Learning to run again

I’ve been running for years, starting with track and cross-country in grade eight. Back then I only ran 2-3 days a week. In high school that number increased. Since I quit competitive running 11 years ago, I’ve ran five days a week on average.

With the exception of bursitis in my hip within my first year of running, I never really had issues…until 2011. Since then I’ve had many problems with my left knee.

Most of the issues seem to stem from muscle imbalances. So I go see someone who (hopefully) diagnoses properly. I go home and work on my physio exercises. And then I seem to be ok…until it happens again.

I seem to be getting injured when I’m not training for anything and my mileage is low. Other than Ironman training, I haven’t being training like crazy. And during IM training, I only run three times a week max.

This has led me to try changing my technique. So, I thought I’d attempt a more natural way of running. I definitely heel strike and am attempting to land mid-foot.

HeelStrike HeelStrike2

It isn’t easy. Personally, I have to constantly think about where my foot is landing, whether my stride is shortened, if I’m leaning slightly forward and the list goes on.

Running isn’t simple anymore. I used to go out for a run and turn my mind off. It was peaceful. I’d feel like a million bucks when I finished.

I’ve also dealt with some pretty sore calf muscles.

Overall, I’m not sure how I’m doing. I’d like to attend a session on natural running technique. I need to read more about it and watch more videos.

I think I’m really struggling, too, since my fitness has plummeted. I didn’t run for a while due to my knee. I only biked slowly and did other forms of light cardio. Then I got hammered with the flu and didn’t exercise for over a week. I’m still experiencing fatigue from it.

So, I’m learning to run again. And it feels like from scratch since my fitness is low. However, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Plain and simple- I love to run. I want to be able to do it for a lifetime.

Are you a heel striker?
Have you changed your running technique? Do you have any advice?

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43 responses to “Learning to run again

  1. I am just getting back to running as well after a break from serious running since August 17th!!! Loving it, making sure not to rush back in too quickly.

    I have a heel-ish strike I think…Tappan switched to midfoot during some intense marathon training and has since been out of running for 2 years due to some really bad achilles tendonitis. So I’ve toyed with the idea of switching because I always read that midfoot may be better for people with knee/hip injuries, but the only way I’d do it is if I’m starting from ground zero because I don’t want to switch during high mileage. So perhaps now is the time to for me to switch? I’ll have to give this some more thought, now that I think about it!

    • I’m so happy to hear you’re back running pain-free! That’s too bad for Tappan. I kind of had the same thought as you about not doing it in the middle of training or high mileage. Let me know if you give it a whirl!

  2. I transitioned to mid-foot running about 2 years ago. I was a hardcore heel-striker and would get sore knees after every long run. I went to a Good Form Running class (http://www.goodformrunning.com/) and slowly started to transition. It was really hard at first, but once I started to get used to it it was so worth it; I was faster and runs felt easier plus no more knee pain. One of the things that I found that helped was changing my shoes. I used to wear Asics Kayanos which are beasts, they are very heavy and have a huge heel. Wearing shoes that promoted a midfoot strike and did not have a gigantic heel to “leap” over helped make the transition more mindless. I know a lot of runners have had success trying Newtons to help guide their transition. I run in Newtons now and love them, though I was already transitioned to midfoot when I started running in them.

    Keep at it, it’s hard at first but it’s worth it!!

    • Thanks for all the info! I’ve been reading the Good Form Running website; unfortunately they don’t offer classes here. That’s a good tip about shoes. A physio told my husband to try changing his form, and he started wearing Newton’s. They do seem to help promote a midfoot strike.

  3. I have been a heel striker too, and I am going through the same changes. My calves get so sore after going out and “practicing” my new form. It is a lot of work, and having to focus is annoying, but I like the challenge. Additionally, a buddy of mine who does iron mans said he made the same changes, and the results are phenomenal. Furthermore, he said it starts to come naturally eventually.

    Beyond mentally focusing on changing, I am also going to I from minimal to barefoot shoes. Apparently having more road feel on short to intermediate runs helps you train your body to run naturally. Plus, it strengthens your feet and ankles, reducing injury risks.

  4. I’ve been there…I changed about two years ago. It is a long process and requires patience, for sure. But, I think it is well worth it. My body has fewer aches/pains as a result. Just go slow with it. One day you won’t realize it, but you’ll suddenly not have to think about it any more–it will come as a habit. Good luck with it–happy to answer any questions you might have!

  5. I don’t heel strike but can relate to having to focus on form. Good luck on finding a middle ground.

  6. Best of luck with trying to find your balance with running again..and staying injury free!
    I’m not sure at all on how I run, or the technique or anything like that. Thank you SO much for that good form link – that has really helped me understand things!

  7. It sounds kind of cheesy at first, but I highly recommend Chi Running (just google it). I like it because it helps you focus on your entire body and not just where your feet hit the ground. It’s really the same thing explained in a different way, but sometimes that is the most important part.

    If you watch a small child run, they will have great running technique. Somewhere along the way, life gets in the way and we forget how we are really supposed to work. So somewhere in your legs that perfect technique is there waiting to come back out!

  8. Racing pictures say I am a heel strikers too! It’s so tiring to try to strike mid foot but when I make an effort to do it, my pace is always faster. Coincidence I think? My fitness has also taken a nose dive over the last 2 months of being injured. It is like starting all over again! Good luck, I feel ya and I will be cheering for you!

  9. I’m not a heel striker, so can’t speak to it. But I can imagine that trying to change/improve your form is hard!! LIke you said, running is usually what we turn to to chill out, but for right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I would guess, like most things, you might get used to it in the long term if you stick with it.

    Good luck…I hope it starts paying off for you!!

  10. I have never tried to change my run! I am in need of a running analysis but know that I don’t have the time or engery to do it right now. Thanks for sharing your journey. Good luck!

  11. I’ve never had to change my running technique, but I’m familiar with taking 2-3 weeks off periodically when I’m consistently running long distances due to shin splints.
    All the best with this relearning process!

  12. I teach running technique. The main reason people heel strike is that they swing there legs too much. The forefoot landing is a natural result of doing everything else correctly. If you have to think about landing on your forefoot, then there is more general problem with your technique. If you want more detail, please feel free to contact me.

  13. Oops! I meant “their legs” not “there legs”.

  14. Sometimes I try to challenge myself to run “different” that what feels natural. I will hold my shoulders different, I will try to strike my foot different, but I always go back to what feels normal, and I am sure eventually this will effect my body! I want to be able to constantly switch things us to no part of my body gets worn down.

  15. John and I have conversations about this very topic all of the time. He’s convinced that heel striking is why so many people get injured while running. It must be so hard to put that much concentration into your run, but I’m sure you’ll notice a difference!

  16. I admire your dedication. Learning to run again is almost harder than starting from scratch. It’s hard to break those habits but if anyone can do it, it’s you. My girlfriend, also does the Ironmans, has some good treadmill exercises she would do with her coach to get her stride just right.

    Stay focused and I wish you loads of success!

  17. It’s the worst when you try to change something that is so innate to you. I really struggled when I got back into swimming when I started doing triathlon because my technique was wrong but ingrained from 3 years on the high school swim team (despite a 10 year gap in swimming it was still ingrained). I think part of the reason I hate swimming now so much is that I’m constantly over-thinking it. 😦 I feel your pain!!!

  18. I hear ya! I really need to sort out my hell-strike as well. It’s what may have brought on this whole ankle issue in the first place. If you have any more tips as to how to do this, let a gal know! 😉

  19. I used to be a major heel-striker. I also used to have every running injury in the book, with the exception of a stress fracture. I picked up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, and worked on the transition to a mid-foot strike. Did too much, too soon, and ended up with extensor tendinitis. The transition definitely takes a LOT of patience, and my calves were constantly sore (muscles hurt that I didn’t know existed). But, I’m now running more miles without any injuries. The change was worth it for me.

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  21. I’m lucky that I’ve never been a heel striker and early on in my running career I took a steak knife to my racing flats and made them level. However I’ve learned there is far more to good form than just not heel striking. Only within the last year am I really starting to “get it” and not have to think about my running form, it just happens on it’s own.

    Kyle @ SkoraRunning.com

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