I am no runner. I'm the first to admit that. I somehow have a few running credentials to my relatively lackluster stat sheet, and even those I consider very mediocre among a roomful of people I call elite. My progress accelerated on the bike in my early triathlon years quite quickly ........ but in comparison my running progress was never commensurate to what my cycling was. Running has never come easy to me. I struggle at it and work at it like I've committed to nothing in my life. I tell you this because I think it's important to being able to relate to me, and me to you. I work really hard to make minimal gains, I have to do tons of drills (and I look like a mutant giraffe while doing them!), and I work very hard at trying to do things that seem to come naturally to most others. I understand this frustration. I've put my time in.... and for a non-runner I did manage to get my Irondistance run off the bike down to 3:23 at my best race. Pathetic, and not even in the same league, compared to my elite competitors (let's see the swim evolve to 10-miles from it's '1/8 the distance of the bike or run' 2.4 and we'll see this sport start to even out a little more fairly.......but that's another rant!) but for one who has never done a marathon (but I've done 13 Ironman events....why run 26 miles without a 5+ hour bike warmup? Craziness! ha...), and only 3 half marathons in her lifetime (minus triathlon), this has been enormous run progress.
So how did I improve my running? Well, a couple excellent coaches deserve the credit for that ..... but essentially it is the attention to the details. For sure. So let's talk about one of them.
I've been running a bit more these days. A few mornings ago I was out on the trails. I was heading down a hill as Tim DeBoom was running up it - dude looked like a gazelle, our paces pretty much the same even though he was running UPHILL. The f*cker. :) We waved as I wheezed, "Damn you're flying" ..... He smiled and said, "I just started" as we passed..... we both laughed. He was heading in the direction of his house, about 3 miles ahead. He didn't just start. Funny.
I'm always aware of wild animals when on the Boulder trails. My two primary concerns: Rattlesnakes and Mountain Lions. I'm not so concerned about Rattlesnakes this time of year, but mountain lions - oh yea! Every crackling noise around me causes me to startle. I'm somehow always ready for a wild cat to pounce on me from the side of a ledge, sinking it's fangs into my neck, killing me instantly. My trailrunning friend, Louisa, says, "Carole, every time you have run on a trail a mountain lion has probably seen you. You just haven't seen IT!" Uggggg. I don't need to hear that.
Get a load of this shot taken a couple months ago from a Boulder residence.
Anyway, so I am running along a Boulder trail and come upon a warning sign...
Can't quite read what it says? Let's get up a little closer.
I found this sort of humorous. Okay okay, so "coyotes" are not the great predators of the Western Hemisphere. I hear ya. But, still. How often along one of your runs have you approached a sign that warned you about active coyotes? Something about that made me laugh.
But I digress. A few of my athletes have some REALLY tight hips, and a few some weak gluts too. Ah yes. The 1-2 punch. VERY common. One of the things I have been working on with a few of them is getting their spines a little more neutral when they run. Most of us compensate, somehow, when we have things that are weak or tight, and we may not be recruiting the needed muscles because stronger ones dominate. This can be a vicious cycle until we purposefully break it.
One thing I am very guilty of is arching my back a bit when I run, especially when I get tired. My gluts are no longer firing, and my body falls into "compensation mode". My quads take over and my lower back gets KILLED because it can't sustain that instability. My form sucks! Running like this is much less efficient!!! Running with a neutral spine means I am able to lift my knees easier, which makes me a more efficient runner. This doesn't mean to run vertically - we are talking hips and spine, not body position (that's for another post!).
A few weeks ago JZ was helping me get on a stretching program to loosen my hips and get them to open. Holy sh*tballs, Batman. She had to literally HOLD MY HIPS IN PLACE, USING ALL HER BODY WEIGHT, to keep me from hiking up my hips, compensating, etc. I am THAT tight. I've got to work on this or I will continue to work harder with very little gain.
A few of the athletes I coach are on similar structures. There is a great 8 minute Pilates video for you to try that I really like. Try to follow along with her - notice how you keep your lower back pressed to the floor as you lift your knee. Notice how much easier this is. If you can't do this while on the floor, consider that you're probably not doing this when you're upright and trying to run either.
Then, bring this video work to your running. Think about your lower back being able to touch the floor (as if you were horizontal) and see if that helps a bit....
Oh, and of course....... after your long runs, be sure you are recovering optimally. A good pair of Swiftwick Compression Socks here! (best I have ever tried!) TV, and a
Happy running, friends!