My running form feels like it’s gone. I’m running badly. But I’m also planning to run the Brighton Marathon in 2019 (it’s in 21 weeks). So what am I going to do about it? Here’s my 7-step solution to fixing bad running form.
I’m quite an obsessive type. But once the obsessing is done, it is also in my nature to find solutions. So, when I ran another bad session, and a very slow cross country, and felt terrible, I knew l had to deal with myself and my unhealthy and frankly annoying negativity. First tip, negative thinking and talking don’t help!
1. a) What’s Your Why?
Yesterday, I wrote on the Endurance Women Facebook page: “Running with others works. I went into a bit of a negative place about running over the last few weeks. Lost perspective. Beating myself up for not being fast etc… The thing is running is fun! Getting outside, getting fresh air, moving your body the way it should be moved. It’s the same for cycling and swimming. And the chat, the banter, the post run coffee is all part of it. Hope you’re endurance training always remains fun… Don’t lose perspective (as I did last week!) … keep smiling 😁😂🏃♀️🏃♀️🏃♀️”
1. b) And What’s Your Why? (I’m not a ‘Fun Runner’)
What I wrote is only half the story. Yes, I do love running with others and getting outside – and smiling. But I realise it’s important to be honest with myself and the part two to my why is this: I run because I like to see what my limits are and to be competitive. I like racing, I like pushing myself. I don’t just want to finish a race. I’m not a fun runner. You won’t find me shouting ‘oggy oggy oggy’ when I’m racing a marathon. I want to be breathing hard and pushing myself. I want to compete and I want to progress, I want to see what my limits are. That’s the main reason I do it. However, if the only reason I ran was to compete in races and improve then I would have stopped. And I haven’t. And to make sure I don’t I’ve thought more about the solutions…Read on.
2. Enjoy the means to the end… not just the end (yep, be in the moment)
When the balance tips over into the negative and I obsess and focus on how bad I feel I am, it doesn’t do me any good. I say things like I want to give up running – but I really don’t. It’s a bit like when someone’s trying to get pregnant and obsessing about it day in and day out. There’s a real danger they might stop enjoying the thing you need to do to get pregnant. And if you stop enjoying that (or only do it with the end in mind) it makes it even harder to get what you want. And really it’s a miserable place to be. You leave the moment, miss the good bits and only look at what you have’t got, that’s somewhere in the future. So of course, once again I’m reminded, what matters is being in the moment, and enjoying the process. And for me the process is a process where my goal is to get faster and improve.
3. Strength training
Running to perform well isn’t easy. Yes, you just put one foot in front of the other, but, to keep doing that there’s a bigger picture. There’s the total body to consider! I’ve got to stop talking about doing strength training and start doing (important for over 50s). When I did my PB in 2012 I was working with personal trainer Matt Shore and doing box jumps, dynamic squats and lunges and pull ups to work on my upper body. I worked on the core and did stretching too. It all helped even though I would often think ‘I should be running’, but without a solid foundation of strength, injury and bad form follow. I also did a lot more hill running and off-road training. All of this makes you stronger and boosts running economy (you go to from 0-7 min mile quicker).
4. Check in on nutrition
I can be very haphazard where nutrition is concerned and often eat carbs, carbs and more carbs, way too much sugar, tea/coffee and alcohol. It’s about getting the balance right. As we get older we need more protein for muscle repair and building strength. And we all know why less sugar, booze and caffeine is a good idea. I’ve been a person who’s got away with it for a long time, but I think I need to up my nutrition game, and put my focus on fuel. It’s not about drastic changes, just small steps, and being conscious of why I want to eat right.
5. Are you deficient (Iron supplements)?
Even with good nutrition iron, vitamin D, and magnesium can all take a battering when you do endurance sport. My blood was tested in June and vitamin D and iron levels were included and came back as normal, but following a chat with Emily Proto, top runner and masseuse, I remembered that iron needs closer attention when you run. Prompted by our chat I looked at my records again, they were the very low end of normal and I’ve read here, that for runners 20-plus is where we should be heading (mine was 18 in June and I’ve been anaemic twice before). So my actions are: I’m having roast beef for dinner, and I have started taking Spa Tone in my Smoothies again (liquid iron supplement) and will try to eat more pulses and dark green veg – and avoid drinking so much tea, swapping it for hot water (as tea can impair the absorption of iron).
6. Flexibility and core strength
Runners often neglect flexibility and core strength. Swimming is a great way to work on both of these and I love swimming but since the Ironman I’ve barely swam at all. My tattoo is firmly affixed now, so more excuses. I will work on strength in the pool, using paddles to build the muscles around my now repaired broken collar bones. And kicking with a board is great for my core. A stronger core, and good upper body strength will also help me feel more balanced and I hope improve my slightly compromised biomechanics.
7. Periodised training (add in a ‘building confidence’ mesocycle)
When you’re off form it can make you lose perspective and lose confidence. It makes sense to step back and look at your training year. Good coaches periodise your training and allow athletes to focus on different aspects of their endurance fitness in six to 12 week blocks. I’m clearly in the off season period having completed the Ironman on October 7th. But with five weeks passed I’m coming out of recovery (I think) and I’m ready to focus on speed. My goal race is the Brighton Marathon 2019 which is 21 weeks away and for the next five weeks my goal is to build some confidence by working on speed and strength before I start marathon training. Joe Friel recommends athletes in the 50-plus category include more intense training, and my endurance has definitely been worked on this summer, so a little step back from miles won’t do me any harm. As building confidence is a goal I did question the wisdom of racing tomorrow – another PW can zap my energy if I let it. However, a simple re-frame of my thoughts and a step back has convinced me it’s a good idea. Racing at my threshold pace is a great session for this week and will be another step to contribute to the mesocycle goal of getting faster. A few more park runs, and some speed work and strength sessions will, I hope, result in a pick up of pace and a boost to my confidence, as well as giving me a break from the long runs until after Xmas. Of course, I could still be knackered, so the caveat is, if I don’t get faster I don’t give myself a hard time, I just keep working on finding solutions.