Improving my running

As many folk will probably be able to relate to, I started running when I was overweight as a means of getting fitter and healthier. Before then, I had never really been active beyond the normal sports classes in school or running around as a kid.

Again, as with most folk, my introduction to running was following a couch to 5k programme. It was simply me and my watch shuffling around the local streets and parks.  I gave no thought to how to run, it was simply a case of moving faster for those “run” sections.

Over the years, I have stopped and re-started running as a result of illness and injuries but am pleased to say that I now feel that I am back on track health wise and am looking forward to really getting back into my running.

My focus for this year has been on getting the miles back in my legs. A lot of this has been off road and Owain and I have been able to get out and about and explore different parts of the country. At the moment, we haven’t been able to explore as much as I would like as I am only able to run around 10k distances so the aim is definitely for the miles to increase so that we can do more exploring together.  After all, not all of us can just knock out a 50k run whenever they feel like it!!

In order to try and stay injury free, I have started to look at my running technique. Having seen many a running picture of me, I know that my technique isn’t great and in most photos you can see my top half over-rotating, my body collapsing when I land - my arms seem to do more work than my legs -  and I tend to hunch over when I get tired.

By pure chance, a saw a post on Facebook for a Dynamic Movement Skills class run by Colin Gordon of Performance Sports Therapy and decided to email him to find out more information. As the title suggests, the classes are aimed at improving your balance and co-ordination to help you move more efficiently.  This seemed exactly what I was looking for. 

I decided to go along to a free taster session and really enjoyed it. The movements themselves are quite simple, hop and jump drills on a bespoke mat.

The aim is to work on moving your feet more quickly and even by the end of that trial class I could really feel the difference and knew I would feel the benefit from more classes. This may sound silly to experienced runners but it made me realise that, even for easy running, you still need to think about engaging with your body.  It isn’t simply a case of going out and switching off, which I have tended to do until now.

The classes were offered as a 6 week block in a studio in Central Edinburgh. The only drawback for me was they were 9am on a Saturday morning.  Not great timing as we always have something on at the weekend and, when we don’t, we like to get to the local parkruns.  The first block started on 24 June and looking at my calendar I knew I could only make 4 out of the 6 classes in the block.  Undeterred, I decided to take the plunge and commit to the 6 week course. 

I think many may have been in the same position as me and not been able to commit to a full six week course so Colin has helpfully changed the current structure to pay as you go which certainly works in better.

The format for the classes is pretty similar with us doing the same movements but the focus being on moving our feet faster. Doing the movements, you become really aware of your body and feel the difference a slight adjustment in body position makes. One thing that stuck with me from an early class was a comment Colin made about having a regular patter with your feet.  Now when running if I find myself zoning out, I focus on my feet hitting the ground and listen for a regular “pitter-patter” and it is amazing how that little focus can make a difference to your pace.

As the classes have developed, Colin has introduced some additional work focusing on body movement during running and looking at body position and rolling your body weight through your feet as you move. I really struggled to get my head around these to start with but it was easy to see the link it had with my weak body position while running.

My six week block has now finished but I hope to continue going to the classes as and when I can. In the end I managed three classes over the six week period, having to miss an additional class due to spraining my ankle. However, when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make the class, I did go out by myself and try to work through the drills that we had been doing in the class.  

The movements have made me much stronger as a runner and I have no doubt they will benefit me as I start to increase my miles. The techniques are easily transferrable and Colin has even suggested incorporating them into warm ups.  As I can’t make tomorrow’s class, I decided to go to the local park and work through some movements today. The difference in my pace there and back clearly demonstrates the benefits the movements have – the run back felt so much easier with no real change in effort:

 

 

If you want to find out more about the dynamic movement skills classes and in particular how it all works. you can visit:  http://www.performancesportstherapy.net/massage-and-therapies/dynamic-movement-skills/.

 

Mandy Williams

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