running form

Random thoughts on running

I like running.

In fact I'm planning to train for a marathon this year - though I haven't broken the news to my knees yet. 

In fact, (for emphasis here), I just came back from a delightful three mile jaunt around Kennebunk. 

Running is a reason to by many pairs of shoes. Many. 

Running is a reason to by many pairs of shoes. Many. 

I started running seriously as a sophomore in college, having taken the year off from lacrosse to find myself (which is a separate blog post entirely). I ran laps around the suspended track at the gym, listening to Pat Benetar* on my Sony Walkman while watching the intramural basketball games below.

Yes I had the foam headphones to go with the Walkman.

Remember when the batteries were dying while the cassette tape was playing? Remember needing batteries for music?

I digress.  

Anyway, I chose to run because it was:

A. Simple
B. Affordable
C. I didn't know what else to do. 

Running has a low barrier to entry and burns calories like a furnace, which is why many people choose it when they decide to exercise. 

But is running really the best method if you are trying to lose 50 pounds or more? (To clarify here, I mean running 15-20 miles per week. Not signing up for the yearly alumni race that you run, hungover, with your friends. Oh wait...)

Regardless of your reasons, here are a few random points to consider before you tie up your laces and hit the trails:

(And I want to emphasize, again, that I'm not against running - I just think there are things to consider before you take it up full time.)  

1. What shape are your knees in?

The impact of running is the equivalent of at least two times your body weight on impact. That means that if you're 200lbs, for each step you take running you're putting 400 pounds of stress on your knees, hips, feet and joints. Over time, the impact is going to catch up with you. 

The number one frustration I see for clients is injury. Developing a new workout routine takes time, effort, and patience. When you finally hit your stride, the last thing you need is an injury to derail the process.  

If you've already got some knee issues going on, running 15 or more miles per week might not do you any favors.

2. It might take longer to build up to that 5K than you think

The best quote I read in doing a little research for this post was that cardiovascular adaptation comes along much quicker than our cartilage and joints. Which means that even though we're no longer huffing and puffing to get through two miles, our knees and hips might not feel as awesome as we think they do. Overuse injuries can happen very quickly with running, so in the beginning, if you've never run before, you may have to pace yourself even more than that Couch to 5K app suggests.

There are other ways to get a burn on and get your heart rate up while sparing your joints. Which is why...

3. Cross training and rest are important

When I was 26 I started training for a marathon. Periodically, I was plagued by knee pain that turned out to be IT band syndrome - something that many runners are all too familiar with. I tried a chote strap, and various stretches - but what I refused to try was cross training or rest. I was a runner - that's what I liked, that's what I did, and if anyone tried to talk me out of it, I ignored them.

In my case, that 26 year old wisdom eventually brought me to surgery to help relieve the pain, and I have yet to run that elusive marathon. 

We have a number of avid runners that work out at Spurling, and they are all smarter than I ever was. They include strength training to help with form, bone density, and many of them come back saying that strength training has only improved their running game. 

4. Don't forget about technique

Running technique always brings to mind the clip of Phoebe from Friends - but there's so much more to running than just trying not to flail your arms from side to side while moving. Do you run on your toes or your heels? (Generally, on your toes, but the first time you really focus on this you'll find that your calves are incredibly tight the next day). How long is your stride? How deep is your love?**

A cursory google search brought up several articles of suggested drills for improving speed and form - but the most important piece is to pay attention to that form. And warm up.

Warm. Up.

5. Pay attention to your shoes

Not all sneakers are running shoes - these days the athletic shoe market is flooded with choices, and if you plan on doing a lot of running, you'll want to make sure you're in the right shoe for your feet, ankles, knees and back. I wrote this post awhile back about the different types of shoes out there, but if you're serious about running, visit the local running store and try on all of the shoes until you find the right fit. Spend the money on the right shoes. 

And happy Monday. It looks like spring finally made it to Maine. 

*If you don't know who Pat Benatar is then..just...I don't even know what to do with you. Google her. Yes it's a her. 
**I couldn't pass up the BeeGee's reference. 

 

Tips to help you prepare for the 5K someone talked you into

5kprepKLF.jpg

So you signed up for your first 5K. Or your first 5K since Friends was part of Thursday night t.v. You weren't going to do it, but someone applied peer pressure the way Dolly Parton applies makeup and you crumbled like you were in middle school and everyone said it was cool to peg your acid washed jeans.*

The race is in a month and you’re putting off all of the things you should be doing. Like, I don’t know, running. Or working out at all. 

I’m not here to tell you that you won’t have to run. I mean you did sign up for a 5K. But I’m also here to make a few suggestions about some other exercises you can be doing to help prepare for the run. 

1. Soft tissue work and warm up

Do your foam rolling. Do it! Eat your vegetables and do your foam rolling. If you don't have a foam roller, use your Tiger Stick. (Or use a rolling pin. Just maybe don't tell your spouse). I've posted before on the benefits of foam rolling, and I realize that it can be tough to plop down on a roller before a race (hence the tiger stick). But using the roller to get the main muscles in your leg before a run can help get the blood flowing. 

And don't forget about your upper body. Many runners tend to hunch over and tense up the shoulders during the run, so using a lacrosse ball or baseball to get into the shoulder areas can be very helpful before and after the run.

After you do your soft tissue work, doing a dynamic warm up. In other words, do more than a few arm circles and cursory quad stretches. Deep squats, 90/90 hip shifts, rocking ankle mobs, hip flexor stretch, t-spine rotations are a few good ones to start. 

 

This video explains how to appropriately use a foam roller and baseball or lacrosse ball to warm up your muscles prior to working out. It’s also a sneak-peak into the type of videos included in my new product “Stronger You” to be released the first week of July.

 

2. Do some form drills and strengthen the glutes

We've all seen the video of Phoebe from Friends running. And I don't know what it says about me that I managed to make two references to "Friends" in the same post...

What are your glutes anyway? Well, there are three gluteal muscles that form our butt.

  • The gluteus minimus, (the smallest), is situated immediately beneath the gluteus medius.
  • The gluteus medius is a broad, thick, radiating muscle, situated on the outer surface of the pelvis.
  • The gluteus maximus, the largest and most visual of the three. It makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of the hips. It’s also the largest muscle in your body.

Weak glute muscles can lead to a host of injuries, including the dreaded runner's knee. Glute strength helps to provide stability in the lower leg. And trust me, that's a good thing.

Spend some time focusing on technique. Below are two exercises that can be very helpful in working the glutes and forcing you to concentrate on leg drive especially. No you're not planning to sprint in this 5K, until the very end when you want to catch that one dude that you KNOW you can beat. 

 

When done correctly, this exercise should burn your butt and get your heart rate up.

 
 
 
 
 

A strong butt can also help support proper trunk posture during the run, which leads me to point number three.

3. Don't neglect your core

Pretty much every post I write on everything comes back to having a strong core. A strong core can pretty much stop a zombie apocalypse, make a short person taller, and help you leap buildings in a single bound.  It can help with balance, posture, speed, endurance...a strong core is pretty much the unspoken key to happiness. 

Do your core work. And no, that's not a butt-ton of sit ups. It's some stuff like this: 

 
Instead of doing a front plank or side plank for time, work on using doing three-five full deep breaths during the exercise.
 
 
 
 

Be careful about letting your back arch. Pretend someone’s going to punch you in the gut - that’s bracing your core. Totally welcome for that.

 

4. Run

Last but not least, you should actually get some runs in. Build up slowly - if you're not currently running, start slowly. Follow a format of walking/jogging/walking/jogging. Choose a landmark in the distance and run to that landmark. Walk for a minute and repeat. Keep in mind that you will be ready to run from a cardiovascular standpoint sooner than your joints will be ready. So resist the urge to go from 0 miles a week to 30 miles per week. 

Listen to your body. Don't be like me and run on a stress fracture for a month. If something starts causing you pain stop running; immediately. 

Your 5K will be less fun if you can't run it.

*I'm talking about me here. This is how I signed up for a 10k and a Tough Mudder Half within a few weeks of each other. Also, I did peg my jeans.