One of my recent articles provided a series of running tips to help injury-prone runners modify their technique in order to get faster and with less aches and pains. In this post, I decided to share some of my own personal training successes which I have achieved by forcing myself to run differently, the main ones being injury free running for the last two months, and some seriously fast weight loss. In short, I found one book which has totally transformed every aspect of my run training, and so I thank its author, coach Ken Mierke, for introducing me to the concept of Evolution running.
I started running again last year, after a rather long absence – life and career had sort of got in the way. What I found was that I suffered the usual aches and pains associated with beginning exercise. Everything from muscular aches and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) to debilitating calf strains which left me on the sidelines for weeks at a time. Probably worse than that, I decided to take a break from running during the winter, despite November being very mild here in the UK last year. That was a big mistake as when I started up again in February this year, I had to build up my baseline fitness again.
This year was different to last. I was having a lot of problems straight from the off, with crippling shin splints and painful hip problems. It turned out that I had ‘progressed’ from a neutral gait runner to exhibiting overpronation in my right foot. A switch from neutral shoes to stability shoes solved the hip problem immediately, but the guy in the store also noted that my hips were stiff and hardly moved at all when I ran on the treadmill. I decided to take a long look at my running technique and to grab myself a few books about the subject.
The Triathletes Guide To Run Training by Ken Mierke
The best book by far is called ‘The Triathletes Guide To Run Training‘ by multisport and cycling coach Ken Mierke. (In the UK, you will also find the same book called ‘Triathlon Training: Running‘ which is identical in its content.) Most of the first section served as a step-by-step breakdown of what I was doing wrong. And I’ll be honest, I was doing pretty much everything wrong, and just begging for injuries – which is what I got!
What Mierke concentrates on in Part 1 of the book is evolving your technique so that it becomes more efficient. And better efficiency means more ‘miles per gallon’, so you can end up running faster while using less energy. After reading the section and gradually applying the method into my own running, I found that I definitely ran faster, shaving a couple of minutes off my 2km loop around the local park, and was a little more out of breath than usual because I was pushing too hard. When done correctly, I now feel like I am floating along with very relaxed leg muscles, and that has eradicated all signs of those tiresome shin splints which used to plague all my runs.
Banishing Shin Splints
You might be wondering exactly what Mierke suggests for improving efficiency, especially if you are someone who also gets shin, or other leg problems when run training. Personally, I took on board four main points:
- Shorten the stride so that the front foot lands as close as possible under your center of mass
- Increase cadence, or turnover rate to 180 steps per minute
- Land on the forefoot and allow the foot to rebound towards your butt as you move forward
- Engage the hip flexor and glute muscles more rather than relying on calves and hamstrings
If only for relief from shin splints, I found this book to be worth the price, as it has elevated my running not only in better, faster performances, but also in enjoyment and comfort during and after training.
From Technique to Training to Racing
After Part 1 covers all you need to know about running technique to go faster, use less energy and reduce injury problems, there are three other sections. Part 2 covers aspects of planning your training for the triathlon season ahead. It discusses in great detail the various types of training needed for multisport athletes, including goal-setting and race prioritization; how to develop speed, strength and endurance; training intensity zones; building your own training plans; and finally incorporating the bike into run training with ‘brick’ workouts.
Part 3 is the section which discusses other various aspects of training such as correct mindset, strength training, using rest periods, off-season injury prevention, and also one of my favorite chapters on reaching optimal race weight.
Fast Weight Loss for Optimal Racing
As part of my training this year, I have been following a regime described by Tim Ferriss in his book ‘The Four Hour Body‘. The plan is simply to replace fast, easily-digestible carbohydrates (eg bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc) with slow release carbohydrates (eg from beans and other pulses, etc) and to increase protein intake. Of course, the so-called ‘Slow Carb Diet’ assumes that you are doing very little exercise. But since running and weight loss go hand in hand, and as I am running up to 50km per week at the moment, I am cheating on this particular diet as I can probably afford a little refined carbohydrate every now and again.
I found Ken Mierke’s book after starting Ferriss’s Slow Carb diet, and then discovered that the chapter on reaching optimal race weight also contains pretty much identical information to lose weight fast by eating the right things, rather than using a fad diet. The key is to eat foods which do not rapidly spike insulin release, and that means foods with low glycemic index (GI) (the book contains a detailed Appendix with different foods and their glycemic indexes). Mierke also discusses the importance of combining protein with carbohydrate to slow down the release of glucose into the blood from highly refined carbs.
For me, the chapter on attaining race weight (in my case by losing weight fast!) is a classic. It debunks a few myths, one of them being that regular exercise will enable you to burn fat and lose weight. This is not necessarily true. If you only plod around the local park for 20 minutes, five times a week, you probably will not even burn any fat! You are burning off your glycogen stores during the first 20 minutes; only after that do you start to get into the fat-burning zone (but watch your intensity!)
Another gem of information is to eat straight after your run, as exercise will enable your body to store any excess calories in the liver and muscles, rather than converting it to fat for storage.
With a final section on Racing, including tapering your training in the run-up to a triathlon, and a few race-day tips, The Triathletes Guide To Run Training is a comprehensive yet readable and compact text on gaining a serious advantage in your run training for triathlon. Given the money spent on shaving off a few seconds with lighter bikes and aerodynamic kit, the training notes in this book are well worth the investment, and if there’s one thing you can be sure of, if you don’t have this knowledge, you can bet your competitors does!
Also available – Evolution Running DVD featuring Ken Mierke and Joe Friel.
This is a no nonsense DVD with the coaches explaining all the aspects required to improve your running form, both to enhance your racing performance on the run section, but also to help prevent injuries common to people who have poor running technique. Similar to my results from Mierke’s book, people who have reviewed this DVD on Amazon have described almost immediate relief from shin splints by following the drills and incorporating the techniques into their own running.
Simply a must buy for those of you who prefer to see things rather than just reading about them!