Form Fix: Quiet Feet are Happy Feet
Developing a quiet foot strike
by Coach Jenni Nettik
The next time you head out for a run, listen to your feet. What do they sound like? Can you hear them slap the ground?
A loud foot strike is inefficient for several reasons:
1. It causes extra strain on joints and bones. Running with good form on a flat surface requires a runner to absorb the impact of 2.5 times of his or her bodyweight with each step. A loud foot strike is sloppy, that means the load rate is higher. Do the math, that’s a lot of weight for your joints and bones to absorb.
2. It indicates wasted energy. Runners want the majority of their energy moving them forward, not to the side or down into the ground. A loud foot strike is the sound of energy going into the ground, almost like a brake.
3. It demonstrates a lack of muscle control. Runners want to engage multiple muscles throughout the entire stride. A loud foot strike means a runner is letting gravity pull his or her leg to the ground. That may sound efficient, but it means fewer muscles are engaged, so the ones that are, the glutes and quads, have to do more work and fatigue more quickly.
4. It often means a runner is over-striding or heel striking. Efficient runners stay near the ground with a quick cadence and land near their center of mass for a low impact rate.
Luckily, developing a quieter foot strike is pretty simple, although it may take a little time to master. The best way to improve the efficiency of your foot strike is to listen to your feet.
Three quiet feet drills:
1. Marching mimics the running movement. Before your next run, march for a block, listen to your feet. Turn around and march back, this time march as quietly as you can. What do you do to quiet your feet? Slow down and concisely place your feet on the ground.
2. Skipping exaggerates the running movement. After you march, skip for a block, listen to your feet. You guessed it, turn around and skip back with quiet feet. How do you control your foot strike? Slow down and engage your hamstrings and glutes as you strike the ground.
3. Go run and listen to your feet, try to run as quietly as possible. Take short light steps. You may notice that when you get tired, your feet get louder. As you build strength, it will be easier to maintain a quiet foot strike.
Do you have any form fixes of your own?
Speed: Keep it Simple
Three types of runs
by Coach Jenni Nettik
I like to keep things simple, running included. My favorite type of run is a trail run because it’s about the process, not the details. The thought of running around in circles on the track just doesn’t have the same appeal to me as exploring a new trail. However, at the end of last summer, I decided I wanted to end my season of trail marathons by qualifying for Boston on the road. There was no question in my mind that I had the endurance and strength needed for the race, however speed was another story, I spent my remaining month of training focused on speedwork.
I did three types of speed runs: Long, Tempo and Yasso 800’s
1. Long Run
I know a long run doesn’t typically fall in the speed category, but I’ve included it because I believe pacing the long run correctly is essential to a runner’s overall training and recovery. The majority of a long run should be done at an easy pace, 60-90 seconds slower than marathon race pace. That means one should easily be able to chat the entire time. If three-quarters of the way through the long run, you’re feeling strong, pick-up the pace by 30-60 seconds. When in doubt, start a little slower than you think you need to, so you can finish a little faster. Finishing strong gives you a great mental boost and keeps you motivated to train.
There are lots of different ways to do tempo runs, of course, I like to keep it simple. I run about 6 miles at a challenging pace that is doable, but requires some mental toughness. I use a weekly group run because running the same course helps me pace myself, push myself and monitor my fitness. A tempo run should be done at pace that you can maintain for an hour, that means it’s a little slower than your 10K race pace, but little faster than your half marathon race pace. Your breath should be smooth, but you shouldn’t be able to tell your life story to your running buddy.
3. Yasso 800’s
Yasso 800’s are my favorite track workout because of their simplicity. Here’s how they work, the hours and minutes of your marathon goal time, coordinate with the minutes and seconds of your 800 meter interval times. For example, your goal is to run a marathon in 3:30:00, that means two weeks before your race, you’re going to run ten, 800’s, each with a time of 3:30. Between each 800 meter interval, you jog 400 meters to recover. Early in your training, start with fewer intervals, 4 or 5, and then every two or three weeks, gradually increase until you reach ten 800’s about two weeks out from your race. Want a little more information on Yasso 800’s? Bart Yasso explains the workout in more detail here: Yasso 800’s
How do you work on speed?
The Power of Positive Thought
Mental strength and self-talk for runners
by Coach Jenni Nettik
I can’t do this.
I’m having an off day.
I’m just not as strong as . . .
Do any of those thoughts sounds familiar? Probably, all athletes have negative self-talk, it’s how a runner responds to self-doubt and negative thoughts that sets him or her apart from the pack. I’ve found that racing comes down to three things: fitness and health, nutrition and fueling, mental strength and self-talk.
For me, mental strength was the missing piece of the puzzle for successful racing. It was my weakness, now it’s a challenge I enjoy. Athletes use a lot different techniques to tackle the mental aspect of sports. I have a few tips to help you get started working on your mental game.
1. Understand that everyone has negative self-talk.
First, I think it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. All athletes battle the voice in their head when the going gets tough–even that person in front of you, and the winner of the race. Mental strength is something you can practice and increase like fitness.
2. Become aware of it.
I don’t think people always recognize how often they have negative thoughts or create excuses that set themselves up for failure, or a less than ideal performance. Have you ever thought, I’m feeling tired today? Well, that may be true, but what’s the benefit of telling yourself that over and over? What do you hope to gain by telling everyone that you didn’t sleep last night? What you’re doing is giving yourself an out, telling yourself it’s okay to run a little slower or skip the workout altogether. Does that help you reach your goal? No.
3. Stop it!
Once you’re able to recognize negative self-talk, you can stop it. The easiest way to stop negative thoughts is to simply say, “Stop” to yourself when you have a negative thought. Saying it out loud, or under your breath, makes you even more aware of it. Think you need a little more feedback? Try wearing a rubber band around your wrist, and snap it when you have a negative thought. Again, this makes you aware of your negative thoughts, and provides a consequence to help change your behavior.
4. Replace your thoughts.
So, it’s a speed day, and speed work is hard. You’re doing fartleks, and all you can think is, I hate these. First, stop the negative thought. Now, try rephrasing your thought so it’s neutral or positive. For example, you could say, three down, only five to go, each one gets me closer to the end. An even more powerful positive thought would be, this is making me stronger and faster, helping me reach my goal, I’m going to qualify for Boston.
5. Find your Mantras
Mantras are short phrases that you repeat to yourself, they’re powerful thoughts. A mantra can be something as simple as, I can do this. It can also be a cue like, relaxed and smooth, shoulders down. A mantra should be personal because different things motivate different people.
Having multiple mantras is helpful for different phases of run or race. Early on, use something simple like, I’m strong. Later, when things get tough, use a more powerful mantra like, growth comes when you are uncomfortable.
Practice your mantras in training, just like you practice your fueling, you want to be prepared and know how to use them on race day. Mantras can replace negative thoughts, or be used as meditation to prevent negative self-talk from creeping in.
6. When you feel good, embrace it.
Sometimes, everything goes according to plan. You’re on a run or in race and your mind is blank, the time is vanishing, and you feel great! Know that your hard work has paid off, and enjoy the feeling!
Positive thought is a powerful tool for running–and life in general.
How do you use mental strength and self-talk when running and racing?