Running for Non-Runners

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” 
Note: I am not a doctor nor a coach, below is information that I have read, learned and applied in my efforts toward running as it relates to my body and my experiences. 
If you weren’t a runner in school growing up, most likely you still view running as a form of punishment. Maybe you look at people running marathons and think, “What the hell is wrong with them!?” Maybe you think you have to be tall and lanky to run well. Maybe you think you’re too fat, too misshapen, too un-athletic, too weak or too injury prone. Besides, running is HARD, right?! I know, I come from that background! While I ran for awhile in high school (non-team related) I later found myself plagued by knee injuries, a smoking habit and extra weight that was keeping me from running freely. Now, I've run a half-marathon and am training for a Half Ironman!

The reason that running is so hard and often conjures memories of sore knees, achy backs and hurty joints is because we, as adults, mostly run incorrectly. We get up from our sedentary desk jobs in which we sit crammed into an unnatural position all day and then try to head out and get a few miles in our trusty old shoes, legs reaching out in front of us in long strides, heels hitting pavement and rolling forward to our toes to push off into another loping stride. Our eyes stare at our feet beneath us and our spine naturally hunches forward following our heads and causes our chests to collapse. A half mile in we’re out of breath, our knees ache and we’re feeling defeated again.

Watch a child run in an all out game of tag at the park. Watch one of a million YouTube videos of Olympic sprinters. Watch their light, stress-free, swift motions and notice the difference running correctly makes on your enjoyment of the sport. Looking for motivation? Why not sign up for a local 5K, 10K or half-marathon? There are tons of plans available that will keep you from overtraining while keeping you working towards a goal. Below you will find a few lessons I've learned so far, I hope that you find them helpful! More, after the break!

Posture :
  1. Begin with the most upright posture you can muster. Act as if you’re being pulled up by a string through your spine to the crown of your head. 
  2. Keep your eyes out and forward (never down). 
  3. Slightly rock your pelvis forward (like it’s a fishbowl full of water that you don’t want to spill) and gently push your chest forward - this way your chest, knees and hips are all in the same plane when running. By leaning slightly forward you enable your feet to fall under your knees as opposed to reaching out with your feet. 
  4. Your core is firm, protecting your back and supporting your frame in its proud position. 
  5. Arms are bent at 90’ angles with your hands loosely closed. Imagine your center line running down your spine, and do not allow your hands to cross over that line.

Foot strike :
  1. Start reforming your foot strike like it’s your #1 priority in life. 
  2. You want to land on the soft cushy mid-foot to the forefoot (ball). The foot then gently flattens out around the ball and springs back up pushing off from the ball of the foot to the big toe. 
  3. Make your steps small - each foot should strike underneath you as opposed to reaching your leg out in long steps. It’s going to feel funny like you’re taking tiny baby steps, but the higher your cadence is (# times your foot strikes the ground per minute), the more upright you are and the less force is hitting your body. 
  4. Think of tiny soft little movements, minimizing bounce and jarring impact. 
  5. Moving your body weight over the fore/midfoot is going to require your feet, ankles, and calves to do more work! They may be sore as they learn these new movements – but better sore muscles than damaged joints.
  6. Avoid cement and sidewalk like the plague – these hard surfaces are not your friend. Try to find asphalt, bike paths or dirt trails for a softer surface. 

Strength :
  1. Unfortunately, most of us are just using part of our bodies - like, oh it's just running, I'll just use my legs! Yet, running requires a strong everything - glutes, hips, calves, abs, back, hamstrings AND quads. The stronger everything else is, the more your full body is used to share the effort and the less your joints are injured.
  2. I like to do single leg squats and step ups to work one leg at a time so that my favoritism for my right side can be worked out. I have found that strengthening my inner and outer hips (abductors/adductors), glutes and hamstrings have helped a LOT. I can now recruit more muscles in to push me forward on my runs.
  3. To mix things up and strengthen feet, find some sand or grass to run barefoot in!

Consistency and Time:
  1. Get a running habit! Focus on being consistent, not being fast.
  2. Start slow, increase mileage no more than 10% per week and take an easier week every 3-4 weeks. Sound confusing? Find a free running plan online (see resources below)
  3. Run your own pace. Don’t push yourself to injury running with friends or trying to catch that girl in front of you. 

Recovery :
  1. If all this running makes your feet or legs hurt, go ahead and stick them in ice water (a bucket or the sink works great or go for the full ice bath!) for 10-15 min after each run. This well speed recovery and reduce swelling, and in the summer it feels good. 
  2. Warm up before each workout with dynamic stretches, walking and light jogging. Cool down adequately after each run. 
  3. STRETCHING, self-massage and using a tennis ball or foam roller to release sore calves/IT bands is always beneficial.

Gear + Safety: 
  1. #1 – Get a ROADID and wear it EVERY SINGLE TIME. This may save your life! 
  2. Go to a good running store like Road Runner Sports or A Snail’s Pace and do a gait analysis that includes looking at your foot strike, your legs, your back, etc and find the best fitting shoe for your body/stride.
  3. Make sure your shoes are not old – a worn down shoe may cause you to run unevenly or incorrectly causing you pain or injury!
  4. Summer months require more hydration, sunscreen and possibly a hat or visor!
  5. If running on the street, run in the bike lane INTO traffic. Wear reflective or bright clothing, keep an ear and an eye out for hazards.

What Will Cause an Injury?
  1. Running too far. Make sure you only increase your weekly mileage by less than 10%
  2. Running too quickly with sloppy form
  3. Heel-striking
  4. Weak supporting muscles may contribute to an injury over time
  5. Running on sidewalk/concrete all the time
  6. Not stretching or icing sore muscles may contribute to an injury over time



Big Daddy Diesel said...

This was a great post!! I am starting a blog, just for training, from beginner to advance concepts from articles I found on the web, I am just starting it, havent posted on it, can I use this as on of the articles?

Rose said...

Sure thing! I'd be honored :) A link back to my page would be appreciated! Have a great weekend.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Thanks, its been added to my library, when I post it, I will let you know, still in the gathering of info stage right now

Julie said...

Awesome, awesome post! I wish I had stumbled across someone like you when I first started getting into sports --- well explained and thorough article!! :)