Learning to Run Again

Running: I finally figured out a way to get back at it. As described in “Who is That Strong Old Guy?” I had given it up for the gym because I kept getting horrible shin splints. I recently started checking out so-called “natural” running, especially Chi Running as championed by Danny Dreyer. Last night I went and bought a pair of Newtons which are designed to facilitate the way you would run naturally (like if you were barefoot in the grass, or the way little kids run around barefoot). So far, so good. I’m starting slow…today was only 1.4 miles at a 9:40 pace. It felt like my tibialis anterior had not worked at all…not even a little fatigue. Back when I was trying to run to stay in shape (about 30 years ago) I managed to get down to running my three-mile course through the orchard in just under 17:30. My goals are now to run the two miles for the Army PFT in 13:00 and a 5K under 20 minutes. Both of these standards are essentially a 6:30 pace…not as fast as the 5:50 pace I managed to hit training stupidly. Can training scientifically and with great discipline lead to a level of efficiency that can erase 30 years of diminishing VO2 max and carrying an additional 15 pounds of muscle (assuming I lean up another 10 pounds…so far I’m down from 205 to 190)? Time will tell, but trying new ways to get things working again is fun.

Next day update: I’m a little sore in the left calf, right Achilles tendon, and can feel a little early symptoms of plantar fasciitis in my right foot. I suspected yesterday that I was a running little too far up on my forefoot–a little past the ball of my foot. These symptoms would confirm that I’ve over corrected the heal striking. Today I got on one of our old Precor EFX 544 elliptical trainers that we just moved into a spare bedroom. I used it barefoot and tried to concentrate on keeping my lower legs totally relaxed and neutral. With bare feet, I could really feel where I was placing my weight; it was obvious whenever I started leaning onto my toes and pushing with my calves. In addition, when staring out the window past the venetian blinds it was very obvious when I started bobbing up and down. I tried to concentrate on keeping my head level and just having my legs spin like a wheel directly underneath me, or slightly behind. I think this machine might be a good tool to help develop the feel for a relaxed and light footfall.

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