How I Changed My Running Style

How I Changed My Running Style

Soon after I started running, I got hooked on looking for ways to improve. I dived straight in to running literature. At the time, there was a huge ‘barefoot running’ movement in the running community, which seemed to stem from the success of the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

The book was a very enjoyable read (I have re-read it several times since). I quickly followed it up with a book by one of the authors’ influencers, Ken Bob Saxton, called ‘Barefoot Running Step by Step’. You can read about some of my early forays and experiments with barefoot running on my older blog posts.

Both books stirred in me a desire to experiment with my existing running form. I wanted to feel like I could run all day, like the Tarahumara. To run light, strong and silently and stay injury free.

Why The Change?

So, why did I feel this need to change or toy with my running form? Defiance was one reason. A lot of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ seemed to suggest that it was not advisory to change your running technique. To me though, this seemed preposterous. Surely experimenting can lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and technique. The rules of learning, of trial and error and of continued improvement surely were applicable to running too?!

I also wanted to get faster. Based on what I’d read, it seemed clear to me that one way of getting faster was to ensure your running style was efficient. You could say that these books acted like my early running coach. I used the advice the books gave, tried things out and used what worked for me.

My style was unlike ‘real’ runners. I felt like a footballer doing a bit of running and I think I probably looked like it too! I wanted to look more like Mo Farah or Eliud Kipchoge; Graceful, smooth, light and looking like they could run forever.

How I Changed My Running Style

There were a few elements I consciously worked on and they have taken varying amounts of time to get to where I am now;

Which part of my foot hit the ground first.

Up until I read the above-mentioned books, I really hadn’t paid any attention to the mechanics of running. I just went out and ran. The books opened my eyes to seeing running as an art to be improved. My technique could be improved if I took steps to do so. There was actually quite a lot to think about! I changed from being a heel-striker who made contact with the ground way out in front of my body, to a midfoot/forefoot-striker who made contact with the ground right underneath my body. This is generally accepted as good running form.

This did NOT come naturally to me at all! I really had to be intentional about doing this. I had to think about it a lot during my runs. This resulted in an increased leg turnover. My calves aching like crazy after each run for probably about three weeks. I therefore gave my legs more time to recover between each run. Why did they hurt so much? It was because I hadn’t been engaging them properly in my old running technique. I’d been relying more on my upper leg muscles and so my calves weren’t being engaged like they were meant to. After the three weeks of aching calves, I also noticed how much BIGGER they had become! I was using them properly. The result? I was faster, without increasing my perceived effort!

How I hit the ground.

I really did ‘pound’ the pavement with my feet and you could hear me a long way off. So, I consciously tried to run ‘light’ trying to make less sound in my footsteps. I had the following passage from a character called Caballo Blanco, from the book Born to Run running through my head constantly:

“Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a sh*t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

I agree with the sentiments Caballo Blanco expresses here. I’m not one to boast about my running prowess. Since my changes however, I have had the odd compliment about my running style.

These two were the really big ones. The third one is one I’m still working on. It’s a longer term project because it tends only to happen when I’m really tired. When I’m unable to think about anything other than trying to keep running!

Using my arms properly.

Most of the time, my arms behave themselves. However, when I really tire, they (particularly my right arm) tend to develop a mind of their own. They move across my body, making my torso rotate. This slows me down just at the key moment I want to be running as efficiently as possible. The ideal is for them to pump up and down by the side of my body. This provides balance and momentum in the direction of travel. I’m conscious of this to a point but need to try to remember and be focused on this when I get tired on runs.

Key Observations

To give some context to the benefits of changing my running form, I wanted to share a few observations:

I now feel like a runner, rather than a footballer who can run.

Like I could run for longer than I ever could before I changed my running technique.

My speed improved! I know that you could argue that this is just down to training over four years, but I honestly don’t believe that. From a debut half marathon of 1:27:32 in 2012, my PB is now 1:19:12 and I know I could run a 1:18 with some dedicated training now, based on my recent 10 mile race (https://www.strava.com/activities/1272325054).

I’ve only had one running-related injury (through doing too much too soon back in 2013). I don’t think I’d have stayed injury free for this long running like I used to.

I try to avoid over-analysing each run I do. But I think it helps to be mindful of how you’re running and what each part of your body is doing. Often what you think is not what is really going on!

Ready For Change?

If you’re considering what your running form looks like, or how efficient your technique is, then there are a few different things you could do.

  1. Head to a running store that offers gait analysis services. These are often provided free to lure you in!
  2. Speak to a running coach, like me(!), who can provide a gait analysis service and provide you with a report that outlines what you’re doing well and what you should aim to develop (as well as tips for how to do so).
  3. Get someone to record video of you running at a few different speeds (you’ll want side on, front on and from the back views!). Then, watch it back and see what you look like. What do you notice? What would you change?
  4. Watch YouTube videos of professional athletes running – pick those who run similar distances to you and watch how they run.
  5. Check out my blog article here on how to analyse your own running form and use the checklist I provide there!

I hope that helps!

Fitness Journey Of A Bearded Mud Lover. Being TrueSapien!

Fitness Journey Of A Bearded Mud Lover. Being TrueSapien!

Written by TrueSapien Matt Briscoe.

The fitness journey and changes I’ve been on have had a profound impact on my outlook on life and the kinds of challenges I set myself. I wanted to enhance my social profile and chose Instagram as my media of choice. I did not want to brag about the activities I was completing or to seem big headed in my approach. The aim of pushing my workouts and races was to inspire others to do the same for themselves.

In the relatively short time that I have been doing this (18 months) I have lost 3 stone and had a complete lifestyle change. Yes I still have cheat meals and drink (occasionally) but an overall change in emphasis has occurred and I am following a different path to the one I was on in 2016.

I stumbled across Truesapien as I was posting online and instantly jumped on board with their ethos and beliefs. Challenging yourself and not settling for mediocrity meant that I was being shown the progress of athletes online who promoted the brand avidly. Wearing the brand and going out of my way to improve myself has resulted in new personal best times in a number of distances during my training time.

Breaking through the 20 minute mark for the 5km distance, smashing a year old 10km PB and half marathon times have been a number of achievements this year. It has changed my mindset and caused my to strive for new challenges to test myself. The completion of 25 miles at Europe’s Toughest Mudder has now resulted in the desire to complete even more in Germany later this year. I now constantly find myself looking at events online which have the potential to be the next big challenge and the guys at Truesapien have been supportive at every stage.

Being Truesapien has been motivational and the community of others is there at every step of the way to encourage you to push harder and further to smash goals and targets set!

We’ll be featuring posts from Matt’s Blog, ‘Fitness Journey Of A Bearded Mud Lover‘, on a regular basis as he continues his journey. If you want to read more in the meantime head over to his page!

CHALLENGE LIFE. BE TRUESAPIEN!

Are You TrueSapien? Are You Challenging Yourself?

Are You TrueSapien? Are You Challenging Yourself?

So are you TrueSapien? What makes people stand out in life versus those that are happy to merely exist?

There is no exact definition as characteristics will vary from one person to another, depending on their individual beliefs, passions and preferences. For example, what sport or fitness activities appeal to you may be entirely different to another TrueSapien. You may have certain physical traits that lend themselves to certain activities over others. How you choose to challenge yourself may be entirely different to the next person.

Whatever the differences, the following points are universal and common across all TrueSapiens……

  • Do you consistently challenge your existing perceived limits,attempting to be the very best you can be?
  • Do you refuse to accept mediocrity?
  • Do you know your overriding purpose in life and your ‘Why’?
  • Are you an ‘encourager’ rather than a critic and do you admire others’ achievements rather than be envious of them?
  • Do you appreciate, respect and admire the world around you?
  • Do you place a higher value on your own functionality for purpose over simply looking good?
  • Do you take any ‘failures’ as setbacks and use them as a positive learning experience?

Being TrueSapien isn’t like becoming a member of a club, body or an organisation. There’s no joining fee or annual renewal. You’ll know from the points described above whether you are or not, or indeed whether being TrueSapien is something in which you believe.

Being TrueSapien is about the attitude you demonstrate as you challenge yourself in whatever way you choose, from OCR or Triathlon Events, Calisthenics or Strongman disciplines, Marathon Running or Crossfit.

Read our Story page to find out more about TrueSapien.