learn to run and move freely

How to Take Your Running to the Next Level


You think you know how to run don’t you? I mean, how hard can it be? As you may know I haven’t been running for very long and I have been “teaching” myself based on my own research. I thought I was doing fine for some time but I still had some chin splinters and ankle pain, after thinking carefully about it I decided I needed help from a proper running instructor.

I have never believed in the sports goods store approach of sticking me on a treadmill, filming my legs and telling me what I do wrong and then sell me shoes that are supposed to correct all that. Sorry guys, I do believe that technique is more important than gear so I started looking for a certified instructor in my neighbourhood. As it turns out the number of options were very limited. Basically no instructors in south of Sweden (I was looking at POSE and Vivobarefoot running). However I found an instructor in Copenhagen, Claus Rasmussen, which is only an hour by train from where I live so a few clicks and a credit card later I was registered for a five-hour workshop, wohoo!

Here’s a little recap of my experience and some revelations.

The workshop started off with introductions of all ten participants in the workshop, it was a very diverse group but I was definitely the least experienced runner. Claus told his story about how he found natural running and how he is now an ultra marathon runner running  several 100 km races and marathons per year with what some people would consider far, far, far too little training. A guy to my taste, efficiency before conventional wisdom without proof.

After introductions we looked at some films of famous runners and briefly analyzed their running style which were very similar all of them even when comparing marathon runners to sprinters. This definitely put the idea of everybody has their own style of running that you cannot change to shame. There seems to be a general efficient way of running and that was of course the idea Claus wanted to prove to us.

When we all had a theoretical baseline it was time to get practical, we all put on our regular running shoes and made short runs while being filmed. Then it was time for the dreaded analysis where we were critiqued one by one. Oh the horror, the horror!!!! It wasn’t too bad although seeing yourself on film may not be the most comfortable thing, we were all in the same boat so it was all right. We saw ten very different styles but since we knew what we were aiming for it was quite simple to spot the errors. Most of us were doing at least one of these:

  • Overstriding
  • Landing on the outside of the foot
  • Landing too much on the toes
  • Tense foot
  • Heel striking
  • Dragging the back leg
  • Pushing off with back foot

Myself I was overstriding, landing too much on the toes (or ball of the foot), had a tense foot causing me to land a bit on the outside of my foot and dragging my back leg. How about that for a nice little package, I didn’t think my running was perfect but at least I thought my stride was somewhat OK, oh how I had fooled myself.

Seeing myself on film was a very nice reality check, no way to get away from what you see. With our challenges in mind we all lost our shoes when it was time for some corrective exercises. The exercises basically focused on finding balance standing on one leg and changing from one leg to other. I thought that the exercises were going to be much more about placing the foot but I was very wrong, I had it completely backwards! The exercises were also deceptively simple but we had to refocus our minds. After some initial exercises we started running very slowly all the time focusing applying what we had practiced. Then it was time for more filming!

The second review after these exercises was very interesting, suddenly all ten of us were much more similar than before, much less overstriding, more relaxed posture and feet and a much more active back leg. Nobody was perfect of course but definitely much closer than before.

The things I still had left was, a tense foot, still focusing too much on placing the foot rather than letting it fall and I was pulling the landing foot a bit along the floor creating friction. Still much better than before. We were all quite happy with what we saw because it meant we were moving in the right direction.

Time for more exercises and some work on our flexibility and focus on developing our muscles and tendons in our feet. Finally we did one more round of filming which showed a little bit of more improvements, check out my clip with all three incarnations of my running:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmhmeI0K8XE]
We rounded off with talking about how to progress after the workshop because that is when the real work begins. Knowing what to do and focus on is one thing but actually executing takes some real effort, especially for those who were heel strikers to begin with.

All in all I was very happy with the workshop and I feel I have much more to work with now and I know it will take some time to become a habit but that’s OK. The process has started!

So what’s your action? Sign up for a workshop if you are serious about running. You can search for a POSE instructor here and a Vivobarefoot Instructor here.

Did anyone say shoes? We cover that another time.

Need extra motivation? Read “Born to run”¬†.


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