Friday, April 08, 2011

Run Like a Cheetah

One day my friend witnessed me hobbling around the office, wondering what in the hell I was doing to injure myself and why. He suggested I stop running. I suggested that he was crazy.

With that, about 4 of us in the office stepped outside into the parking lot to showcase our running strides, as Martin was convinced that maybe my stride was doing me in. I ran. Mike ran. Tonya ran. Then Martin ran and broke out into this crazy stride! We were all kinda looking at each other funny. He was trying to explain how to run more efficiently by landing on your forefoot.

Ohhkay, Martin!

We all retreated back into the office. I started to research this, having heard of the benefits of barefoot and forefoot running. There is a wealth of info on it under Pose Method, Chi Running, forefoot running, etc. Elite runners, Kenyans, cheetahs, barefoot runners and CHILDREN run this way. It's the most natural running stance, but yet some of us were taught to run heel to toe at some point in our lives or maybe we picked up some bad habits, or both.

Sure enough, at my sons baseball game I really watched how the kids were running. "I'll be damned. Kids DO run this way. They DO NOT run heel to toe. What the hell have I been doing all these years? DAMN IT!" I realized that my running stride was not that of a cheetah or a Kenyan, but of a middle-aged woman that really needed to make some changes in her life if she wanted to continue running and improve her running distance and times. How could I have been running for sooo long and not even given this a look?

We don't change when we want to. We change when we HAVE to.

I was really excited about this style of running.  I read, studied and applied, studied, applied.  Previously my runs were continuous, nonstop running. Slow, but continuous. Then I started to apply this technique, which threw my running times and distances in the toilet - but only for a week or so. It literally was like starting over and I was pissed. Here I was, less than 6 weeks away from my 1/2 marathon and I found myself unable to switch back to my heel toe form just to be able to keep the pace. The first couple of steps left me out of breath and weak in the legs. I had to stop every 1/4 mile or so. My body got so efficient at running inefficiently! Great. During the first week I thought my calves were going to fall off the bone. There was one day that I could barely walk. But you know what? That leg soreness was worth what I traded it in for - no more hip, neck or low back pain.

Week three and here are some of my personal discoveries and experiences:

  • My enormous calves are starting to develop into two different muscles now that I am triggering my hamstrings and calves
  • My hips don't hurt anymore
  • I have more energy when I run
  • My 10:00 mile is closer to 8:30 and sprints are super easy and fun!
  • I just FEEL efficient, stronger and faster

I'm obsessed with watching people run now. The heel strikers almost always look lethargic and like they are in pain. The forefoot strikers look like they are gliding effortlessly.  Just watch people run.

My running partner's fitness level needs to improve as well. She was used to our old pace and was struggling to keep up with me this morning.  No, I'm not a bitch, but she is.  She's a 10 year old collie/lab mix, so I think she will adapt quickly.

Many of you are already Pose, Chi or forefoot strikers and if so - look behind you - I'm gaining on you! If you are a heel striker or are just looking to improve your efficiency, I would highly suggest checking into the Pose or Chi method to see if it works for you. It's definitely working for Usain Bolt.


  1. Fascinating. As a non-runner, this actually appeals to me. I would consider trying running using the forefoot technique. I'll let you know ...

  2. It has helped both of us immensely!