Rhythm and cruise
Since my last posting here, I have been working hard on setting up my pacing and form. I’m happy to report that I think I have made some good progress in this area and have been able to increase my range to 2 miles without injury or pain. I am Hugely and Very excited about this! I should be to a respectable 5K distance and time within two months at this current pace.
As previously discussed, the form in running barefoot is very different than what I would run when wearing shoes. Barefoot running avoids the heel strike and instead focuses on a mid or forefoot landing with the arch of the foot distributing the impact across the foot followed by the lower leg structures absorbing and rebounding the stride. This type of foot placement necessitates that the stride length be shorter yet more frequent. Shorter strides allow your foot to stay centered under the body as you move forward which keeps the entire weight mass in a more vertical line versus the long extended heel-first stride when running in shoes. That’s all well and good but in reality, how the hell is that accomplished?
Enter the blogosphere. Through my learning and reading around the interwebs as well as various books there is a lot of talk about shortening the stride length. The shorter stride mandates less impact on your body simply because what goes up must come down. The short stride means that as my body is moving forward / upward with the momentum it’s coming down at a gentler rate than if I was in shoes and heel strikes. Go ahead and try it! Take off your shoes and run down the hallway of your house at a normal pace. Hear the pounding? Now do it my way, think “ninja”, soft steps, light touches to the ground. You can hear the difference as your body automatically takes shorter steps to accomplish the lighter ground touch. The stride has shortened and you are landing on the fore and mid-foot rather than the heel. That’s the type of form I’m after.
The BR stride measures out at around 180 steps per minute. The typical recreation runner (e.g. someone faster than me!) will cover the same distance averaging around 160 steps per minute in shoes. Don’t believe it? Go ahead and try it! Go run, count your steps over the course of a minute. I’ll wait here <twiddles thumbs>. Welcome back, 160 right, Ok let’s move on. What is the difference between 160 and 180? Stride length and impact.
That’s what I’ve been working on. I’ve also found a great tool to help me keep pace at 180 steps. This has been a huge help for me as it allows me to get into a rhythm and sustain that over time.
Here’s my great tool to keep pace with:
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, 180 times per minute.
So I did not really take my Grandma’s metronome running with me. Being the internet age that we live in, I instead found this: Reztronics.com
MP3 files in a variety of beats per minute that are perfect for pacing. I simply downloaded the entire zip file, donated a few bucks to say thanks, and then put the 180 bpm file on a loop that plays as I run. It’s not loud enough to interfere with my run, but its there in the background and when I actively listen for it, I can adjust my stride and foot falls to match. This has been a huge help for me in really getting to the target pace. There are other solutions as well, the most obvious is music that plays at 180 bpm (google for the playlists) but I like the simplicity of the Reztronics mp3 files. It matches the minimalist philosphy in my mind – “just enough to get the job done”.
I’ve been able to get my pace and stride length under more control with this method. I’ve increased my distance, decreased my times, expend less energy, and decreased my TMTS related soreness! With this little bit of rhythm I’ve found that I’m starting to cruise!