Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great winter trail run

Today’s run was a real blast.  Alyssa Godesky came to visit us, and we (Gill, myself and Alyssa) headed into the mountains.  The route we chose is a little over 21 miles, with about 2700 feet of gain and loss.  It begins on Brown’s Gap Road, which climbs from the valley for a 5.5 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It then drops from the ridge to the Shenandoah Valley on Madison Run Road for another 5 miles.  The fun part was turning around and heading all the way back.
Check out the route HERE:

The run climbs for 5.5 miles, descends for 5, climbs again for 5 and descends again for 5.5.  It is all on runnable forest roads, which were covered in snow.  The climbs were hard because the snow slowed my momentum, but the downs were a real blast and quite fast, because the snow allowed safer footing and a soft landing.  Te snow was not frozen and not melted, and it was still as soft as powder.
Except for having too many clothes on and feeling some leg fatigue from earlier workouts this week, I felt great.  I did not eat or drink enough: I should have brought some solid or salty foods, since the cold gels got old very quickly.  I burn more calories in the winter, and ended up with hunger pains during the last 5 miles.  The climbs, as I mentioned, were quite tough, and I was sweating heavily on the way up.

The views were spectacular: with the leaves gone, Blackrock Gap and the Furnace trail were clearly visible from Madison Run Road.  The snow revealed how many and which animals were roaming the mountains: deer, of course, foxes, coyotes and/or roaming dogs, rabbits, wild turkeys and quite a few smaller bears.  Alyssa finally saw her FIRST bear!
This run is fantastic because it crosses several trails, including the Appalachian Trail, the Doyle trail, the Furnace trail, the Austin Mountain trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It can therefore be connected to several loops, and the possibilities are limitless.
William H. Howard hidden tombstone
Madison Run Rd
A bear paw print

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Proper Running Form

Proper running form improves efficiency and allows you to run smoother by putting less biomechanic stress on your body.  This leads to less effort and fewer injuries. Here are a few tips on proper running forms and drills to improve your running form.  Here are a few tips on proper running form and drills to improve your running form.
Toes first: not efficient for distance running. Puts too much stress on calves. More appropriate for sprinting
Ball of the foot first: most efficient for distance running. Foot lands directly under the hip 
Flat footed: most efficient for distance running. Foot lands directly under the hip
Heel first: inefficient, too much impact (heel, knee, hip), symptoms of over striding, shin splints
Warning, science content:
As a distance runner, your most efficient foot plant is one in which your foot lands directly under your hips or your center of gravity. You may land on the ball of your foot or flat footed. The ideal landing position is slightly toward the outside edge of your foot, just behind your little toe. Your foot would then naturally roll slightly inward while pushing off over your big toe. The slight inward roll of your foot is called pronation and provides some cushioning during the running stride. A small amount of pronation is normal and desirable, but excessive pronation can also be the cause of injury and stride inefficiencies. Excessive pronation can be prevented through the use of motion control shoes. That type of shoe has strong heel inserts  that stop the inside rolling motion  of pronation. Motion control shoes will only temporarily solve the problem, but it not a long term cure. Over pronation can be caused by weak muscles in your lower leg. Doing some barefoot walking and running will help strengthen the ankle and foot stabilizing muscles in your lower leg. Doing exercises and drills on an unstable surface such as a wobble board or stabilization pads can also help with this problem, as can running on trails, since it simulates uneven surfaces.

Straight and erect back, but lean forward very slightly
Keep your hips pressed forward and your butt kicked in
Chest out and shoulders back

Over striding causes breaking, not faster running
Concentrate on running with a quick and light stride. Your stride should be like a rotary motion with your foot landing directly under your center of gravity at the bottom of each cycle.  In order to run as efficiently as possible, you must extend your stride to its maximum, without over striding.

Don’t bounce or hop: that’s a waste of energy
Stride should be quick and light, and your steps should be quiet
Drive your knee forward, and avoid too much knee lift.
During foot plant, avoid any actions which cause breaking

Arms and shoulders should loose and relaxed, wrists should be floppy and hands relaxed
Keep arms close to your body, and elbows at 90 degrees and swing like a pendulum
Focus on driving arms backwards, since driving the arms too much forward will cause over striding

Look ahead, with chin in a relaxed position
When on trails, keep head high, and lower the eye position

Avoid any action which will cause unnecessary tension



Cover a total distance of approximately 100 meters. Gradually increase your speed to 100 percent effort. Start with 3-4 repetitions, and build up to 10-15

Cover a total distance of 30-50 meters. Begin with a slow jog. Using a short stride and bouncing on the balls of your feet, kick your heels behind your butt as high as possible. Maintain an erect posture.

Cover a total distance of 30-50 meters. Begin with a slow jog. Using a short stride, raise your knees as high as possible. Maintain an erect posture.

Find a hill approximately 50-100 meters long. The hill should be very steep, but not so steep that it’s impossible to run it. Run up the hill as hard as you can, focusing on the arm swing and the erect body posture

Simply stand on one leg barefoot. Maintain for 30 seconds. Repeat with each leg. repeat with your eyes closed. If too easy, stand on a pillow or a wobble board

Barefoot running can be very, very helpful for proper running form and injury rehab or prevention. Find a soft, grassy field or playing field. Inspect a 100 meter strip to make sure there is nothing sharp on the ground. Do 10-15 strideouts (see above)

The strength of your core is vital for proper form. If you do anything at the gym, focus on your core, and try to balance it with some back exercises. Focus more on any exercise that also uses the legs and engages the lower abdominals, instead of limiting your core to only the upper abdominals.