When I was a young lad, 5th grade (maybe?), I ran in my first 5K. It was a big deal for me at the time, since I ran by myself with a bunch of adults. During that race, I was cruising along mid-pack and feeling good! Then, an older guy (maybe my current age, doh!) offered me some unsolicited advice: “Don’t stomp my feet so loudly.”
For the next twenty years (or is it 30? Double Doh!), when I ran purposefully for training or racing (excluding soccer and sprinting), I continued to run with the that in the back of my mind. As a result, I ran more softly: Landing on my heel and rolling onto my forefoot as I propelled myself forward in a quieter, more gentler fashion. So this presumably unlicensed coach effectively turned me into a heel striker! The act of heel striking meant I was applying brakes each time I put my foot down, which shoots an unnecessary shock up my leg and through my joints. This vicious cycle resulted in me running on soft surfaces whenever I could to “save my knees”.
My high school track coach knew how to push me hard and taught me how to run off the blocks and pass a baton, but he didn’t do much for my running efficiency. It wasn’t until I started training for triathlon decades later before I learned proper running mechanics. I first learned them through run drills. Since they double as great warm-up exercises, you get to fire your proprioceptors and engage your neuromuscular system to establish good form before you start your workout. Tis the season to sprinkle them in during your track workout, so you come out of the off-season with better form. Better form means less risk of injury and greater efficiency. In other words, you get to train more without setbacks and the suffering ends sooner, since you’ll finish faster at the same effort!
In the end, my loud stomp wasn’t all that bad, at least I landed on the middle of my foot, which is built to reduce a lot of the shock before it gets to the knees. I think some of the noise came from my vertical oscillation. I should have embraced the midfoot strike, but I should have focused my force from an upward direction to a forward direction. If only I knew then what I know now, I would’ve beaten that old guy in my first 5k!
If you have any doubts about your run form, get a coach to observe you and nip it in the bud before you waste precious time and maybe avoid some costly injuries. And in the meantime, come out to one of our track sessions! We have a lot of track options tomorrow! For details, visit www.dfwtriclub.com/calendar.