Re-Learning to Run

  It’s fair to say that I’ve been struggling with my running for the best part of eight months now. After recovering from my stress…

Re-Learning to Run 
It’s fair to say that I’ve been struggling with my running for the best part of eight months now. After recovering from my stress fracture last August, I began running again in December and immediately suffered another injury- shin splints.
It got to a stage where I had completely fallen out of love with running. Even the shortest distance was incredibly painful and I seemed to be making no progress towards my goal race in June. Running has never come naturally to me, I’m not someone who can glide along effortlessly. However I’m determined to persevere and get back to a stage where I can run pain-free again.
Over the past month, I’ve completely gone back-to-basics with my running. The process has involved improving my technique, refining my strength training, practicing drills and seeking advice from a podiatrist. 
Who knew that there are so many technicalities involved in running? It’s not as simple as placing one foot in front of the other!
Strengthening Glutes and Hips
Inactive glutes are a common problem in runners and are usually the underlying cause for many injuries. Being seated all day means that our glutes are stretched and inactive, leading to muscular imbalances. 

I’ve been using a combination of exercises given to me by my physio and tri coach, to strengthen my glutes and hips. My routine includes variations of the glute bridge and clam shells using resistance bands. I had been doing these exercises for some time, but I wasn’t quite hitting the right muscles as I could feel the tension in my hamstrings rather than my glutes. My tri coach made some adjustments to my form and immediately I could feel an improvement. Re-Learning to Run
Increasing Cadence
I have a tendency to overstride when I run, which means that my foot comes into contact with the ground well ahead of my hips. My knee is straight and almost locked out, which increases the force through my joints.

With my coach, I’ve been working on rectifying my overstriding by increasing my cadence. Cadence is the number of times your foot strikes the ground in a minute measured as SPM (Steps Per Minute). The most efficient cadence is thought to be 180SPM, however I generally seem to average around 164-167SPM. 
 Re-Learning to Run
I’ve been working on increasing my cadence gradually, by listening to a metronome as I run and matching my footsteps to the beat. I must admit it is irritating having a constant beeping in my ears for the duration of my run, but it has definitely helped to focus my mind on shortening my stride and taking quicker steps. Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked my way up to 172SPM and immediately noticed my shin pain has subsided.

Running drills
My coach analysed some videos taken of me running on a treadmill. He highlighted the inefficiencies in my running form, most notably the fact that I ‘swing’ my rear leg through without properly lifting my knee. 

I’ve been incorporating high knee drills for 5-10 minutes before each run to really ingrain the motion of picking up my knees whilst driving my heels directly up under my bum. 

Re-Learning to Run

Wearing Orthotics

I’ve been told I don’t have the ‘ideal’ feet to be a runner. I visited a podiatrist who filmed me walking barefoot on a treadmill- watching the video back it was obvious to see that my arches completely collapse with each step. My feet are incredibly flat and hyper flexible, which places stress on the ankles, lower leg muscles, knee joints and hips.

I’ve been prescribed some foot orthotics to wear inside my everyday shoes for the first two weeks, then I will use them in my running trainers. They should support my feet and stop my arches from collapsing. Ultimately, I might need a custom pair of orthotics which I will wear permanently.

Losing Weight
Personally, I believe that part of the reason why I’ve been struggling so much with injuries is due to the weight I’ve gained over the past few years. Again, the excess weight adds to the amount of force going through my joints as I run. It’s a slow process, but I’ve lost around 6lbs since the end of February. 

I’ve already noticed improvements and I’ve returned from my recent runs with a smile on my face instead of tears in my eyes! This weekend is the Southampton 10k, which will be my furthest distance since last summer. Hopefully, the work I’ve been doing will pay off and I’ll have a pain-free race.

Do you incorporate any running drills or exercises? Have you ever worked with a coach?

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