Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Use The Form, Luke

This article on barefoot running in the New York Times caught my attention today.

The “evidence is not concrete for or against barefoot or shod running,” said Allison H. Gruber, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts and lead author of the hertz study. “If one is not experiencing any injuries, it is probably best to not change what you’re doing.”

I think there are two reasons why we get hurt running. Foremost is our form. We forget--or never learned--how we naturally ran as children. The other reason is our desire to be even more better faster than before. We compete to beat somebody even if it us. (I still wrestle with this monster but I'm getting much better.) We strive for faster times and for what?

On the other hand, if you do have a history of running-related injuries or simply want to see what it feels like to run as most humans have over the millenniums, then “start slowly,” said Dr. Lieberman. Remove your shoes for the last mile of your usual run and ease into barefoot running over a period of weeks, he suggests, and take care to scan the pavement or wear barefoot running shoes or inexpensive moccasins to prevent lacerations.

This advice is good, but the most important message that requires the most amount of explanation and emphasis is briefly mentioned at the end.

And pay attention to form. “Don’t overstride,” he said. Your stride should be shorter when you are running barefoot than when you are in shoes. “Don’t lean forward. Land lightly.”

As I mentioned before, form is the most important factor. Proper form allows me to run much more comfortably for longer distances. My quads don't hurt from bracing my legs at each heel strike because I don't heel strike any more. Above the hips I'm upright and balanced as if my head is dangling on a string. From the hips down I have a slight lean forward. I never straighten my legs and my always-bent knees act as shock absorbers. My feet land under my hips so my knees don't have to work hard. I don't push off with my feet, I lift them. All that sounds easy, but it takes practice and it's easy to backslide when you're tired. And if you keep your form when you're tired it makes reaching the finish line so much easier.

Secondly, chill. Relax your body and your mind. Learn to run comfortably and enjoy it. The goal should be to have fun, not take seconds off your last time. Why ruin something fun by checking your watch every mile or killing yourself trying to catch the person in front of you?

Okay, end of rant.

No comments: