Last winter, when I was healthy and trying to prepare myself to race, I would run on the treadmill and try to see how fast the people around me were running. I was curious, but also I was being competitive, which is just pretty dumb (but’s that’s beside the point).
This winter, while I slooooooowly work my way back to running on a regular basis, I still take a look at the people on the treadmills around, but I don’t really care how fast they are running. These days, I’m looking at their form. Are they heel striking? Forefoot striking? Mid-foot? And if they are doing the latter, how the hell are they doing? How does it look so natural? Why do I feel so awkward?
Since my first gait analysis in December I have been working to change my running form. Take a look at that collection of photos above … I’m a heel striker and over-strider. It is pretty drastic. For years, this form, while inefficient, worked OK for me. I was able to put in decent mileage and run some fairly decent races.
But my knees have finally begged for mercy. Arthritis has reared it’s ugly head and the wearing of the cartilage in knees makes heel striking a big no-no. All that force from jamming my heel into the ground and forcing my knees to take the blunt of the force makes running a miserable task.
In order to make running a little more bearable, I have to change my form. The idea is to land on my mid-foot under my center of gravity. Get off the ground quick and minimize the shock my knees have to absorb. (I’m not a scientist, a doctor or a running specialist, so the way I’m describing this might be bullshit, but it is how I understand it).
Let me tell you, for me, changing my form is the hardest thing I’ve tried to do in running. Finishing a marathon is a piece of cake next to trying to master this new style of running.
I’ve started this journey as a mid-foot striker on the Couch to 5K plan. There are two reasons for this. One, since dropping out of MDI on Oct. 15, I’ve been a lazy shit and I’m out of shape. I need to start back slow. Two, working in small chunks of time will allow me to focus on my form. The longer I go, the more likely I am to forget the cues I need to focus on and I’ll start heal striking again.
It has been a struggle so far, but I feel like I’m getting closer every time I run. My tendency is to land on my toes because I’m overcompensating and don’t want to land on my heel. That is probably not ideal, but it is better then jamming my heel into the ground. And my knees have felt mostly OK. There is still some soreness in there, but not the constantly pain I was having when I finally stopped running.
On Sunday, I did Day 3 of Week 3 of Couch to 5K and I finally felt like I was landing closer to my mid-foot than I ever have. I was feeling good and decided to ignore the voice in my ear buds that told me to walk after my last 3 minute interval and continued on for another 3 minutes. Six straight minutes is the longest I’ve run since that painful 2.8 on Oct. 14.
Hopefully, I will continue to feel more and more comfortable with this new form as I continue to run and focus on it. I’m convinced that running will be more enjoyable as I continue to work my way back, improve my form and get stronger.
Then I can stop looking at other people on the treadmill and wondering how the hell they make this look so easy.