Last weekend I attended my first ever “official” running course conducted by CrossFitEndurance Australia and WOW! What an eye opener! In the past I have run half and full marathons, competed in triathlons and generally run for enjoyment, all with what I believed to be an efficient and effective running style. After all, whenever there is running in a WOD, people at CrossFit Tenacity always say “gee I wish I could run like Russ, he looks so comfortable”. Thanks guys, but you could not be further from the truth. I am definitely an avid fan of long distance running, no matter how much I try to fight it. I am built to run and can do it somewhat effectively over long periods.
Firstly, let me just say that the way I am not a running coach. I do not believe I ‘know it all’ and the way I was coached to run during the 2 day seminar at CrossFit Escape is not the be all and end all of running techniques. But, everything I was taught made perfect sense. Use gravity and momentum as your driving forces, maximise and maintain muscle elasticity and torque, and minimise muscle contraction and contact with the ground. Sound familiar? It should to most runners and so should the names Dr. Nicholas Romanov if you’re a runner and Brian McKenzie if you’re a CrossFit athlete.
Today I ran my first race since completing the running seminar and my 1st week of training, the Conquer the Summit fun run at Mount Barker in SA. It was an 11.5km road/trail run and it was my first opportunity to put what I had learnt into practice. I must it admit it was tough but not as hard as I thought it would be. There will obviously always be some performance degradation when trying to implement a new style or technique but overall, I don’t believe my time or stamina level suffered all that much.
I am under no delusions that I have mastered this new running style and I am well aware I need a lot more work, practice and coaching to perfect it. After all, I am trying to undo everything I know and have been taught about running. But the foremost point I got out of todays run was the difference I could feel in efficiency. I tried my hardest to constantly keep my glutes and abs switched on, my head in a good neutral position, lean forward and pull my foot off the ground as quickly and dynamically as possible. I was able to hold it for a little under 2kms at a time. And here is the crux of this article; the biggest and most rewarding thing is… I can now feel the difference between the two running styles! The second my midline was compromised, my hips broke, my shoulders and head dropped forward, my ground strike was out in front of my body and my leg trailed miles behind my body before it left the ground. I could actively and consciously feel how inefficient Russ’ style was!
So that small accomplishment of being aware of the difference in efficiency has had a profound mental effect me. I finally understand what coaches mean when they say things like “being aware is half the battle” and “your performance will drop off initially but will improve dramatically in the end”. So just like backing the weight of in the box and perfecting technique and skill before loading up the volume and intensity on the barbell, funnily enough the same applies to running. The mere fact that I felt the difference between how I am learning to move and how I have moved all of my adult life is one of my biggest accomplishments to date.
So at the end of the day, don’t be afraid of a little drop off in performance! Listen to what your body is telling you. Hard work, patience and persistence will reap more benefits than anything! And lastly, listen to what your coach, mentor or teacher says! Who would of thought they know what they are talking about…