Peter taught me a lot in that first session back in March and, when I returned to the store in July, and he saw me on the treadmill, it would appear I’d managed to put into practice the new skills he’d taught me. I beamed when I saw the before and after footage.
While far from perfect, I’d managed to implement the three components of skilled running, as outlined by Peter – posture, rhythm and relaxation. In terms of posture, I’d learned not to throw my shoulders forward when I run and also to shorten my stride length, both of which are linked. I’d also learned to allow my heels to make contact with the ground – something I’d struggle to grasp initially while making the transition to more natural movement. With some work, I’d managed to improve my rhythm, too – my cadence was much quicker and, as a result, I was utilising my body’s natural use of elastic energy. As for relaxation, you only have to watch the before and after video; all of that tension held previously seems to have disappeared with my now more fluid style.
Looking at the above, you’d think it was all hunky-dory and therefore relatively straightforward changing your running style and, in some ways, it is. But making this transition – and putting into practice – has been hard and has brought all sorts of new challenges along with it. Hence, I felt it unfair to write this blog straight after my session with Pete back in July, without practising the new skill over a longer time period and seeing if it truly worked for me.
It wasn’t until last Sunday when I ran my first 10 miler, that I realised, fully, just how much it has worked for me (in terms of performance, anyway), hence feeling it was the right time to write this blog. I’d run my best race to date – admittedly, I’d never run a 10-mile event before, but running a time of 1hr 25mins 29secs was a huge achievement for me and I’d never felt stronger. My previous half-marathon PB was 1hr 58mins, meaning I was running 30 seconds per mile faster! And I was in the top half of the field! This then brought some crucial reflection time on my running since changing my style back in July. Since then, I’ve not only ran a decent 10 miler, but knocked a minute off my mile PB (now 6mins 34mins) and nearly three minutes off my 10K PB (now 51mins 19secs). My performance has definitely seen some sizeable improvements and, given I’ve not changed my training regime during this time, I could only credit my new way of moving as the reason for my faster times.
So, why have I overlooked this now so seemingly obvious improvement in my performance for so long and why have I left it so long to write this blog? Sadly, I’m still grappling with some nasty niggles and, to be honest, I naively hoped this new way of moving would stop all of my injuries all together – straight away. I felt duped. That said, upon reflection, my new style has, indeed, eliminated all of those initial niggles that I came to Peter with four months ago. Firstly, I no longer suffer from shin pain which I find absolutely remarkable (if you’d told me that 12 months ago, I’d never have believed you) and, secondly, I no longer have any calf pain when I run. Hoorah! Frustratingly, though, over the last six months, I have been suffering from all sorts of pain in my feet and ankles and I’ve not been able to put my finger on why… until this weekend.
A read over my last blog has given me an insight into why I might be suffering with nagging pains. Had I been practising the deep squat position to build strength in my ankles, knees and hips as instructed by Peter? Had I been practising jumping on the spot, gradually building up to jumping for 5 x 2 minutes EVERY DAY with a bar over my head, to develop my functional elasticity. Had I ‘eck. I’d been doing all the ‘fun’ stuff but not doing my homework – the drills that Pete had, ironically, drilled into me to do daily!
To improve, you have to put the work in and that means getting my lower limbs stronger – something I won’t do by running races. Over Christmas, I’m going to be taking some time off and working specifically on my foot, ankle and leg strength to hopefully come back stronger next year, so stay tuned for the results in part three of my blog. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is the ‘perfect’ running form. For now, it’s about being patient and working on those weaknesses…
As a special offer to Women’s Running readers, Pete is offering his 90 minute one-to-one sessions for £85 (usual price £100) between now and 31 December 2016. To book a session at the discounted price please call the Vivobarefoot Store on 0207 3795959 quoting the code WomensRunning15.