The first piece of the puzzle was reading, coincidentally enough, Gordon Pirie's Running Fast and Injury Free (free online here). I highly, highly recommend this book for anybody that is interested in running. Yes, he is a bit arrogant and seems to go on about himself, but the information he gives on running technique is priceless. For the first time, I realized that my bio mechanics were not only likely to blame for my troubles, but were also something that could be modified. Previously I had tinkered with stretching, shoe selection, bands and straps, massage ... anything but actually altering the way I ran. This was about to change.
Unfortunately, back then, there wasn't a lot of specific advise on converting from heel striking to mid foot landing. I suppose that's because few people had the experience of actually making the change themselves. So I was kind of flying blind when I first made the switch - and I made a huge mistake. I concentrated landing on the balls of my feet. Let me save you some time, and possible pain, by saying that you only sprint on the balls of your feet. When you do regular running, you use your whole foot. Got that. Your whole foot. No, you don't heel strike and 'roll' through your stride, but your heel does touch the ground. I was confused by this at first and ended up with a 4th metatarsal stress fracture on my left foot. Three separate times. Yeah, you read that right. What can I say, I'm a stubborn guy in some respects. I knew that I was onto something with changing my technique, but I (obviously) just couldn't get it right.
Needless to say, after the third fracture I was quite frustrated. Stress fractures take some time to heal and this whole process was now taking years instead of weeks like I had hoped. The good news was that I didn't have to deal with my ITBS or Achilles problems. The bad news was that it wasn't because I had solved them, it was because I just hadn't run enough to start them up. In all honesty, I had pretty much given up the ghost at this point. ITBS, Achilles soreness, stress fractures ... running just didn't seem to be in my cards.
|Mid foot vs. Heel strike
So how did I know that I finally had it? Well, I could finally run. I could run as long as I wanted to without ITBS. I could run as fast as I wanted to without Achilles problems. I could run and it didn't hurt. It's not suppose to hurt. In the Summer, I run in Vibram's on the concrete. I've even run a trail half marathon full tilt just to see if I could. Running smoothly is a great feeling.
Now, the totally ironic thing is that as all of the final pieces were coming together for me on my running, I was at the same time immersing myself into the Paleosphere. So what, right? Well, this is when I started to realize that perhaps chronic cardio isn't the health panacea it's purported to be. Maybe it's not even healthy at all ... especially if you're pushing yourself flat out training and racing, and consuming monster carbage to fuel said activities. It's ironic in that if I hadn't come to this conclusion at that particular moment, I would probably still be out there running across the Country, ala Forest Gump, several times over. Now that I can physically run and run and run, I'm not interested in doing so due to health concerns. I still run mind you, and really enjoy it when I do, I just don't plan on making it a chronic habit as before. Sprinting is my chronic habit now. Oooooh, I love sprinting. But that takes like a total of 2 minutes a week and is a topic for another show.
|My Niece again ... look at that form!!