Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Focus on Technique: Smart or Desperate?

At this time last Saturday, I was one unhappy lady. My entire family had come along (3 hour drive) to watch me attempt to run 70 km in 6 hours at the Grenaa 6 hour race, but my right leg was not ready. I switched shoes from the Hokas to my old New Balances after 2 hours. It helped only temporarily. The pain in my right hip was so bad that I kept looking at the indoor pool we were running around and wishing I were swimming.

Injuries are frustrating. Infuriating if you allow them to be. Especially when you can't figure out what is injured. (in my case, I still don't know if it is the knot in my calf or SI joint subluxation)

But there is a question that begs to be asked: Why do I keep getting injured? In the last year, I've been dealing with an injury around 50% of the time (various injuries - twice on the left side of my body, now on the right). That just can't be optimal for training.

Something needs to change. The first thing I'm learning from my coach is that I need to enter each running session uninjured and ready to work hard.

My old philosophy was end each session barely able to hobble home. The obvious problem was the more weeks I trained, the more wore down I became.

Last week I only ran twice and I just worked on technique. I have been reading Julian Goater's "The Art of Running Faster" and have focussed on:

-shifting my weight forward
- increasing my cadence
- jumping rope
- running up sand dunes

All of these things will land you on the front of your feet.

And did you ever think about how many steps you take a minute? Turns out the top 150 finishers at one New York Marathon all ran somewhere between 184 and 188 steps per minute.

On one of my runs last week, I would run 1 minute at marathon pace and ran between 183 and 187 steps, but this was with focussing on a fast turnover. You should try it sometime. It is fun.

The schedule Ole has devised for me this coming week is in preparation for the Bandera 100k January 12th. And in taking my recovering leg into consideration
(I am also supposed to jump rope before and/or after most of my sessions)

Mon: recovery
Tues: 40-60 min at 4:20-4:45 min/km
Wed: 45-60 min at 4:20- 4:45 min/km focus on high cadence
Thurs: 20-22 km at 4:45-5:15 min/km
Fri: No training
Sat: 45 min at 4:30-5 min/km; 200 m x 6 at 36-40 sec 2 min. pause. (wow! that seems like a LONG pause)
Sun: 10k trail race (at Herlufsholm)

He also asked me to send him a video of myself running. SR took this today. That is Christian panting in the background (I think). Do I appear to be limping?

I'm excited to get some video feedback from Ole (and you guys!).

So the focus right now is two fold:

1. Better technique
2. Train less, but more intense

My last resort is moving our family to Copenhagen to practice Bikram Yoga on a daily basis because that is the only thing that really seems to help my right leg. (I learned from the owner that the Copenhagen Ballet has now experienced the benefits of Bikram and the whole troupe is practicing there to prevent and treat injuries. Cool stuff.)

Further notes on the gluten free diet:

So step-daughter Natali has been having stomach issues for months that have kept her home from school. I was ready to call and make a doctor appointment when I made the suggestion she just try the gluten free diet, just for a week. Well, she tried it and is so happy. After the first day, her stomach cramping was gone and it hasn't come back. As a bonus to her, her acne is also gone. The latter had also really bothered her, so she has no interest in eating gluten again. Ok, besides the fact that she misses her rygbrød (danish rye bread) when all of her friends eat it for lunch.

Count me amazed: either gluten/the things one eats with it are generally unhealthy OR we have two gluten intolerant gals in the family.

Finally, congrats to Katie and Ana-Maria on both running amazing sub 19 5k times. They are both getting faster and faster and are so fun to follow. I didn't even know they lived close enough to each other to run the same race. Great to have inspiration. And to see the effects of structured training.


SteveQ said...

Apparently, now that others are saying what I've been saying about training, you're listening - so I'll let others give you feedback.

Meghan said...

Several thoughts, Sea Legs:

1. If you're injured on just one side of your body (and exempting an acute incident like a big fall or something heavy falling on some body part for which you've been overcompensating), assume you have some biomechanical asymmetry. There are two other assumptions you can make: you're always going to have some asymmetry, as it's human nature, and your place of asymmetry may or may not be on the side of your body where you feel pain. For instance, my lower right leg/foot is typically where I have referred pain, but my problem is glutes on my left side being prone to function shutdown. These have been my 'issues' 'forever,' and will probably be my issues forever.

2. To treat injuries, you have to treat both the referred pain site and the original issue. For me, my issues are under control and have been for about 18 months. But I'm constantly doing left glute wake-up exercises before each run and working on left-side glute strength more than the right side in the gym. Also, I practice self-massage and joint mobilization (learned from PTs through the years) on my lower right leg/foot when referred pain/tightness begins to occur, usually after a long run, race, or a challenging strength workout. Finally, I'm constantly doing lower right leg strengthening more than the left side when I'm at the gym. In my head, I figure that I will be overfocussing on my weak spots until I no longer want to run a lot.

3. If you have weak/painful/tight spots, it is human nature to favor/protect them all the time. This includes when you're running, sitting, standing, laying if you're not unconscious, cooking, all the time. There's probably some part of your non-running life in which you exacerbate your own issues by overcompensating/protecting/overusing. For example, for me, I have a propensity to sit just a bit asymmetrically, and the manner in which I sit allows my left glutes to shorten. Pay attention and find where in life, if at all, you are overcompensating/protecting/overusing and concentrate on not doing whatever it is that exacerbates your issue. Another runner I work with, for instance, has right foot problems. She's a massage therapist who always braces herself for the big moves while massaging with her right foot back and dorsiflexed. She's working on reminding herself to spend equal time bracing with her left foot so she's not overworking her right foot.

More in a second comment as Blogger is only letting me leave a certain number of characters...

Meghan said...

4. You and I both have an inclination to tilt our pelvises posteriorly when we're running. I've seen it in you in person and in this video. I've been told by PTs that this is somewhat unique and oftentimes genetic. I keep control of mine by waking up my transverse abdominals before running and doing strengthening exercises for them in the gym. (I also focus on my running form, which I talk about in a little bit.) Also, yoga helps me because almost all poses are best performed with a tucked tail bone/no pelvic tilt, so I'm constantly being reminded of the pelvic orientation. Your posterior pelvic tilt is no doubt what causes you to lean back when you run, you're evening out your center of gravity.

5. Finally, it's my opinion that when the pelvis/upper body is in the correct position while running, the lower body will do what is most efficient for it, including a good cadence and an appropriate-to-your body foot landing. Chi Running is a book I recommend for helping figure out an appropriate core/upper body position. While I don't subscribe to all aspects of chi running as a concept, I'm a big fan of their thoughts on pelvis/upper body positioning. It's complex to be explained, because your pelvis is supposed to tilt just a teensy bit in different directions based upon whether you're running uphill, downhill, or on the flats, and this causes your upper body to make teensy adjustments. But, simply said here, if you're running on the flats, your pelvis should be in a neutral position and your upper body should be gently tilted forward from where it emerges from the pelvis. When you start practicing this, you will likely find this position exquisitely difficult to hold for more than a few miles of running at a time--for me it seems easier to hold when I'm moving fast. Your core muscles, which are used to being unengaged while running, will fatigue quickly and you will find yourself having to focus hard. But, I've also found that you adapt quickly, a couple of weeks of focusing on pelvis/upper body positioning along with focused strength work in the gym will change your running posture forever.

Okay, enough chatter for now. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. I'm not a trained expert, but I've learned a lot through personal experience and helping others through theirs, too. Hope you sort it out, you're too fast to be injured! :)

sea legs girl said...

I love the difference between these two responses! Steve - no soup for you. Meghan - 5 servings of soup.

Steve: jump ropes, cadence, sand dunes? Have you mentioned these to me? Sure everone has said train less but more intensely. I only believe it when I'm injured, though :o). Nothing personal. I'd love advice from you.

sea legs girl said...

Meghan - thank you so much for your expertise and insight!! I love what you have to say. I just have trouble explaining why my injury locations are new every time. I can only believe it's over training. Lots of people tell me I run leaning back - but if that were my problem, I just think I'd tend to get injured in the same way all the time or have chronic injuries. I just don't.

Katie said...

I'm no injury expert, but going back to the basics and practicing technique should help. I was constantly struggling with injuries from my senior year in college (2001) until 2009. I felt like once I hit 40 miles of running in a week and I'd fall apart. I made a real effort to figure out what the heck was going on in 2009. It helped that I was pregnant and didn't have the pressure of racing. Anyway, I sort of figured out from reading and my own running pictures that I was really over striding and landing hard on my heels. So I changed to more minimalist shoes and made a huge effort to take smaller strides. It took a good month or so to get accustom to a shorter stride. It felt like torture, but now I'm doing a lot better. Now, I'm not implying this is your issue. But I think practicing good running techniques will help whatever isn't working in your form...

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

I can see that there is no forward lean in the video. That is tough to come by via conscious decision. Lots say that working on running form can lead to injuries.
I started out as a huge heel striker but like Katie, switching to minimalist shoes really helped. The mid foot strike has much less impact than the heel strike, and I think you are doing some of that in the video. I think simple running drills and strides on a football field, all out should really help. Not sure what to say about the injury. I mean, everyone gets injured, elite athletes get injured and they are doing strength, massages, etc. I know you run a ton of miles (less now, I know) and I wonder whether your body simply needs rest from doing one marathon a week (even if going slow)...I know rest is hard though:) Good luck!

Anonymous said...

What has helped me enormously with aches and pains was switching to minimalistic foodwear (the "adipure" in my case). I am in my 23th week of pergnancy now (we communicated via email this week) and I started to wear those (and no other shoes!) in my third month of pregnancy. I experienced some pain in my adductors then which was probably due to the levels of relaxin in my body that peak at around 12 weeks. It might be that I am painfree now because relaxin levels have already start to fall, of course...And my mileage is pretty low at the moment. But I think that type of shoes is worth a try! I am a forefood-striker, do not allow yourself to be deceived that forefoot striking is a guaranteed way to run painfree! Even so my knees and hips are generally fine my weak parts are my achilles tendons. But your program (hill runs, jumprope) seems good. You might add some plyometrics and weights squats/lunges etc...I´d like to add that in your video it seems that you hardly lift your legs and do not have a wide range of motion (that might be something required for successful ultra-running, I am not too familiar with running those distances) but you definitely run from your calves and could use your glutes more! A strong glutes definitely hepls with running injury free!
Good luck and keep us posted!

mmmonyka said...

I really cannot see much from the video because it is too short and I am not used to analyzing running videos but it seems to me that you have zero knee lift, it looks like a shuffle with way too high cadence. Are marathoners supposed to run like that because it is more energy efficient?

Let us know how those 36sec 200s go for you:)

maria said...

Can you make a video on a treadmill? Or with the videographer in a moving car or bike next to you? Rear view and slow motion are bonuses. This video doesn't show anything. Except that you look happy to be running. : )

Do you read Runblogger? He's put up some slow motion vids of people running and the comments are interesting, to get one thinking about gait analysis at least. He might look at your video too.

SteveQ said...

Okay, for what it's worth: you run like an ultrarunner, which is fine if you're running long and which works well for some runners at all distances (Alberto Salazar "shuffled" a 4 minute mile). You land on your heel and rock forward, minimizing up-and-down movement. If you want to try running like a short distance runner, I'd have you start by working on the push-off of each step, forcing your feet to make a pawing motion; this will move you just a bit further toward running on the balls of your feet and would be less likely to lead to injury than forcing yourself to land on your toes right away (like in jumping rope). After that, work on knee lift and then on back kick. But... listen to your coach; I wouldn't coach you because you ask everyone else to second-guess.

Running with MTP said...

You asked for Unsolisited Advice or Comments.

You are very pre-occupied with a low running weight are you getting enough of all the right nutrition?

You blogged some time ago you will only run hard. You race a lot.

When is the last time you spent 4 months running mostly slow and easy to base build.

Are there any cycles to your training?

Living in WI - I usually shut down and half ass train November and December ... Get fat and slow by January 1st. Then it takes 2-3 months of lots of mostly slow miles to de-fat before I can run hard. This leaves me in a pretty good position to race in May.

I tend to go by the philosophy - Run a lot ... mostly slow, but sometimes fast or hard.

I guess my point is when was the last time you just did a good amount of base building to let your body heal and strengthen to get it ready for a good training cycle?

Maybe you do this every year?

sea legs girl said...

Just two quick comments:

I have actually been wearing minimalist shoes (New Balance trail) since 2010 and agree they help with where you land on your foot. They have also facilitated faster running, I think.

Number 2 - I never second guess my coach!

sea legs girl said...

Running with MTP - very interesting points! My cycles revolve around those times when I am too injured to run. I assume that if I keep beating myself up by running fast that sooner or later my body will get used to it and stop getting injured. But for now that will probably require a decrease in mileage. For some reason January and February are always big training months for me (even in WI). No races to injur me and variation between treadmill and snow. If there were enough snow here for me to cross country ski, I think I would take at least a month off of running this year.

SteveQ said...

btw, I get a lot of traffic from your site to mine when your blogroll shows a picture of a girl in my snippet. I think it's women who think mine might be written by a woman, just because of the photo. I can't think of a way to prove that, though.

sea legs girl said...

I'm guessing most of those visitors already know you and are just wondering what you will say about THAT particular woman. There's my theory!