Look Ahead

In my teens and twenties I played a lot of sport, so back in September when I decided to try running to get active after years out with injury, I assumed I could just lace up my shoes and run. I believed the fitness I desired would come with time and effort. I wasn’t worried about ‘how’ to run. After all, I’ve been running my whole life! In my mind it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and getting it done.

As those of you who have been reading this blog know, it didn’t quite turn out like that. Despite sticking with the programme, my running felt like a slog and by run eight of Couch to 5K I had a shooting pain in my right foot that stopped me in my tracks. It turned out to be extensor tendonitis and I had to take a break to recover.

Time spent on the sidelines gave me the space to think about why I had got injured so soon into the programme. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. I decided to canvas some advice from the Twitter running community. One of the messages that came back loud and clear was that I needed to consider technique as a way to avoid injury and improve my performance.

It sounds obvious as I write it, but this really was a bit of a revelation for me. The idea that distance running was a complex combinations of movement and form which needed to be learnt and practiced just like any other sport hasn’t even occurred to me.

Previously running had always just been a component of other sports- it allowed me to drive into the basket for a lay-up or sprint into the box to get my head on a cross. It was now clear to me that if I wanted to really enjoy running I needed to treat it just as I had basketball, football, rugby or any of the other sports I have played.

The question then became; what changes could I make to improve my performance and increase my resilience? What could I learn that would yield the biggest gains in the shortest time? I was starting from nowhere, not fine-tuning existing technique, so the opportunity for rapid, dramatic change was clear.

After doing some research online and checking out some basic YouTube tutorials, the simple change I needed to make became clear. Keep my head up and look ahead- around 20 meters down the road.

Runners World described succinctly;

 “Be sure to gaze directly in front of you,” says Kelli Fierras, USATF-certified running coach and Asics Studio trainer. “Don’t tilt your chin up or down, which happens when people get tired,” she adds. 

Really, your eyes can look anywhere, but a focused gaze helps maintain proper posture, which keeps your neck in proper alignment with your spine.”

I’ve been trying to implement this advice for about 2 weeks now, I cannot believe what a huge different this straightforward correction has made to my running.

Previously if you’d seen me running I’d look like the proverbial nodding dog, The longer I was on the road, the worse this would get, to the point that by the final 5 minutes of my session I would be staring at my feet, gasping for air, glancing up occasionally to make sure I wasn’t about to stagger into a lamppost!

Keeping my head up has a massive impact in the second half of my sessions. Rather than getting increasingly ragged in my technique, dragging my feet and slowing my pace, I maintain my form, can better manage my pace, and I feel less strain on my body.

When I keep my head up I feel like a runner, rather than someone running. It’s a small difference, but a crucial one.

What changes to technique have made the biggest difference to your running?

Published by Graham


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