Running into trouble!

26 April 2010

GPSies - Aime

First 10k run since the 5 month injury layoff. VERY SLOW – 58’48”. The legs had plenty of energy but sticking with a forefoot strike made for sore calf muscles right from the start. When this happens it’s impossible to increase pace. I tried the “soft ankle” advice but it actually seemed to worsen the contraction of the calves. There seems to be a lot to this process. When the ankle is soft – as I interpret it – the foot tends to flick back at the end of the stride and this causes an even greater contraction and subsequently more pain on the next contact with the ground. The best result seemed to be when the focus was on pulling the leg forward from the hip, keeping the foot high up behind the knee and bringing the knee forward. Focusing on this seemed to make a more natural forefoot strike and generate less pain.
It’s so tempting to go back to a heel strike but last time I did that it led to 5 months of injury under the foot. You can feel how the forefoot strike activates all the upper foot muscles by reflex – and it’s a good feeling – very much like can be done in Alpine skiing with skillful use of the feet. Shame about the calves protesting so much. They don’t feel injured though – just hammered – so perhaps they will adapt. I’m using low profile Mizuno Rhonin lightweight shoes which have very little cushioning and help to make it easy to land on the forefoot. There is still a ramp angle in the shoe and you have to wonder if trying to land a shoe on the forefoot is bound to stress the calf too much just because of this additional ramp angle. Perhaps this is why there are barefoot running enthusiasts. There is so little knowledge out there on this subject. Even the studies I’ve read about don’t appear to take this ramp angle into account. They report 84% of elite marathon runners landing midfoot – but if you subtract the shoe ramp angle that puts them clearly all on their forefoot. I find that if I try to a land midfoot it’s a slippery slope to landing on the heel again and even midfoot I can’t feel the protective foot muscles being activated – same as in skiing.
Ran the usual course alongside the Isère river on the Aime/Bourg cycle path. It was raining but there were a few others out running and a few early season canoeists on the rapids. Yesterday’s tough day on the bike didn’t seem to have much effect on the legs. I know now that the main difference between running and cycling is that running causes “eccentric contraction” of the muscles in the legs – that is the muscles contract while extending at the same time. This is what causes the pain in the calves and the “DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) when increasing your workout distance or speed. It’s odd that cycling is usually prescribed as an exercise for skiing and running isn’t. The eccentric action of running is much closer to” flexing under load” that happens in Alpine skiing. Anyway it’s good both run and cycle as they really do work the muscles differently and running ensures good maintenance of bone density and bone strength. I can feel that skiing and cycling alone leave you with quads and thighs that are strong but very inflexible. This is a problem when running with a forefoot strike as the leg has to extend further behind and this requires flexibility at the hip which is definitely compromised in cycling and skiing. Time to get working on stretching the hips out.

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