form focus (3 of 6)

Monday: Hip hop boot camp class

Tuesday: Stretching & foam rolling & massaging with Penetrex

After my long run on Saturday, I did a bad thing. I was late to an appointment, hopped in the shower and left the house. Which means (head hung in running shame): I didn’t stretch a lick. I felt okay on Sunday playing kickball, and I was kind of smug. I must be in great running shape! But I didn’t run on Sunday — except around the bases — and then I woke up on Monday, and it was like, OH. There are my legs. 

I felt a lot of tightness in my ankles and hips and IT band. I stretched and went to boot camp, but I woke today feeling kind of … worried. I want to be running today & training for my upcoming half marathon, but I’m such a rookie. And I’m worried about over training and fatiguing my legs. SO. I’m not running today. I’m using Penetrex (kind of like Icy Hot) and foam rolling (for the first time all week) … Why do I forget to make foam rolling a priority? Because it hurts like hell. But I know it’s good for me. I should bring it to work with me and set an alarm and roll during the day. (That wouldn’t be weird at all, right?)

Okay, enough of my whining about soreness. Let’s get back to form!

To catch you up to speed, here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  1. form focus one > posture
  2. form focus two > the lean

Today I’m covering lower body focuses. Specifically, how to move fluidly without over-taxing your leg muscles.

Chi Marathon says you want a passive leg swing. That means:

  • Your legs are used for support, but not propulsion (your lean propels you instead).
  • Your legs are relaxed. (I’ve gotten in the habit of shaking out leg tension when I’m waiting at the crosswalk.)
  • Your knees are low (reserve high knees for sprinting, not distance running). You knees bend and float behind you after each stride; they don’t lift. (I’m still working on this float concept.)

Wait, there’s more. And these ones are pretty challenging for me:

  • Your feet should be pointed forward. (I’ve been working on this one for a long time, even before I knew much about running form, because I knew it didn’t feel good when my left foot splayed out. I still have to keep my eye on lefty.)
  • Your feet movement should resemble wheels, not pendulums. Chi Marathon says to think circles with your feet. If you peel your foot off the ground correctly and let it float behind you, you’ll have the circle shape. (Since I have trouble with the float, I think my feet don’t raise behind me enough — and I’m doing more of the swinging pendulum thing. BUT. I won’t really know until I can get someone to videotape me. Yes, I’m going to take videos of my running form. It’s getting serious around here.)
  • And, finally, though I’ve mentioned it before: a midfoot strike. Stop striking with your heels, people!

Tell me: Do these lower leg focuses come naturally to you? If you’ve got the wheel-style foot movement down, how do you do it without expending too much energy?

I don’t have any running photos today, but I do have this, er, exciting photo of me in a work outfit (taken in front of my entry area, of course):

work outfit

The shorts are new and from H&M. Everything else is old, old, old.

I’m not super obsessed with clothes. Except for my workout clothes, which are *very* fashion-forward. ;) (More like very neon.) But I do try to put myself together every now and then. So, what do you think of the look above? Leggings with shorts? Too I’m-trying-to-look-younger-than-my-own-good-and-cutesy? Or actually cute?

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form focus (2 of 6)

I’ve been busy and have fallen behind here. Let’s catch up on runs and then hop to the next form focus.

Monday (of last week): 25 min fast run (in Chicago)

Tuesday: 5.6 mile tempo run (back in Portland)

Wednesday: Physique 57 (30 minutes)

Thursday: speed work (warmup, 4 x 400s, cool down)

Friday: rest day

Saturday: 10 mile long run

Sunday: kickball (so, er, a rest day)

Some thoughts on the week’s runs:

  • The good: I did my long run without too much soreness (a little bit of hip pain at the end) and not a lot of boredom (I wondered if I’d be over it at any point). And I pushed myself a lot in the tempo run on Tuesday — huffing and puffing, but still moving more or less as quickly as I could.
  • The bad: My pace for the tempo run was a lot slower than I wanted it to be. I can’t figure out if I’ve sort of hit a plateau for the moment or if my legs are fatigued or what.

Want to see a before & after from my long run (pardon yet another photo of me in my entryway)?

before and after

Ok, this wasn’t exactly *after* the run, but after a shower and a cute outfit. :)

So, let’s talk form. (As a reminder, I’m sharing form focuses covered in Chi Marathon and adding a bit about my own running habits.)

In the first post, I wrote about posture. And I suppose you’re thinking that running with good posture is a given. But, have you checked out joggers on the street lately? There’s a lot of shoulders-up-to-the-ears and butts-popped-out and duck feet going on.

Today’s focus goes hand-in-hand with posture: it’s the lean.

Here’s how Chi Marathon explains it:

A slight forward lean from your ankles is enough to allow gravity to assist you in falling forward. As your column falls forward, it passes over the foot that’s on the ground. The oncoming force of the road sweeps your support leg out behind you, allowing your leading foot to land beneath your center of mass, in a midfoot strike. This leg then momentarily supports your weight as your column passes over it and the whole cycle happens again. If you’re running at a 180 spm cadence, the cycle happens three times every second.

And here’s how I’m focusing while I run:

  1. Leaning forward with my whole body (not just bending at the waist)
  2. Striking with my midfoot (goodbye, heel strike)
  3. Keeping my feet beneath me (not over-extending way out in front of my body)

The lean is also supported by your arm swing. Did you know you’re supposed to swing your arms to the rear as you fall forward?

And, finally, relax your lower legs, feet and ankles. Again, this sounds kind of obvious, but I realized that I used to run with a lot of tension in my feet. Sort of like bracing myself for each stride, versus just letting myself lean into the stride and letting my feet float beneath me. (Float is a stretch, but you see what I mean.)

Without a doubt, of all form changes I’ve made, the lean is making the biggest difference. Midfoot striking is helping to minimize my IT tightness, and the lean really helps to conserve energy (letting gravity do some of the work for me). I can’t tell you how much energy I used to waste when I ran upright and nearly hopped straight up and down. Now the movement is all about going forward and relaxing. It feels gooood.

Tell me: What’s your foot strike? Have you tried leaning into your run? How do you relax while running?

Up next: lower body focuses