Form and Cadence – Guest Post

I know this is blasphemous to say, but I’m sad that it is Friday. This means my vacation is coming to a close and I’ll have to return to reality soon. Hope you are all having a marvelous week and I’ll be back with you on Sunday. Until then, meet my awesome Ohio-an friend Sarah. I’m sad I was only able to brunch with her once, but I’m sure she’ll find an excuse to visit me in California.

Hi The Running Jewess readers! I was super flattered (and kind of confused) when Michelle asked me to do this. I blog over at Running onWords where I blather on about training and way too much information about my personal life.

So when decided what to write about, I had so many options.  I’m a PhD student, so I considered graduate school, but I didn’t want to scare Michelle now that she’s already committed.  I thought about just putting together my favorite Jewish mother stories, but really, if you’ve met one Jewish mother, you’ve got the general idea.  Then I realized we are both running bloggers, so I figured she probably meant for me to write something about that.  I know, you are all incredibly impressed with my brilliance.

Anyways, getting back on track here, Michelle asked me to talk to you all about what I’ve learned recently about good running form.

I went to a clinic a few weeks ago with Ian Adamson from Newton Running. Newton Running makes running shoes that encourage a “natural running stride.”  Ok, that’s nice, but I thought running was natural?  Apparently not, because according to a lot of the new books (Chi Running, Born to Run, etc), most of us are doing it wrong.

Well then, oops.

So, what should we do?

Well, according to Ian, natural running is NOT heel striking.  The amount of padding in modern running shoes has allowed us to become heel strikers. If you take your shoes off and try running on something hard, you’ll notice that you start landing on the mid-foot. If you tried this at home and still landed on your heel, you probably hurt yourself.  Sorry about that.

It's really hard to stop mid-foot striking

Ian suggested that we spend as much time barefoot as possible.  If you can’t be barefoot (or if you are germphobe like me), he actually recommended flat shoes like flip flops and no shoes with a raised heel (your running shoes most likely have a raised heel, I’m not just talking about those g-dforsaken dress shoes we try to force our feet in to).  This will, according to Ian, condition your Achilles and plantar fascia to be stronger and support you better.

Another step Ian recommends is focusing on keeping your feet aligned forward even when you are just relaxing. When you run with your feet turned out, you torque your hips and knees, which equals pain.  Training our muscles to align correctly will hopefully carry over to running and prevent injury.  He also taught us balancing drills and other strengthening techniques.

Right, well if I haven’t bored you off, let’s talk about how this actually applies. I’ve been focusing on mid-foot striking and keeping my feet straight forward. I also have started working on cadence (how quickly I pick up my feet). The recommended cadence for a runner is 180 footstrikes per minute.  This quicker cadence forces me to take smaller steps but move my feet a lot faster and takes a lot of the pressure off of my legs (they feel much more relaxed).

I shaved a full minute and a half off of my fastest mile doing this.  My 5K PR is almost 2 minutes faster than a month earlier despite the increased heat and humidity. And that’s assuming I only managed to maintain good form about half the time because it is REALLY difficult to teach muscles new tricks.

Thinking about cadence is a pain and I sometimes fail on the mid-foot striking, but I know with practice, I’m totally going to be the next Kara Goucher.

Or at least get under a 35 minutes 5K PR and a new half marathon PR. Even when I’m fast I’m be a little slow. Hey, I may be slow, but I’m still lapping everyone on the couch!

Sarah after an awesome race

Questions?  I’ll try to check back and answer any you leave below!

About Michelle

I'm an engineer living (and running) in Palo Alto, CA.

Posted on August 12, 2011, in Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hey, Sarah….great post! You know I’ve been doing the chi running thing (or trying to), but my question is about cadence. Chi running uses cadence, but I was so busy trying to focus on form, that I kinda missed the stuff on cadence :) How do you know if you are doing 180?? Suggestions on how to make sure you are doing cadence correctly?

  2. What an informative post! :) Question: Are you supposed to run along and say “1,2,3,4,5….” and so on to know if you are doing 180 per min? Or is there a Garmin setting for that?

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