Friday, November 28, 2014

Good Form is Not Natural

Running is simple.  You lace up your shoes, walk out the door, and do it.  You grew up knowing how, so it feels natural.  But it hurts.  Injuries crop up, not just sore muscles, plantar fascitis, knee pain, heel pain . . . We've all been there.  We rest. We heal. We go back to what we were doing before.

Swimming has taught me not to trust my natural kinesthetic instincts.  After years of windmilling and dragging my legs, I took a bunch of lessons and a very few key changes to my approach changed everything.  In particular, changing the timing gave me a more powerful pull, a longer glide, better position in the water, and a generally more efficient stroke.  It didn't feel natural at all, and I'm still working out the kinks but changes that felt unnatural helped.

The same thing has happened with my running.  As often discussed, I joined the midfoot revolution a few years ago in response to pain in my right heel.  I started working on leaning forward, and landing on my toes.  That took a while, but eventually it felt natural.  I got faster.  Until, it started to hurt -- this time left heel.  As I have been returning to form in the last year, I'm realizing that even what felt natural then was not ideal.  I was protecting my left hip.  I'm not sure from what, probably just old habit.

It turns out that maintaining good running form, for me at least, requires a lot of thought: (1) fully shift weight to the left side; (2) land on the midfoot; (3) push off from the ball of the foot; (4) lean forward; (5) allow hips to roll a bit (don't hold them level);  (6) engage glutes; (7) increase cadence . . . There it is. . . Oops, lost it. Found it. Lost it. Going too fast . . . Damn! Okay, there it is . . .

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