Do you remember taking your first steps? Me neither, I also don’t recall any PE teacher at school explaining to me how to run, I just, well, ran in plain old plimsoles. so it was with some interest that when I read a book called Older Yet Faster (OYF) written by Keith Bateman and Heidi Jones and they began explaining what they believed the best way to run is.
Now I had already read about standing tall, increasing my cadence and trying to land with a mid foot landing, but what Keith and Heidi do very well in their book is explain how to do this with appropriate drills and exercises to help along the way, all with the promise of making you run faster for longer and injury free – what’s not to like.
So inspired by the book I bought some shiny new shoes with minimal cushioning and “zero drop” from heel to toe and embarked on a mission to adjust my running style. In simplistic terms the idea is that when you’re running your front foot should land underneath your body and not in front. The reason is sound enough – if your foot is landing ahead of your body you are essentially braking a little each time you take a stride and this also creates a bigger impact on each landing which can cause injury.
I started making the transition around 6 weeks ago and wanted to share my learning. Keith and Heidi stress in the book that you need to approach the change as if you are taking up running for the first time – so small short runs (5-10 minutes), every other day and gradually build up from there, paying special attention to how your calves are feeling. The more of a front foot striker you are the harder this transition will be but the more beneficial too. A really useful exercise is to get someone to video you running ideally with a side on view. Many modern smartphones have a slo-mo function and this can be really useful to see your current running style. My first video identified that I was landing slightly forward from the ideal position and so I began the process of adjustment.
I let my enthusiasm (more probably my ego) run away with me and tried to do too much too soon both in trying to run too far and too fast. The result was a week off running and back to the start with a minor calf strain and a very sore achilles to recover. I can only reiterate that if you decide to follow the OYF method then take it slowly, it will pay off if you do.
I’m now back training again, my last video shows that I’m landing about right and I’ve also noticed that my cadence has increased to around the 180-185 strides/minute. My ankle and calf are still a little sore but regular stretching, foam rolling and exercises seem to be alleviating the issue. I certainly feel lighter on my feet so it will be interesting to see if there has been any change in my performance when I get to do my first race of the year in mid February.
Check back then for an update.