run. If you haven’t now it’s the time to do so.

Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation, but in summary the reasons you should pick up your feet instead of dragging or shuffling:

Reason #1: You will run faster

Your legs are like pendulums. And like any pendulum, a long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster.

 

Reason #2: You will run more relaxed, lighter on your feet

If you pick your feet without lifting and leading with the knees you will not use the quads as much, thus you run more relaxed and with less effort. The work is done by your hamstrings and only at the start of the lift, after that your hamstrings should relax.

 

Reason #3: Reduce the risk of injuries

First of all if you drag your feet chances are you will trip or slip at some point. Pick up your feet and you reduce those chances, a lot.

Second if you drag your feet chances are you are landing in ahead of your body (instead of underneath), actively landing (driving your feet forward), heel striking and landing with a stiff leg or ankle. All this, in time, may lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and then knee pain and back pain. It’s a chain reaction in fact.

So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you and pick them up and bend your knee.

Remember running is a skill of movement, and art. As with anything you want to create, it will be difficult and uncomfortable at the beginning but once you get the hang of it you won’t run anymore, you will glide.

Check out the video below with this particular technical element and also this article Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body:

Running Programmes With Jorgen Welsink

As runners, if we don’t have a coach, we need to know how to train ourselves to reach the goals we have set without burning out and injuring the body.

Jorgen Welsink studied Hollistic Health Coaching / Nutrition at The Institute For Integrative Nutrition and Orthomolecular (Top)Sport Coach & Personal Health Coach at LekkerPuurLeven.

As a running coach Jorgen explains how running training programmes for marathons should be planned. Get a pen and paper because there are a lot of important points to remember and slowly introduce into your training.

We also talk about different types of running technique to reduce the risk of injuries. We talk about heel strike running and natural running technique.

Jorgen also gives us gives us his advice on how to choose your running shoes for marathon training and when. Yes, there is an ideal time of the day to buy your running shoes.

In terms of recovery during training and after your marathon Jorgen shares with us his advice on nutrition, sleep and training for recovery.

In terms of nutrition we talked about how running gels work, carbohydrate loading and how to build a fat burning instead of a sugar burning body.

Links mentioned in the video:

www.iherb.com

Celtic salt

Smoothie with pea protein

 

Make your own running gels

Pineapple-orange chia energy gel
Orange-Pineapple Chia Gel Nutrition DataIngredients:

1 oz chia seeds
1 medium seedless orange
8 oz pineapple
¾ cup brown rice syrup
½ oz dry fruit pectin
1 serving electrolyte mix (above)
Mix the chia seeds with ⅜ cup of water. Stir until the chia gels thoroughly, then set aside.

Peel the orange, removing as much of the pith as possible. Combine the orange and the pineapple, including the juice, in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Combine ½ cup of the fruit mash with the hydrated chia. It’s normal to have extra fruit mash (I had ¾ cup left over). You can freeze it until you need to make another batch of gel.

Stir in the brown rice syrup, then slowly add the pectin. Finally, stir in the electrolyte mix.

Put the mixture in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove it from the heat and pour it directly into a sterilized ½ pint mason jar for storage.

 

 

Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body

Any books you read on running technique which has the potential to reduce the risk of injuries have a few common elements. Each technique or style of running (i.e. Chi Running, Pose Method, Natural Running) has its own particular elements that sets it aside from the others, however they all state that to run with less effort and fewer injuries a runner should:

 

1. Land with the foot underneath the body 

That means DO NOT land ahead of your body because you overstride, break your momentum and increase impact. When you overstride you also have to power up by re-engaging the back muscle chains to start a new stride. More effort, more muscle tension, more impact, higher risk of running injuries.

If you can see your feet when you run (by looking down with your eyes and head, not by bending your whole body) it’s a sign you are probably overstriding, landing heavily in front of your body.

Bouncing up and down too much can be another sign. Usually, if you land under your General Centre of Mass you won’t bounce, you will move smoothly, almost like gliding.

This will also help reduce the rotational forces in the joints which lead to overuse injuries in the ankles, knees, hips, spine.

 

2. Lean the body from the ankles

This is an up-right, slightly forward leaning from the ankles, correctly aligned posture. Let gravity do the work instead of using your muscle strength.

 

3. Strike the ground with a midfoot strike

Another common element is the midfoot strike. If you land under your general centre of mass and use gravity to move forward there is no way you will do a heel strike. You will automatically go into a midfoot-forefoot strike.

That being said make sure you don’t run on your toes. You land on the balls of your feet and then allow the heels to touch the ground slightly. That’s it.

If, when you run, you listen closely you can tell whether you land with the ball of the foot. You will hear a “tap” and then you will feel the heel touching the ground. If you hear a “punding” that’s heavy landing and probably heel striking.

If you think about it pretty much all sports require a midfoot or forefoot body weight distribution: dancing, skiing, martial arts free sparring, even tennis. Look at the footwork in this tennis match, just the first 10 seconds.

 

4. Pick up the feet

Your feet are like pendulums. A long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster. So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you, instead pick them up and bend your knee. 

5. Aim for optimum cadence 

Running cadence is measured by the number of strides per minute that each leg takes. The optimum running cadence is considered to be 85 to 90 strides per minute. 

If you do all of the above then you can maintain the optimum cadence.

However you have to build up gradually to this cadence if it’s not your normal. Then you keep that cadence all the time and use the lean and picking up your feet to move faster. In Chi Running you also increase the strides to increase speed. But you move faster because you lean more and relax your legs more not because you are using muscle power. You should not put effort to increase your strides, it will happen as you lean more. But first master the lean.

Transitioning To Barefoot Running – What You Need

Transitioning-To-Barefoot-Running-What-You-Need

Barefoot running or minimalist running is not something new. It’s new for us in this modern age, after we stepped into our amazing modern world. However, we must understand that we have inherited a stone age body, and have placed it in a modern environment (Daniel Lieberman – The Story Of The Human Body). Thus, many of the aches, pains and some of the diseases we suffer from today come from this discrepancy between what our body needs and what our brain gives it.

When I transitioned to barefoot running or minimalist running (this means running in minimalist shoes, for those who are not familiar with the term), I was coached by Obstacle Course Race Coach Michael Cohen. And how lucky I felt and feel learning such skills from a coach like him.

Throughout coaching and then my own exploration of bare foot running I reached the following conclusions about what a runner needs to safely transition to bare foot of minimalist running:

 

1. Running technique

You might be an amazing running, a very experienced one, but going from normal running shoes to barefoot or minimalist running is a great leap. It’s a great leap for your body from a mechanical point.

When wearing shoes some muscles grow weaker, as they are not challenged. For example with bare foot running the foot muscles, knee muscles, calves, core, glutes (buttocks) are some of the muscles which are more challenged when running barefoot or with minimalist shoes.

Thus, you must ensure you practice correct running technique, go slow and have patience.

I wrote articles on running technique leave a comment below and I will send it to you.

 

2. Patience

No matter how much you wish to hurry the process, your muscles, tendons, ligaments and skeletal system will gradually adapt to support each other, as each develops.

Force your body at the wrong time and you risk long term injuries.

Even if you are a marathon runner you must start with 5-10 min slow running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, and build from there.

 

3. Coaching

Yes, I do believe that if you want to achieve something at a good level coaching is necessary? Why? How can you see the frame if you are in the frame?

You can’t, there has to be someone outside to see your technique and correct you. To make you aware of what’s happening. What might seem correct to you might be incorrect.

 

In conclusion here are a few points to remember when transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running:

  1. Start slow: wear the shoes in the house, then walking outdoors, then running 5 min, 10 and so on
  2. Build gradually
  3. Understand the basics of running technique such as malingered body and short strides (there are more elements)
  4. Transitioning can take anywhere from 3-6 months to 12 months, depending on how your body adapts and responds to training
  5. Get a coach, to ensure you are doing it right from the beginning; correct movements that are already ingrained in you will be much more difficult

 

That’s all folks. If you have questions do book a free consultation with me and I will do my best to help you on the spot. Book here