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Fitness Friday || Transition To Natural Running Part 3

Transition to Natural Running Update

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Heel Strike Running Gait

In November of last year, after attending a natural running form clinic, I decided to transition to natural running to eliminate my very obvious heel strike.

Danny Abshire's Transition To Natural Running

I started Danny Abshire’s 8-week training plan. My 8-weeks turned into 12-weeks and I’ve stopped alternating my traditional stability shoe and the minimal shoe. I’m running only in minimals now.

Natural Running

More specifically, I’m running only in Newtons.

Where does 12 weeks and more patience than I ever knew I had leave me?

  • Will I always wear minimal shoes? I hesitate to say never but for now it’s hard to see myself going back to stability shoes.
  • Will I always wear Newtons? Possibly but probably not. I say that only because, as much as I love the Newtons, even with my stability shoe I changed shoes throughout the years. I see no reason why I wouldn’t do the same with a minimal shoe.
  • The transition takes an incredible amount of patience. To give you an idea of how much patience the [smart] transition takes, the plan started out with about 10 min 100m run/walk repeats with a recommendation of beginning on a track.
  • My 8-weeks turned into 12-weeks. I felt like I needed either more strengthening drills or more form drills before moving on the subsequent weeks and longer distances.

Natural running form drills.

  • I highly recommend doing form drills consistently! The drills keep you up on your forefoot and engage the calf muscles and ankles.  Some of the drills in Abshire’s plan include running in place, jumping rope, butt kicks, high knees, and step overs. I made the mistake of underestimating this part of the training for a week and I ended up feeling a week of running in my ankles.

Swiftwick

  • The other thing I highly recommend. Over the calf compression socks. The expected soreness in my calf muscles was minimal.
  • What differences have I noticed? I have never considered myself a smooth runner. I was more along the lines of an elephant than a gazelle. With a natural running form, I feel like my running is smoother and less energy is exerted with each stride.
  • I still have old habits to break. To go faster I still have a tendency to lengthen my stride instead of faster rotations. Sometimes I still find myself pushing off the ground instead of lifting with my quads. I’m confident this will all come with time.
  • Increasing my pace with a natural form seems to be taking the longest. It kind of works out right now with ultra training because pace isn’t my primary focus. Still, I’d like to be faster.

What is one of your best decisions of 2012? Is natural running something you have or would consider trying? If you’ve considered it in the past what stopped you?



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38 Comments

  1. I think I may need the book. I thought I was supposed to be trying to lengthen my stride and I can’t. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it? I’m not sure what my running “style” is. The kind where you just go. LOL

    Must also try the compression socks. My calves sometimes get so sore I can’t walk. Hoping they’ll get better soon so I can run. I’m also assumong I shouldn’t run when they are sore. That could be wrong to.

    1. I highly recommend the book. Not so much because you’re worried about your form. More for ‘good to know’ information even if you aren’t officially transitioning to natural running.

      Sore calves? Err on the side of caution, stretch/foam roll and try to decide if it’s soreness or pain. Often times an easy recovery run works wonders for sore muscles.

      http://jillconyers.com/2012/06/fitness-friday-recovery-runs-training/

      Just a few things to think about 🙂

  2. I really admire your patience with transitioning. Drills are something that I need to get on just for my regular running.

    1. I agree Andrea. I wish I would have known more about incorporating form drills into my training when I started running.

  3. Great job on the transition – especially for doing the drills. I have not always been good with the drills but I will say moving to a forefoot/midfoot strike was one of the best moves I ever made!

  4. Hi Jill and congratulations on making the transition to natural running. It definitely requires dedication, practice, patience, and commitment to master. I generally tell my students to expect that it will take around a year for everything to really gel the way you want it to.

    As far as pushing off the ground rather than lifting from your core…..the “running with high knees” drill is great for this as well as the “step-over” drill. These are both detailed in Danny’s book and videos can be found on Youtube. Just google “Running Form Friday”.

    The key to increasing your pace without over-striding is found in your cadence or leg turnover. You want to aim for anywhere between 170 to 190 strides per minute. A good way to check this is via a metronome. If you have a smartphone you can download an app for this.

    Begin running slowly with a nice quick cadence and when you are ready to increase your pace lean forward from the ankles and imagine there is a rope attached to your chest and someone is on the other end pulling you towards them. As you begin to run faster be sure to maintain the quick cadence. A quick cadence is the best defense against over-striding.

    Good luck and keep up with those drills!

    1. Thank you so much for this Erik! You’ve given me a lot to think about. I didn’t use the metronome as often as I should have. I think that was in part due to thinking “I’m not ready to increase my pace.” Does that make sense?

      Logically, I know not to increase my stride to go faster. Some “bad form” habits are harder to break than others.

      Off to check out midfoot musings. Thanks again!

  5. wow i had no idea how much work went into this! good for you for sticking with it though. do you feel like it’s helped with soreness or recovery?

    1. After the initial soreness of working new muscles, yes, I definitely noticed a difference in recovery time. Granted I haven’t run a marathon in the Newtons yet but my body feels less beat up even after a long run.

  6. After an injury last year I did some natural running at the urging of my sports med dr and like it but didn’t spend the time to build up so I only use the minimalist shoes on short runs now.

    1. It’s tough to find a time when you can safely transition and work toward your goals at the same time.

  7. you do have an incredible amount of patience, so glad its all working for you now. you took your before heel strike photos, what about the after with midfoot strike?

    1. I haven’t taken post-transition photos or video. I need to. I think it’s because I still don’t feel like I’m 100% done with the “transition”. That whole mental part of running 🙂

  8. That is amazing!!! I don’t have the patience for it. Plus I always wonder how you know you are running less with your heel. Did you take pictures or a video during this phase? Congrats!!!

    1. I have pics of major heel striking and Chad shot a few videos. I need to do the same with the changed strike. You quickly learn to feel the difference between a heel strike and a mid/forefoot strike. It’s kind of amazing how your brain is trained to feel the natural form.

  9. Did you write this post for me? 😉
    I am taking the Newtons out for their first mile tonight! I’ve been reading about the do’s / don’ts and I already know that I need to incorporate the form drills into an everyday practice. I hateeee high knees – which screams to me I’m so heavy footed. I want to complete my transition before marathon training starts in June since I think it will help immensely!

    1. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes! Not a fan of high knees either but I love the step overs.

  10. That’s great you feel smoother and exert less energy when you run now – it sounds like extra speed is just around the corner!

    I think about form a lot when I run and when I get it right I feel like I’m gliding along, but I find it really hard to run slow with good form and I start to feel like that elephant! I’m going to put form drills on my to do list right now!

    Best decision of 2012 – starting running! And I would I consider natural running if I developed problems, but as I haven’t yet and don’t have any real issues with my form like heel striking, I daren’t fix what isn’t broken!

    1. Great decision 🙂

      I didn’t decide to change to natural running due to a specific issue. My motivation was to be a more efficient runner and the whole concept just seem to make so much sense.

  11. Congrats on your new running form! I’ve tried minimal running, but I have orthotics and was in corrective shoes when I was younger due to other issues, so it’s just not for me. I do try to strengthen my feet though through yoga, which I hope will maybe allow me to at least get rid of my orthotics one day!

    1. Agreed that it’s not for everyone. I was so baffled at first at the contradiction between hearing you need orthotics and you need more stability vs. needing less shoe and changing my form.

  12. I think my best decision of 2012 was to start running 🙂
    I like seeing your transition with this. I might consider it, but I’m going to try to run more first 🙂

    1. You made a great decision to start running 🙂

      If you’re seriously considering the natural running you might want to start before you run more. My “bad form” habits were hard to break.

  13. I have only met a couple of runners who have done this, but none of them explained the “transition process” like you. Not sure if it is something for me, but I wouldn’t rule it out either, you never know what the future will bring:) Thanks for explaining the process!

    1. Happy to share! It is a process and the risk of injury was probably the biggest motivator for sticking with the plan.

  14. Congrats on completing the transition! A lot of what you described about form resonates with what I’m reading in Chi running… more relaxed, flowing form. It’s helping my running a lot, too.

    1. Chad is into Chi running big time and I am now convinced that is one of the main reasons he has NEVER had a running injury.

  15. Very cool seeing your journey with these!

  16. I think you nailed it when you described your previous running habits being more like an elephant than a gazelle. I think that’s why I don’t love running. I feel all clunky and uncoordinated and that I’m exerting way more energy than I’m supposed to be exerting. I’m thinking now it would probably be different if someone showed me proper form.

    I think my best decision of 2012 (regarding fitness) would be that I almost completely eliminated sugar from my diet.

    That said–I did have a candy bar last night in honor of Valentines Day. But still.

    Happy Weekend!!!

    1. Hi Sandy. Clunky is word I have used often to describe my running. Not so much now 🙂

  17. Good for you for being so patient and diligent with the drills. I think you’ve done a great job with it. I agree about the pace coming last..I think I even went backwards with my speed before moving forward.

    My best decision in 2012 was made at the end of it–to hire a coach for this marathon cycle. I feel stronger and more confident than I have in ages.

    1. I’m happy to hear I’m no the only one who has felt like their pace went backwards with this! I was just thinking about hiring an in-person coach later this year. After focusing on distance most of this year I’m going to be ready to go back to training to increase my pace.

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