In my post detailing how not to train for a race, I mentioned something called “the elephant syndrome,” which is when people who run on treadmills sound like they’re stomping holes through the machine. It’s not a matter of size – which is why I think a person or two was put off by my name for it – it’s simply a matter of how your foot is landing on the treadmill. I’ve stood next to the thinnest of thin mints on a treadmill and listened to them stomp like a herd of elephants was on deck.In the comments, though, I’ve been receiving questions about how to train and avoid injuryas well as how to avoid the elephant-esque running gait (Gait is simply another word to say “movement pattern.” Can you tell I’ve been studying my tail off for this exam? Sheesh!) that so many start off with, myself included. I think I can give a quick run down of what causes it, and how to fix it.
In all seriousness, avoiding injury and correcting the elephant-esque gait go hand in hand, because so many injuries come from the unnatural restrictions and unnatural movements that come from running wrong. Plantar fasciitis, torn ACLs, dull and sore knee pain and so many other common leg and foot injuries happen, more often than not, because of what happens when you run incorrectly.
Watch a kid run. An active kid, who has a healthy play schedule, runs almost entirely on the balls of their feet. They catch themselves on the balls of their feet, lower down (activating their quads, or front-of-thigh-area), and then lift back up (using their hamstrings, or back-of-the-thigh). Consider this a mid-foot strike. This kind of run is ideal.
When you land on your foot, the ability to lower and lift yourself is important. If you land on your heel, you no longer have that bounce, and the force is sent up your leg and through to your knee, the next available joint, to take the brunt. Enter knee pain, and joint wear. Try to point your toes. That movement, right there, is a part of running. You can’t really do that when you run by planting your heel. Enter plantar fasciitis. See what I’m getting at, here?
A few months ago, I visited a running store in the city that asked me to jump on some machine to tell me whether or not I overpronate (rotate your foot inward when you walk) or supinate (rotate your foot outward) my feet when I walk or run. Of course, it was tosell me some shoes that would “correct” this for me, but the question I had to ask later on that week – because, trust, it didn’t hit me immediately – was, “why couldn’t I correct it myself?” Even more so, if it’s something worth correcting, what exactly am I doing wrong?
It was really frustrating to learn that I was running all wrong, but it only took a few weeks to feel the benefits. I was finally feeling “it” in the right places, instead of feeling like I needed to spend the evening rotating my ankle, or feeling like I’m going to have difficulty crawling up or down the train steps. There was one side effect to changing my gait that I didn’t expect, though – it made me infinitely slower. By “infinitely,” I mean adding five whole minutes to my mile time. I just wasn’t used to the burn in the right places, nor was I used to not experiencing pain in my legs.
So…how do you run? Simple. This video should show you how to run without inviting injury:
Any questions? Y’all better hurry up and ask ’em before I close this study book and go pick up a pillow and blanket. Shoot, all this studying has me tired!