Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Conscious Running

I've been reading more and more about using good running form, Chi running, and using yoga to help with running. From Danny Dreyer (author of Chi Running) to Roy Wallack (author of Run for Life), I've discovered a common trend—pay attention to your running. I've started to think of this as conscious running—being aware of your form and breathing while you run.

While Chi Running and Run for Life are different in many respects, they have the same goal—making running a safe and effective lifelong program for health, fitness, and well-being. Chi Running stresses the importance of the mind-body connection and using proper body alignment while running.

Avoiding a heel-strike foot landing is the other common thread I've noticed. Some experts support a flat foot strike while others endorse a midfoot or forefoot strike. Basically, heel striking is like hitting the brakes with every stride. This tends to jar your body out of alignment as well as causing deceleration which you have to overcome by pushing harder with every toe off. This extra effort eats away time and expends needless energy. Landing with a flat foot, mid foot, or fore foot greatly shortens the amount of time your foot is on the ground which helps you move forward more quickly.

Shoe companies are even noticing this trend as shown by some of their newest releases. Karhu's new Fulcrum Technology claims that it minimizes the time the heel is on the ground. Newton and Vibram Five Fingers also have shoes designed to promote a midfoot or forefoot strike. Even the more mainstream running shoe company, New Balance, has developed the New Balance 800 shoe which promotes a midfoot strike. Check out the clip below from New Balance about the shoe.


Roy Wallack stresses in his book, Run for Life, that you really don't need a special shoe to learn how to do a midfoot or forefoot strike, but he says that barefoot running or using a shoe like the Vibram Five Fingers helps to more quickly achieve a midfoot or forefoot strike.
So, bottom line, pay more attention to your running form. No matter which strike you're using, being more conscious of your running form will help you better evaluate your running needs so you can make the changes you see fit.
To order your own copy of Run for Life and/or Chi Running, see the "My Picks" carousel under the Runner's Market on the right side of the blog.

11 comments:

Chic Runner said...

Great post that reminded me I def. need to get back into yoga. it seriously helps a ton.

RunnerDude said...

I've been using the Yoga for Runners DVD that I reviewed a few posts back and it really does seem to help.

NoMeatAthlete said...

A friend (who is a great runner) recommended Chi Running; I'm looking forward to applying the principles. One thing which confuses me is the idea of a heel strike. For a few years I've been a dedicated follower of Core Performance, and they really stress dorsiflexion (flexing your foot so that your toe points up, not down) throughout the stride. This seems so contrary to the no-heelstrike school. Any thoughts?

Lora said...

I am a proud ChiRunner. I've been doing it for a year now and I absolutely love it. I actually blogged about it a few weeks ago myself.

Though I lift up the ChiRunning pom poms, I do hope that you find something that works for you, weather it's CR or not.

RunnerDude said...

Hey NoMeatAthlete! From what I've read the dorsiflexion method should mesh nicely with the midfoot or forefoot strike. RunningPlanet explains it like this: "When your dorsi-flexed foot touches down on the ball of your foot or flat footed, directly under your center of gravity, it will suddenly release all of that stored energy at push off. The elastic ability of your muscles is doing a lot of your work for you. As a result your ground contact time is less, your air time is longer and you are running with less effort." Sound like the toes are flexed prior to touching down. I'm not as familiar with this method, but seems like it fits right in. Here's the link to the rest of the RunningPlanet article. http://www.runningplanet.com/training/dorsi-flex-for-running-economy.html Hope this helps.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lora! Thanks for the comment. I'm really getting into Chi running. I'm thinking that alot of other programs are drawing from it. Even though I have short legs, I'm still working on shortening my stride. I can see the benefits of it, but old habits die hard.

Running Through Life said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Running Through Life said...

Great Post!
I am confused about the heal to toe strike as opposed to the mid to front. I had always heard that you should be heal to toe and I was concerned because I am a mid foot striker. I thought I was doing something wrong and needed to modify my strike. I need to go to the library and read this book.

RunnerDude said...

Hey RunningThroughLife, I know what you mean. But from several sources now I'm finding that naturally (barefooted) we tend to run with a midfoot or forefoot strike and I think that's what the "experts" are saying we need to get back to. Evidenlty it causes less injury. That "putting on the breaks" effect caused by heel-striking does seem to make sense. You're running forward but then slowing yourself down by slamming your heel down. What goes around comes around. We'll probably be heel-striking again in 20 years. LOL!

Mike G said...

Nice post, I've seen the Newtons at races and wondered about them. The mid foot strike idea makes sense.

I'd like to hear more about your training runs, what runs you do on a regular basis. Do you use a Garmin?

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mike! Don't have a Garmin yet. Saving for one and hope to get it soon. Do you have one? If so, which one do you recommend? When I'm not training for anything in particular I like to run at least 3 times during the week. Usually a couple of easy 5-milers and maybe a longer run with fartleks thrown in. Then I do an 11-miler on Saturdays. When I'm training for a marthon, I up the mileage and try to do an easy run, a tempo run, a speed workout, and easy run and then the varying long runs. Some running buddies and I just signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. We're looking over training plans now. We'll probably get offically started towards the end of June, but I'd like to start increasing my weekly mileage base now. Once we've decided on a training plan, I'll share more details on the weekly runs. Thanks!