Back to Heel Strike

Sunday May 2nd
Had planned for a 180km bicycle ride around Lake Leman (Geneva) but the weather turned bad so it was cancelled.
The calve muscles felt good so I decided to go for a 10km run in the light rain. Temperature had dropped from 25 to 30°C during the week to around 10°C so warmer protective clothing was called for.
Started out OK as it is a descent from the flat down to the river Isère, but as I attacked the gentle upward gradient of the path along the Isère this pace reduced to a completely unenthusiastic slow jog. I used normal Adidas Goretex trail running shoes with good heel cushioning, because I intended to use a heel strike so as to spare the calve muscles this time. Shortly before reaching the 5km turnaround point I started feeling better and picked up the pace a little. It felt slightly odd going back to using a heel strike and I had to remain attentive for any signs of plantar fasciitis returning. I did notice slight stress on the inside of the left knee – which I don’t feel when using a forefoot strike – this is the knee I tore apart in a twisting skiing accident many years ago – it never had surgery ( at least for that particular injury). After the 5km point I picked up the pace even more – it seemed like the muscles had warmed up and the running became much more enjoyable. The usual feelings of mental alertness, positive attitude, slight euphoria etc were all there. I thought up at least one new invention – something that happens every time I go for a run!
The final 1.4km I went back to the forefoot strike. It felt incredible to change technique so much in the middle of a run – a whole different set of muscles and coordination kicked in straight away. I can’t say which is best – just different. The idea is to see if this amount of forefoot striking will give the calves a better chance to adapt. If this is still too much I’ll reduce it next time. It felt OK when running, but I’ll see if the calves have the DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) in the morning. Will do exercises for the calves (eccentric dips) on days when I’m not running. Interestingly the muscle differences I feel when changing the foot strike are mostly in the feet, ankles and the shins (anterior tibialis) and not in the calves. It might be the calves that wear out fast but the other muscles attract your attention more. It’s a nice feeling to have those muscles (all in the “front” of the foot and lower leg) active – they feel like stabilisers or more reflexive which might explain why they don’t wear out like the calves do.
This is another advantage of cross training – bad weather options. Today would not have been nice on a bike but it was very nice for running.

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