Monday, October 29, 2012

learning how to run

Running is a complicated thing.  You think to yourself, you just run and its that easy.  But apparently (for me), its not.

I've been running regularly since 2008, so I'm not a novice.  I try to run ~20 miles a week.  My longest training run has been 16 miles.  So I should know what I'm doing.  Except, I just found out that I don't.

I have chronically tight calves.  They hurt.  And they make my right foot go numb.  I keep getting my calf worked on (dry needling, massage) to loosen it up.  Then a few runs later, it's like I was never treated.  I'm 99% sure my calf caused my heel fracture.  I was discussing my most recent calf tightness with my PT and she suggested I go and see her friend that does video running gait analysis.  We're thinking I'm doing something wrong (root cause) and that is causing all these calf issues and related injuries.

Video gait testing went something like this:
  • run ~10 minutes on the treadmill at a comfy pace to get used to running on a treadmill
  • run at above pace with your preferred shoes on while being videotaped from the back and side
  • remove shoes and repeat video from the back and side.
I did not like the barefoot running.  Immediately I knew my left foot was misbehaving because with each step, because there was a SMACK everytime that foot hit the treadmill. 

After the treadmill video session, I was asked to do a few tests:
  • stand on a box, balance on one foot, squat down and tap your heel on the floor down in front of you (evaluates glutes)
  • balance on one foot and do toe raises w/out setting your heel down (evaluates ankle)
I passed the toe raise test but miserably failed the step down test on my left side.  Awesome.

After a prelim evaluation of the video, I felt like I got a D- in running.  I am STILL heel striking (in Newtons!  Imagine how sad it would be w/out them!) and worse, I am not engaging my muscles when I run.  Most people get nice and pretty calf contractions as they run.  I have calf muscles (I see them when I do calf raises!) but when running the back of my leg is smooth.  There's no calf contraction.  I'm also not engaging my glutes.  STILL.


So I have more PT exercises to work on.  And in 3 weeks I get the full video evaluation and corrective measures.  And I'm going to work with my normal PT to evaluate my neural transfer.  I master my PT exercises pretty quickly (meaning they become too easy) and I KNOW I have muscles.  There could be something weird going on between my brain and my feet that makes it so I'm not engaging those muscles.

I'm also working with a new triathlon coach, and she's introducing MAF heart rate training.  You take your target fat-burning-zone heart rate (HR) and set that as your maximum HR for workouts.  This teaches your body to use fat as fuel.  And I suppose it does something to increase your fitness, as it teaches you to run faster at a lower HR.  Eventually.  I'm skeptical, but at this point, running slower is probably good for me.

Yesterday was my MAF test, which consisted of the following:
  • 5 min walk
  • 10 min easy jog to warm up (during which my Garmin was FREAKING out, showing a HR of 180.  dumb technology)
  • 25 min of running with a max HR of 142, keeping track of 1 mile splits.
  • 5 min walking to cool down
I ended up taking splits every 1/2 mile because I wasn't sure I'd get in 2 miles.  I'm slow.  I was just hoping I could keep things slow enough  controlled without having to do much walking. The first lap wasn't too bad.  I had to focus a bit to keep my HR down, but it wasn't awful.  Same for the next lap.  The third lap required a bit more focus.  I was literally saying "slow, light steps" and trying to be very efficient and not waste energy to keep my HR down.  The last lap really required 100% focus.  Any momentary lapse and my HR zoomed up to >150 bpm, which required 5-10 sec of walking to bring it back down.

Essentially, it was a test to see how slowly something could resemble a run while keeping my HR down.  It was tricky, mentally.  But afterwards, I didn't have my usual calf tightness.  There may be something to this.
  • Lap 1: pace 12:37, avg HR 141, max HR 146
  • Lap 2: pace 12:50,  avg HR 142, max HR 145
  • Lap 3: pace 13:22, avg HR 142, max HR 148
  • Lap 3: pace 13:47, avg HR 141, max HR 153
I imagine that I'll be doing this test in a few months to see how I'm progressing.  Ideally, my pace will increase at that HR max. 

    No comments: