Showing posts with label technique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technique. Show all posts

Monday, July 7, 2014

The paradox of high humidity and faster running

Part of today's route. Pretty. Humid.
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Happy 7th of July. For some reason, the company I work for has made both the 4th of July and today company holidays. That, plus working from home last Thursday, allowed me to run for five consecutive days. Counting this morning, I've covered 21 miles in that period. I wish I could do that every week.

Even though I was up before 6:00 AM today, I managed to squander the early hours and didn't start my run until a little after 8:00 AM. When I stepped outside it didn't seem all that humid. There was a slight breeze from the north that combined with the mid-70's temperature, creating what seemed to be comfortable conditions. That was an illusion.

The neighborhood looked very nice under sunny skies and the first mile of my route was fairly shady. From then on, the temperature seemed to rise by the minute, along with the humidity. I mixed up my route in an attempt to break the boredom of my local streets and found myself running up what passes for a long hill in my neighborhood. Between the treeless road and the thickening air, I moved into direct drive mode. That's when I put all resources toward getting through the distance.

I often forget that when I put a little more power into my stride, my running efficiency (speed benefit as a function of expended energy) increases. This is the trick I occasionally use when a faster runner begins to overtake me in the neighborhood or on the Bethpage trail. By lengthening my stride and increasing cadence a little, I can lower my pace by a mile per minute for short periods without feeling like I'm working that much harder. 

About half the time I can hold back speedy challengers until one of us turns off to another road. Running harder, despite the humidity, helped get me to the 4 mile mark faster than I expected. The only issue is that I usually reach a point where I can no longer sustain the greater speed. Fortunately, I was able to maintain the pace and I even took it up a gear for the final 200 meters.

When I went inside to cool off before my shower, I realized that my level of sweat was equivalent to having jumped into the pool. In fact my running clothes looked like I had just done that. I have a different schedule this week that will involve some travel, so I don't know when I'll get a chance to run again before the weekend. If the timing works out favorably, I may be able to fit in a couple of mid week runs.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oh pavement, how I've missed you

Nice to run again on terra firma
Today's run (street): 4.85 miles

Motivation was low this morning, even though weather conditions had greatly improved since yesterday. With temperatures in the low 40's and not a cloud in the sky, I should have been excited about the prospect of running outside for the first time in eleven days. My wife was on the treadmill and I thought for a moment how easy it would be to just throw on some shorts and hop on after she'd finished. But I was not going to let myself succumb to Treadmill Stockholm Syndrome, prompted by six straight runs on the machine.

According to weather reports, the relatively mild temperatures we saw this morning were countered by 20-25 MPH winds. That brought the wind chill into the low 30's. In deference to that, I wore a long sleeved shirt with a short sleeve layer on top and a pair of lightweight track pants. I also wore an over-the-ears hat that provided good protection when the wind hit at certain angles.

I mapped my route in my head, thinking it would get me to at least 4.5 miles, which was my target. Some people have told me they have trouble transitioning from treadmill to road after numerous indoor workouts. I didn't have any such problems today. In fact, my stride felt far better on the road than it had on the treadmill.

Early on, I saw a guy running towards me on the same side of the street and I was tempted to give him the, "it's safer to run against traffic" suggestion. I'd seen him running in the neighborhood for years, and figured that he's probably set in his ways. The last time I suggested the safer choice to a runner, she yelled back that she's been running that way for many years, that the neighborhood is very safe for runners and basically I should mind my own business. So for the most part, that's what I do now.

I didn't burn up the road in terms of speed but I did throw in some surges. TPP had suggested a technique for opening up my stride by launching off my trailing foot while keeping my legs under me. It seemed to translate into a faster pace. I focused on running that way over the last mile and saw a 40 second per mile improvement.

I could have easily gone the additional .15 and made it a full 5 miles but I decided to end the run when I reached my street. I felt good and my heart rate averaged 83% of max overall, finishing up at around 87%. That was almost exactly what I'd been averaging on my prior runs on the treadmill. I have a work-intensive day planned for tomorrow so I doubt I'll run. Mondays are usually my rest days, so no guilt. It was nice to be back on the road today. I definitely missed it. I will start adding a little more speed this week as I prepare for the GLIRC 2x3 trail relay in Bethpage on February 15th.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Running efficiently is naturally wrong

Does form follow function?
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

Remember when you were young and your parents taught you how to run? Of course not. Kids learn to run naturally through a combination of confidence, impatience and excitement. I was thinking about this on my run this morning, as I put attention to where my feet were falling and the length of my stride. It occurred to me that all the books, magazines and web articles I've read about improving running technique are only corrupting what we comfortably do by nature.

I realize that this is a provocative statement. Landing on your fore foot and shortening your stride will make you a faster and more efficient runner, right? I'm not sure. I've observed enough runners to confidently say that the way you look while running is not a true indicator of how well you can actually run. I remember running on the Bethpage trail and seeing a woman ahead of me who was pronating so badly that it was making me dizzy. I increased my pace to pass her, until I realized I'd never catch her. Inefficient as she looked, she totally outclassed me in terms of speed.

I haven't given up on improving the way I run, but I'm no longer willing to fight nature to do it. I've been running in minimal shoes for three years to promote mid-foot landing, but all my running shoes still show wear on the lateral heel, along with the mid-foot. I'm okay with that because (knock wood) I've had very few running injuries during the same time period. I'll still think about the position of my arms and height of my knees when it crosses my mind during a run. The fact is, whether I do everything "right" or go with what feels natural, I tend to run just about the same.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why golfers don't get better and runners don't get faster

Working towards the perfect swing
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

When I was a kid, my dad was into golf and he spent a lot of time focusing on technique that would improve his game. I can recall the various devices made up of ropes and whiffle balls (I called them his toys) that he'd swing in the house in hopes of improving his swing. Did they help? I'm not sure, but I should ask him.

Bringing this to today, I know people who are equally focused on improving their golf form. There are numerous magazines, websites and TV shows that provide tutorials and theory on ways to optimize your golf skills. With all these resources, you'd think anyone could measurably elevate their game. Yet, despite this help, most people can't get past a certain level.

Running seems to be that way for me. I read Running Times, Runner's World and Trail Runner magazines and pay attention to articles about technique and performance. I practice some of what I read and occasionally see results from the changes I made. But at the end of the day, I still run about the same race pace as I did three years ago. On a daily basis, I'm a little slower. 

I ran my daily route 19 seconds faster today than yesterday. To get where I want to be requires me to run that course 3 minutes faster than I did today. Until I commit to really doing that core and hill work, speed play, and intervals, I'll never find myself running sub-9:00 paces on a daily basis. Resources are great, but only if you actually use them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This technique may have made me faster

Does back leg lift = faster running?
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

I'm out of the office today and Monday and the weekend will be busy. We'll have a house full of people starting this afternoon and that will continue through Sunday. The major activity is on Saturday and the day will start early, so I'm probably going to need to skip tomorrow's run. I tried to make up for that by running a little extra distance today.

Conditions were pleasant when I left on my run around 7:00 AM. I tried to maintain a decent speed and thought about how my default pace has slowed over the last few years. I'd say, overall, that my speed has remained consistent. The difference is that my median pace seems to have slowed by about ten seconds since 2009. It could be that when I used the FR50 and 60 with a foot pod, my times were recorded more accurately (and faster) than with the FR210.

About halfway through today's run, I looked at my shadow and noticed I was running with a low degree of back leg lift. I've noticed that better runner's legs come up fairly high after toe-off and I suspect that helps their speed by reducing the amount of time their feet touch the ground. Inspired, I worked on bringing up my leg as I ran. I'm not sure if it made me run faster, but I did feel it in my hamstrings.

I'll look at my pacing across the timeline after I upload my data to Garmin Connect to see if my speed improved after making that change. I did finish with a decent overall pace, so perhaps it made a difference. It would be great if a small change like that could have made a measurable effect on my pace. It almost seems too easy. Then again, it did illustrate my need to do more core work.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tedium reducing treadmill technique

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

As unlikely as it sounds, I was looking forward to doing a run on the treadmill this morning. I usually break up my training week with an elliptical session on Thursday's, but our machine is down. Our treadmill, that had been down for the last nine days, was put back into service yesterday. At least we have one indoor option as we wait for the repair person to get the elliptical working again.

With a new motor and tread replacement, the treadmill felt like a brand new unit. While this model (Sole F63) isn't whisper quiet, the sound level was noticeably better than the last time I'd run on it. I'm assuming the repair person performed a calibration because I felt that my perceived effort matched the speed that was displayed.

I followed my usual treadmill routine, starting at a moderate pace and increasing the speed every couple of minutes. Speeding up the pace actually made it a better experience because it broke down the activity into two minute periods. Focusing on the intervals between speed increases helped reduce the tedium of the experience. The time went by quickly and before I knew it, I was done. As much as I liked today's workout, I'm planning to go back outside for tomorrow's run.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Running slow has made me faster

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

It was still raining this morning so I opted for another morning's run on the treadmill. I'll admit that my view of treadmill running has changed a lot, for the better, in the last couple of years. I still find it boring, but it does provide a lot of flexibility in the way I choose to run.

I almost always start slowly on my indoor runs. It's a way of easing into the workout, and it allows me to deal with the residual energy debt coming from my recently interrupted sleep. By the end of my run I'm usually clocking about an 8:30 pace, but to get there, I have to increase my speed every five minutes from my starting point.

When I used to practice karate, I understood how good form was more important than how fast I could block or strike my opponent when sparring. My instructor used to say "If you can do it slow, you can do it fast." That's the technique I've followed for the last six months and it's yielded good results. Slow and steady in training -- PR on race day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Want to take it easy? Run a little faster.

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

If not for the 50 MPH winds this morning, I would have been happy to get outside for my run. It was 49 degrees (and dropping) at 4:00 AM and I was already on the treadmill. After Sunday's full hour run on this machine, I had no problem returning for another round. I got up to speed quickly and followed my normal practice of increasing speed throughout the run, so that I would finish my run about an 8:30 pace.

A week ago Saturday I went out for a run with the intention of running slowly as a way to facilitate recovery. I feared that I'd finish feeling like the easy effort had made no impact. In reality, I had the opposite experience. Running slowly turned out to be harder than running fast.

I've applied that lesson in every run I've done since then. Perhaps the momentum of an efficient stride helps me move along better. The energy created by faster leg turnover certainly seems to fuel my effort. Of course once I'm running at threshold speed it becomes a whole lot harder. But right now, as counter-intuitive as it seems, working a little harder is making for easier running.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doing what it takes to stay under 9:00 per mile

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles at 8:59

I'll admit that I like my current focus on speed and pace and I've been looking forward to my early morning runs even more than usual. I'm not running fast at 4:00 AM but compared to the paces I maintained throughout most of July, I am running much faster. My definition of a decent pace begins at around 9:05 per mile. I'm generally pleased when I meet or exceed that time. My psychological threshold is 9:00 minutes and that's when I feel like I've accomplished more than merely covering my distance. Right now, in the midst of summer, 9:00 per mile is much harder for me to break than when I'm running in 20-30 degree temperatures. I want to do better on the Dirty Sock run this year and I believe that consistently training at paces around 9:00 per mile will get me there. However, trails can become more difficult based on their condition. If it rains close to start time all bets are off.

I managed to break my psychological threshold this morning, clocking an 8:59 pace for two and a half miles. It was already close to 80 degrees when I left but without the sun I felt like I could push without straining. I'm focusing primarily on form (vertical alignment, arm positioning) and cadence. On my slow days in July, I hovered around 80 SPM and on longer runs would fall as low as 78. These days, as I run, I think about how quickly I'm turning over my stride, how high my trailing leg is going and how much time I can spend off the ground. Higher cadence does influence stride length but I think that's okay. In Born to Run, Christopher McDougal writes about the advantages of a shorter stride for mid-foot running and I agree that it does provide a feeling of moving along well.

My friend BJS sent me some notes that he made from his Cow Harbor 10K training last year. They are extremely helpful in understanding the course and setting expectations. He mentions a couple of big hills that must be respected. I think that will be the theme for one of my upcoming weekend training runs. The Dirty Sock course has no measurable elevations but, even so, I'm expecting that hill training will help me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Progress made on Boxing Day

My wife suggested that I should rest today since I still have eight more days away from the office for doing long runs. Her point would be better made if she herself didn't work out every day for 45 minutes, especially today when she is battling a cold. I figured if she was going to maintain her routine under those conditions so would I. Maybe I'll take a break on Monday.

One reason I really wanted to get out and run is that I'm driving myself (and everyone around me) crazy with my curiosity about the Tarahumara running technique and the best shoes for that style. I mentioned that I tried on some ASICS 2150s and Kayanos on Wednesday that felt really good. Exceptionally good in fact. Now I'm understanding the best way of strengthening the arch and the forefoot is to run with shoes that don't surround your foot with soft cushioning. Instead it's better to force yourself to adapt to shoes with less support. The impact of running on your legs can be up to twelve times your body weight. In the book "Born to Run" the author Christopher McDougall says""[it's] preposterous to believe a half inch of rubber is going to make a difference against, in my case, 2,760 pounds of earthbound beef. You can cover an egg with an over mitt  before rapping it with a hammer, but that egg ain't coming out alive." I get that completely.

So this morning I went out to run about 3 miles and I wore my lightest, least cushioned shoes (NB 460s) and continued to focus on cadence and landing front and mid foot. It was warmer than yesterday, around 39 degrees, with a slight rainy mist that left after a few minutes. I tried to stay conscious of the number of steps I was taking and I also worked to maintain my pace more evenly than yesterday. For the third time in as many days I returned home to see that I had run much faster than usual on recreational runs. Today I covered 3.17 miles in slightly longer than 27 minutes for an 8:36 pace. That's a 5K/4 mile race pace for me and I wasn't even working that hard. I'm having a really hard time justifying an investment in new shoes if I'm going to run like this. But you can't argue with the results, I'm not going back to my previous style. Of course that doesn't mean I won't try the Brooks GTS 10s out of curiosity. It just may mean that my next pair of Brooks is more likely to be the Green Silence.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Tarahumara have made me a faster runner

I've been enjoying the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall for a number of reasons. First, because it's about ultrarunning, a subject that fascinates me. Second, because the author takes amusing pot shots at Dean Karnazes, whose book I just finished. Mostly I like it because it centers on the Tarahumara - the indigenous people of Mexico's Copper Canyons. The Tarahumara society is represented very positively, almost utopic, with running as the core activity of their lives. The Tamahumara are incredible runners who can run a hundred miles or more without resting. There is a lot of discussion in the book debating the benefits of modern running shoes compared with the purer technique of these people who run with simple rubber bottomed sandals. I believe that the growing interest in minimalist running has been fueled by this book.  I'm not ready to give up my stability running shoes but I am interested in some of the techniques mentioned in the book.

I've been constrained to the treadmill over the last couple of days so I decided to run in the neighborhood this morning provided that conditions were safe. I'm home today so I waited until 7:30 AM to go out, thinking that the extra light would improve safety. The roads were almost completely free of ice and snow and I set off thinking about the Tarahumara method of running - smaller steps and upright form - and decided to try it out. I've read that increasing the number of strides per minute helps to increase speed. I usually run at around 80 steps/min but today I averaged 84 with the first half of my 3.63 mile run averaging slightly higher. The running felt easy, almost too easy, and I imagined that I would return home to discover I was pacing close to 10 min per mile. I had great energy on the run and I had planned to cover about 5K but took some extra roads near the end because it felt so good. When I completed my run I was surprised to see that I averaged 9:06 per mile. It was such an easy experience that I questioned the accuracy of the Garmin and immediately checked my route on Gmaps which verified the distance and pace.

I am still amazed that I maintained such a decent pace without working very hard. There could be many reasons for this: the time of day, the amount of rest I'd had or the perfect 25 degree weather. I'm hoping it was due to the new technique and I will try again tomorrow, perhaps pushing my speed a little to see how that works. I only averaged 81 steps/min when I hit my 5K PR in November so I'm very curious to see how that equivalent amount of effort would work with a cadence of 84. I'm optimistic that I've found a way to improve my speed without a lot of extra work. I've learned that nothing good is easy but in this case I'll happily make an exception.

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