After addressing the pre-hab aspect of running, it only makes sense to follow into the “in between”, despite what the title of this series says. You’ve prepped your body to withstand the trauma of running – all the force on your tendons, the repeated pounding of your body weight against the pavement, and everything else that comes with running – time to actually do the running.
The “in between” consists of the “movement preparation” and the actual running. These are the exercises I do before every single run and when I don’t, every individual aspect of my form suffers. My torso isn’t as tall (masses and spaces!), my core isn’t bracing my body, my arms are swinging haphazardly, and I’m not leaning into my step with my legs landing below my center of gravity. When my form suffers, the pain returns. If that isn’t proof enough that what I’m doing is the key to my recovery and helpful, I don’t know what is.
I don’t do all the below exercises before my runs, but I never do less than 3 active stretches paired with some form(s) ankling.
- Backwards lunge with reach
- World’s Greatest Stretch
- Runner’s hip hinge
- Kneeling sequence (though I don’t push forward, I squeeze my glutes and keep my torso long, it works)
- Single leg balancing sequence (lift one knee parallel, foot also parallel, 1) close eyes and balance 2) eyes open turn head to left and right 3) eyes closed, turn head to left and right)
- Arm drills (in balancing position from above, focus on switching arms in running position)
- Marching in place, then forward
- Ankling in place, then forward
- Ankling sideways (the side moving forward is the the foot which does the ankling)
- Karaoke drill
The shortest warm-up I use is the World’s Greatest Stretch, Runner’s hip hinge, kneeling sequence, then ankling forwards and sideways. I follow this by a 3-4 minute walk, including some backwards walking to stretch out and get my mind to focus on midfoot striking. In all, the bare minimum spent warming up for me now before I even start running is 10-15 minutes. Any less than that and I fall apart.
One the warm-up is finished, I’m still concentrating on everything about my form during the actual run. When I get tired I have to constantly re-evaluate what my body is doing because I can feel myself shuffling along. Though the form is still a constant running through my mind, I know it’s coming along better than it was even just a month ago. The acronym I learned for my form was “PAL” – Posture, Arms, and Legs.
- Keep the posture – head up, chest up, maintaining masses and spaces (head = mass, neck = space, torso= mass, etc.), lean slightly forward from ankles
- Focus on arms – keep the arms relaxed, thinking of pennies in your elbow creases, chips between your fingers, make sure to swing your arms back to provide momentum, but doing so equally with both arms
- Purposeful legs – lift from the hips, land behind the center of gravity, and anticipate the ground striking with your midfoot
In addition, I know my core needs to remain engaged and I must breath from my diaphragm (this is where being a wind-playing music major came in handy).
It seems like a lot to remember and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. Every run when I first began landing with a midfoot (ex-heel striker over here!) I had to start with marching, then ankling, then proceeding forward ever so slightly. I’d run about a block before I had to re-evaluate my form and stop, only to start over again: marching, ankling, run – nope, wait, ankling again – okay, now I can run. It felt like I was studying for a test constantly, but never knowing if I were passing or failing. After over-correcting my form and having my first bout of tendonitis, I was able to feel the difference between too much, too little, and just right. I’m still a work in progress, but I have a much better idea of where I am and need to be.