Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tools for the Job

Here's a quick discussion about something that's been on my mind recently.

I think people have a lot of misconceptions about running and how to run. For most people they think it's about putting on a pair of shoes (any shoes) and walking out the front door. To them a 'runner' or 'jogger' just puts one foot in front of the other and hopefully reaps the benefits of the effort. And for most, when something starts to hurt they believe it is a product of the simple act of running and nothing more. And then quit, blaming running itself as the cause of their injury and pain. What they don't understand though is that running is like most other mainstream sports in that to do it properly you not only need the correct skills, but also the correct 'tools of the trade'. 

You can read more articles and watch more videos than one could count on proper running form. You will read about mid-foot vs heel-strike, proper back form, arm position, head stability, and more. People will tell you to relax, but don't slouch; lean forward, but don't bend; and extend your stride, but backwards, not forwards. Is all of this important? ABSOLUTELY, it is. Not only is it important to avoid injury, but if anyone wants to be a successful runner they need to be willing to learn how to do it properly. Anyone can throw a basketball at a hoop, but if they want to be accurate and enjoy it they will likely take the time to learn the proper techniques. And being even remotely successful at golf goes without saying, you must make the effort to learn even the most basic techniques. So take the time to do it, you'll not only avoid injury and ensure a longer running career, but you will enjoy it more, I promise.
Every single one of these elite runners is displaying great form. Learn from the best and you too can run better, faster, and more efficiently, with few injuries.

Next, and this is what kind of what prompted the idea of writing this article, Apparel. I love driving down the road and seeing other people running. It warms my heart. I don't care how fast they move, what size they are, or how far they will end up going. I respect the effort they are making and automatically feel a kinship with them. However, it causes me pain when I see them out there running in non-running or worn-out shoes. It's only going to cause potential injury and reduce the overall enjoyment of the activity. I don't think a person has to spend a fortune on running shoes, but I do believe that you get what you pay for. If you want to spend $35 bucks at the outlet stores you will probably get up to 200 miles out of them before they break down enough to the point that you risk injury. If you are willing to spend the dough I would recommend going to a specialty shop and buying a top notch shoe, one that will give you twice those miles and promote your now proper running form. The Altra whore that I am I will say try these shoes before canceling them out. Even if you are a mid-foot striker you will find that they help your form and promote a healthier running lifestyle.

Clothing, oh my gosh, this is where I really start to feel bad for people. Cotton attire is for snuggling up with a good book or sleeping in, it is not for running . . . or any other high effort activity. As a side note, here's a funny thought about professional sports: at the highest levels of sports uniforms are dictated by two things - league rules or function. Golf, cricket, and a few other lower activity level sports require higher dress code standards set by their governing bodies. On the other hand, sports like luge, cycling, swimming and countless others have uniforms that are dictated by the activity itself. If you want to perform at the highest level then you have to know that what you wear has a direct impact on how well you will perform. Here's the funny part; what in the world is wrong with professional basketball players? You'd think with the amount of movement, speed, and agility required to dribble a ball down the court and between your legs that they wouldn't wear shorts that hand down to nearly their ankles. Looks are one thing, but I would bet a significant amount of money that if those top-notch point guards all went back to wearing tiny shorts (like in the 80s) they would have fewer turnovers and their first step would be even quicker. The one constant between all these sports is this moto: if you want to perform like one of the best, dress like one of the best. I see people wearing $60 shorts and $50 shirts and $150 shoes to go play a game of pick-up basketball, but then they will wear the same shorts and the same shirt and maybe even the same shoes to go run and then wonder why they don't run well. If you want to be an effective runner you have to be willing to wear the proper attire. Shorty-shorts might look revealing, but they really do make a big difference. And really, you don't have to go that small, a 3 inch inseam is more than sufficient and still covers a solid amount of thigh. Holy cow, that was a rant. I love it!
Dead sexy AND fast

Ok, this is the final part and I'll make it short. If you want any real results in your running you have to be willing to put in the work. Yes, it's going to hurt. Yes, you are going to be tired. Yes, you might hate it for a while. It's supposed to hurt, you're supposed to get tired . . . really tired, and you might hate it for a while. But if you will stick with it the hurt become motivating, tiredness will be your goal, and both of those will become two reasons why you LOVE to run and not just do it because you feel you have to. It just requires you to keep that commitment and not quit. Remember, Refuse to Quit and even a bad day will feel like a success.

Now I'll get off my soapbox and go have fun with my kids.


Jake said...

Great thoughts!

Ultimately, it really comes down to whether you are willing to lace 'em up day after day, month after month, and put in the work.

Running becomes a lot more fun (and rewarding) when you get fit.

And a nice pair of shorty shorts never hurt anyone! :-)

26.2+ Seth said...

I agree with Jake, a good pair of shorty shorts never hurts. PS good luck in Boston Jake. I will be cheering for you.

Unknown said...

Help...need some advise from actual runners...not books. First let me say I love running...and have never run more than 15 miles. I wanted go for the full 26 this June when I got struck with wicked shin splints - first ever serious injury. I ran through it for several weeks including a half marathon in March, but found the experience in a word "painful". Now I'm REALLY slow and while I can fight through 10+ miles it's rough. I went from running 9 minute miles to 12 minute miles. So, I took the last 2 weeks off thinking I would give myself time to really recover. I'm ready to start up again but not sure if I should try some long runs (for me anything more than 10 miles) or if I need to stay short and build back up. This is a very long winded way of asking what the impact is of not running for 14 solid days might have. Ideas? Yes, I wear the right gear and have reasonable form. Injury caused by sprinting after a very long run reacting to what felt like a dangerous situation after dark...overuse.

Mike Place said...

One of the things I love *most* about trail running is that I don't have to get all dressed up to do it.

I train (and occasionally race) in cotton shirts or whatever I have on-hand that day. (In fact, I ran my last 100-miler in a cotton button-down shirt and loved it.) I've hit the trail after work wearing whatever I had on that day and it's always been fine.

There's certainly nothing *wrong* with performance wear, but at the end of the day, whatever gets you out the door and onto the road/trail/whatever is what's best. :]

Mike Place said...

(I should add, though, that I do always wear proper footwear. That's extremely important, as you point out.)

jun said...

Mike, I will agree that the most important thing is getting out there and doing it, no matter what the attire.
Unknown, sorry about the shin splints. Unfortunately, shin splints are like other running related injuries. With most tendon/muscle related injuries you can just cut back you miles, slow your pace, and run through it. However, shin splints are different. They actually need time to heal that don't include running, at all. My general rule with injury recovery is "when you feel like there is absolutely NO more pain, take two more days off . . . just to be sure".
I've ready studies that say taking two weeks off will have no impact on your fitness level, so your 14 day hiatus is just fine. You might feel sluggish for a day or two, but that's about it. I would not recommend jumping right back into a 10+ miler. Take your time, come back slow, the miles will be there when you are ready to push again. That first week back I wouldn't run anything over 5 miles. The next week nothing over 8 (and even then I'd only go that far once). If the shin splints come back at any point pull back again.
If you just can't seem to get rid of them I would suggest seeing a physical therapist, there might be other factors influencing the cause besides running. I hope this helps.

MVH said...

Mike I remember your reddish cotton shirt on the Buffalo Run (that was you out there, right?). I thought it looked awesome and comfy, specially for the cold morning hours. As for me I just go in what is most comfortable, and that means I wear as little as possible.

One thing about form - I don't know much about running but I believe trail runners benefit from a shorter stride. Those fast Africans in the photo demonstrate long strides for a fast race, but for trails I would not try to copy that, only on longer straighter and flatter stretches of trail.

jun said...

MVH, I think you're right, trail runners to benefit more from a shorter stride. The point of the picture was more about posture and foot placement. The fact that they are running super fast doesn't translate to our world very much. Ha.

Anonymous said...

I have learned to listen to my "coach". You are dead on. I need to upgrade my clothes for more comfort, but the right shoes definately make the difference, and I had good ones, just not the right ones. I am learning that the tiredness is the right goal. At my age, it's easy to go easier, but I need to learn to push a lirttle harder, farher and longer. Since starting trail running, I have loved beeing out, and can't wait for the trails to dry out a bit and get out there again. Mom

becca b said...

Do you have any updates on this year's Quest for King's Peak? I'd love to know the date and join you!