How old were you when you learned to run? Do you even remember learning to run? Are you "good" at it?
A few weeks ago I was on the treadmill and a personal trainer I know well, Adrian Amariuti, commented on my form. "You run like you're 300 pounds!" he told me. At first, I took massive offense to this (not something anyone wants to hear, I think), until he explained that he was really trying to point out the sound I was making when I landed. A huge thud. I had never noticed it. "If you keep landing like that, eventually you won't be able to run at all," he said. "Your knees will be shot."
This was also not something I wanted to hear. So for the next few mornings I set out on outdoor runs, thinking that if I had complete control of my speed, I would better be able to "roll my foot," which I had been told was the solution to my problem. After several mornings of slow, deliberate runs, I realized I had no idea what "rolling my foot" actually meant.
So today, sick of trying to teach myself, I asked Adrian for some tips on running with proper form. He explained to me that since most of us start running as kids, where flailing around wildly is the best we can hope for, we often don't learn the correct way to carry our weight when we run (unless we do cross-country or track and field later in life). He showed me five training moves, to be used as a warm-up, in order to practice form and master the "art" of running. Even on its own, it definitely got my heart rate up!
1. I first did short, controlled steps on the balls of my feet, done in rapid succession. It was similar to the shuffle football players do when running through a tire obstacle course, but with much shorter strides and keeping my legs close together. I concentrated on huffing as I breathed, and chopping my arms back and forth, making sure they were close to my body.
2. Building on this motion, the next movement involved bringing my knee up to my chest on each step. The length of the stride didn't change much.
3. Next we tried something of a skip-jump, focusing on keeping my "jumping" leg (the one I used to push off from) straight and bringing my other knee up to my chest. While completing this motion, my opposite arm chopped upwards (bent at a 90-degree angle) at the same speed raised knee.
4. Next, I leapt forwards, alternating the direction of my stride from left to right with each forward motion. The goal was to push off my toes in one direction while raising my knee to my chest, then landing on my toes again, changing directions with the next jump.
5. The final move was butt-kicks, bending my knee behind me until I actually ... kicked my own butt.
Adrian recommended I start out doing each move in place for 30 counts and repeat every move three times. Once I've worked up to it, I can do each for a distance of 30 yards walk back and again repeat three times before moving on. I'm looking forward to trying it out -- and hopefully making less noise on my next long run!