Happiness is finding physical and mental health in running
Winter is coming, days are shorter, but the time is perfect to work on your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If you have suffered a string of injuries and find running as used to becoming difficult, it may be time to do crl-alt-del – reboot and reset your running from the ground up.
After multiple injuries, foot surgery, and being told not to run, I started over in 2000 and have not suffered an injury since. My reset focused on strengthening the feet which are the foundation, learning better movement, getting more mobile in the right places, getting stronger, and landing softer. It is still working and just this week finished the JFK 50 mile run after 2 fall marathons, including a top 50 at the Marine Corps at age 48.
You must be willing to back down in intensity and distance while your structure strengthens in places that may have been neglected, but at the end you will be more resilient and have more fun with a transformed foundation and suspension. Cut your mileage by 50% and lower the intensity. Use some of the time you would be running more to do these exercises, trusting that the end result will be a stronger form, less injury down-time, and more fun.
Here are some resets to work on this year if you’re ready to re-boot. Videos are available on our website at “http://tworiverstreads.com/fun-drills/”>tworiverstreads.com/fun-drills/ . Follow the “Lets Do Lunge” series and 3 episodes.
What: Reset your mind.
Why: We are constantly being told that 30 minutes a day of activity is the “prescription for health”. We sometimes gravitate to gyms or groups and for some that is the ticket to adherence. But often the motivation wears off. We are rarely told it is healthy to spend 30 minutes a day with yourself in peace and calm.
How: This is where an unplugged easy run or walk comes in. So accomplish both by using the 30 minutes of movement for the needed 30 minutes a day of calm. Try it. No music, conversation, trainers prodding you, etc.Just you spending 30 minutes with yourself.
What: Reset the foundation by taking your shoes off .
Why: You gain balance and land softer barefoot, especially on hard surfaces. In barefoot activity you must self regulate. You experience discomfort and fatigue in the feet well before tissue breakdown (if you listen to the messages from the feet).
Your feet become stronger, thicker, and softer. You fix form flaws. Walk before you run. Barefoot running cues the foot control, balance and stability, better form, and recoil that can be used better when the shoe is back on. When you want to race, you can then go faster and more recklessly in shoes.
How: Do what you did as a child. Walk and run around the yard barefoot. Sprint a little and jump a little at first. Listen to your feet, they will tell you how fast to progress. Go down the driveway and back at first, then slowly add distance. There is no rigid structure to this. Just play and enjoy the sensations of the ground, mixing in barefoot as you are able. Trust me, it’s fun.
What: Wake up the springs .
Why: Running is mostly elastic, and the more we brace the foot the smaller the springs become. We have small springs and large springs. The small springs send important messages to the larger ones. If over supported they lose ability to efficiently store and release energy. You lose that “pop” off the ground we observe in quicker runners and children.
The small but essential springs are the small but mighty muscles solely in the foot (intrinsic foot muscles), as well as muscles originating in the lower leg which cross the ankle and sling the foot (specifically the peroneus longus/brevis, and posterior tibialis).
The coordination of these muscles is essential for strength in toe off, balance, and ankle stability. The larger springs are the Gastroc/Soleus, Achilles, plantar fascia, and the long flexors of toes which also stabilize the foot and recoil us off the ground.
Jumping Rope, Jumping Jacks, Burpees, and Mountain Climbers and variations of stair hops are great and fun. Do this just enough for a little fatigue, not to failure. These are shown in Episode 3 of the videos.
What: Reset the Ideal Range of Motion
Why: We need a specific range of motion to run efficiently. A shortened range forces us to create movement patterns which compensate and may place unnatural stresses on tissue. Sitting too much sets up poor mobility. Many runners are too tight in the hip flexors as well as the calf area. Once you have reset these areas you can apply power and spring more efficiently.
How: I recommend a lunge matrix series and two dynamic exercises (the Sumo and World’s Greatest Stretch) daily for all runners. Start with correct form and progress as you are able. Move through the exercises slowly and smoothly. It may take weeks to months to be able to do these exercises optimally. Once you can do them well, do not stop. Spending some time daily in a deep squat like a child in the sandbox is really helpful too.
Progress from the movements in Episode 1 to Episode 2.
Extra Credit if you must take to the treadmill for weather or darkness. I often get asked if treadmill running is similar to the road. It is. The problem is when you run on road or trail on varied terrain you adjust constantly and use different muscles and gears. On a treadmill each footstrike is the same. So if you must use the treadmill vary the incline and speed and mix it into other gym work like the “spring” drills. I do not like indoor treadmill running and I think it is because I miss the 30 minutes with myself in peace. So if this is part of why you run try doing the treadmill “unplugged”. No TV or Ipod. Try a quiet area of home or basement and try to find the same peace. Better yet get some good safety gear and a headlamp available at Two Rivers Treads and stay outside.