Core Power

On a warm sunny morning it felt great to be running on a trail once again. The fitness from cycling certainly crosses over to running because despite not running properly once this year until now it felt really good. Normally when you start running after a long lay off it feels completely useless. I left the full “barefoot” running aside just now – bringing only some of the mechanics into the run and using normal but low profile running shoes – just to get some mileage and exercise in without suffering from calf pain again…

The following is a selection of information I’ve dug up about running technique that is all really good…

This Youtube video gives a really good demonstration of how barefoot running functions:

This link gives an excellent insight into proprioception though the feet – and the pdf download is very useful.

This book written by one of Britain’s most successful ever runners is just way ahead of it’s time. I’m reading it here free:

The following quotation is from the article at the following link  I quoted it because it ties so well with my own view about coaching in general and the approaches I now use in skiing…

The following day begins with still more detailed discussions of the technique and how to learn it. Dr Romanov goes into quite an extended explanation of the psychological factors involved and a fascinating, sometimes philosophical, explanation of how the essence of the training is developing perception and awareness while you are running. He states again that this is not easy and explains that we will have to work very hard and continuously in order to make the improved technique our own. As he explains, most people try to disassociate themselves from what they are doing when they are running, rather than embrace the awareness required.

In his discussion, I am reminded of how in order to improve my own swimming I have found it requires continuous focused attention. Dr Romanov explains the failure to improve which is widely experienced by runners as a consequence of unwillingness to actually think about what we are doing. He further insists the benefit of training when done without awareness is lost because the body will reject activities that the conscious mind does not embrace.” 

Core work!

My favourite information and views on running come from Dr Romanov and his “pose” technique.  Following however a lead from a book by Danny Dreyer called “ChiWalking” that I have currently on order from Amazon, I was mostly focussed today on “core” muscle systems. The ChiWalking book synopsis mentions that it recommends accessing core muscle reserves and that those are much more extensive than the relatively weak leg muscles. Dr Romanov doesn’t say much about this but thinking on Dreyer’s theme is interesting and I’ve been joining a few of the dots by myself. When cycling there is a great improvement in efficiency, speed and endurance if you combine “pulling up” with “pushing down” on opposite pedals. As with even Dr Romanov, in cycling this pulling up is always linked to the hamstrings. My own experience tells me that this is not quite right and the the real power comes mainly from the psoas muscles. Interestingly Dr Romanov does make this link and although he is really big on pulling up the foot high behind when running using the hamstring – he says that the core/psoas must be linked to this  when pulling the foot forwards and that it is all linked together with a rotation of the body. I think that he may have underestimated the importance of this though and that Dreyer might be closer  though I have to wait until the book arrives to confirm it. I  can certainly feel the same thing now in running as in cycling and how the core muscles play a major part. I guess that the aim in running (and walking) will be to access those muscles to tap into real power and endurance just as is happening in the cycling. 
The same core muscle systems appear to be used in ski technique when “pivoting”. There is a greater emphasis on using the hip adductors in skiing – but they too are core muscles. Normally the psoas in skiing mainly stabilises and works reflexively in an eccentric contraction (contracting under load) instead of a deliberate contraction. Pulling “inwards” seems to be the skiing equivalent of pulling “upwards”. The psoas is only used actively (concentric contraction) in racing “retraction” turns and in some compression turns in bumps (to reduce compression).
Last year I hurt my back by getting the coordination of the pull wrong on the bike – literally yanking everything up on one side. Over the winter I became aware that the core muscles are more effectively and safely used if there is a contraction on the one side – knee and ribs coming together. This aligns the pull of the muscles more through the abdomen and with a bit of practice it seems to be even more powerful than yanking upwards using the back instead. I can feel the same in running when pulling the leg through from behind – especially if there is a slight rotation of the pelvis extending the stride backwards before the pull. I’ve just got to stop “pushing off” from the foot which is a real habit ingrained over many years. Perhaps this is where the calf pain comes from when running barefoot as it unnecessarily overloads the calve muscles. Interestingly the main “power” to be used in the body for running according to Dr Rakimov is in the “pull”. That’s definitely what I’m already feeling when cycling. There is almost an illusion in cycling though in that you feel a strong load when you are climbing and then remember to pull up harder – when you do so the load disappears and so you feel that this is not right – like you are somehow not working properly. At the same time your speed goes up considerably – but it’s like the brain almost can’t accept it. The aerobic loading goes up a bit but the body can sustain that much longer than any heavy muscle load.
I was fascinated today though when I arrived at a short hill and started to increase power. My immediate response was to stop allowing my pelvis to reach behind but to do the opposite and thrust it forwards during the push off. I guess this is a bit like the equivalent of yanking up the bike pedal with the whole whole side and back included – except this is a running version trying to drive forwards and all the strain is in the quads and the calves. I have pretty strong quads and a strong upper back so probably gravitate unconsciously towards those problematic actions. I’d absolutely never noticed this though in the running – it really makes an amazing difference just being “aware” of what you are doing.

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