Monday, June 25, 2012

Running:  Form and Staying Injury Free

With great power comes great responsibility.  Not much in life can make an athlete feel as powerful as a solid, strong run. I believe running is a gift.  Steve Prefontaine said it best. “To give less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  It doesn’t matter how long you run, how fast, how often.  If you have a passion for running, you have the gift.  For most runners, the fear of losing this gift can be great.  Its more than just the endorphins.  A relationship with running in many ways is like a relationship with another person.  There are highs, lows, great joy, and strong feelings.  Once running becomes part of your life, it makes a permanent impact, and you will never want to let go.  Running is there for you for as training, competition, racing.  Running is also there, like a good friend, when you need a mood lift, or to unwind.  Running adds so much joy to life!  You have been given this gift, and there is potential for great power and strength.  Now comes the responsibility.  Runners want to enjoy lifelong careers.  It doesn’t matter if it takes the form of racing and competition, or enjoying the feeling of getting out for a good run.   Remaining injury free is important in order to enjoy a healthy life full of training and running. 

Proper form is key to staying injury free.  There is a lot of information out there regarding form for both new and seasoned runners.   The conventional wisdom used to be for new runners:  go the local running store,  have someone watch you run around, pick a comfortable pair of shoes,  and you’re set.  I would like to see a new conventional wisdom….something  I have learned from both personal experience, research, and talking with other coaches.  The new conventional wisdom:  first to learn to run.  Much has been said recently about the importance of a midfoot/forefoot strike.  I think most of us can agree that a running form closer to what our body does naturally (barefoot) is the healthiest way to run.  Most of us didn’t grow up barefoot, however, so we need some foot protection.  Finding the right shoe can be very complicated!  As a new runner, what to choose?  Who do you trust? What is good form, anyway?  A veteran runner looking to avoid injuries might ask themselves how to make the switch without a training loss.  A runner currently in a heavy stability shoe with a heel strike pattern will likely take more time to transition than a runner in a lighter shoe who already has running form that is closer to ideal.  The runner who needs more time to transition doesn’t want to cut back severely on weekly mileage.  Taking the time to transition properly is worth it.  The off-season is a great time to work on form.  Use cross-training to your advantage.  Stay in cardiovascular shape, and as a bonus become a stronger swimmer and cyclist.  Make a running form video for your coach.  There are many drills runners can do to improve form.  Give your body time to adjust.  Your coach can plan for adding mileage accordingly.  Work with a knowledgeable running store, as well as your coach to find the right shoe for you.  It is important to also wear good shoes when you are not running.  Avoid heels, tight shoes, and flip-flops whenever possible.  A good, lightweight “barefoot” model shoe will help strengthen your feet over time.  If you are a new runner, now is a great time to learn to run with excellent form!  Talk with your coach about the right shoe.  Again, a knowledgeable running store is a great resource as well.  Do the drills your coach suggests.  Take the time to build up mileage at a slow and steady rate.   Proper running form puts less stress on the body, and allows for much more overall efficiency.  Taking the time to learn to run is time well invested.  Give your best to your gift!

Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun. 

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