Saturday, January 10, 2009

Coach's Corner: Running Softly

In the November 2007 Jack & Adam's Newsletter, the Training 101 section, written by Derick Williamson of Source Endurance, talked about a running technique called "running softly." Recently we received an email from a customer informing us of how much the technique has helped him. Because of that, we wanted to repost the article:

Run Softly

It seems that the inherent beating our legs take while on training runs often leads to some of the most nagging and potentially severe injuries we face as triathletes. That dreaded pain on the inside of a shin, the chronically inflamed IT band, a perpetually tight hamstring, and the list goes on. Too many times we chalk this up as part of the process. What many athletes do not realize is that by applying a few subtle technique changes to running form, common injuries can be eradicated and running speed can be gained. This happens through increased economy of movement which can be achieved by just being quiet while you run, in other words, run softly.

While on a run, leave the ipod at home and prepare to listen. Listen to your gait. Is there a heavy sigh from the ground on every foot strike, or do you notice a shuffling sound similar to autumn foliage moving along at the pace of a breeze? If you are picking up on sounds that are more audible than not, it may be that you need to work on your foot strike and run more softly.

Running soft allows your foot to strike the ground and transition from the initial contact, often considered heel strike or a mid-foot strike, with less breaking force (ground reaction force). This means that less impact is transferred from this brief, but violent stop throughout the body. Think of a plane that lands gently at an optimal angle versus the landing that comes down a little hard and jolts the entire cabin. This is not entirely dissimilar to the jolt your body takes each time your foot lands. When coaches tell athletes to run with light feet, this is precisely what they are referring to.

On runs, occasionally think about foot strike and quick transition. As the heel comes in contact with the ground, try to roll the foot forward to the mid foot, then to the ball of the foot and then to a strong propulsive toe off. Work on doing this seamlessly and without interruption. Another important key to this skill is never allowing heel strike to be forward of the knee. The heel strike should occur directly under the knee and the knee should be directly beneath your center of gravity. Look down while in heel strike to mid-stance of your stride. At that point you should see no more than the tips of your toes extending from beneath your knee. If you see more than just the tips, then you're creating a greater ground reaction force and more resistance - setting you up for a higher risk of injury.

Like anything, running softly takes time to develop, but remind yourself every once in awhile that doing so can have a huge impact.

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