||[Oct. 7th, 2011|06:53 pm]
So I feel compelled to share my story with whoever happens to read this in order to avert as many injuries as possible. A little background, I absolutely love running and have been doing it at a semi-competitive to competitive level since I was in sixth grade. Ever since that time, I had never really been taught very well how to run; the focus of practice was always on distance or drills. While drills certainly helped prepare me for sprints and faster running, I clearly had some core deficiencies that were never quite handled by my previous coaches. I didn't run very much comparatively through college because I was on the rowing team, and after I graduated, running was basically the only way I could think of to remain in shape, not to mention all the other benefits running provides. Anyway, I went from running very little or not at all to running about 7.5 - 8.5 miles per day at least 5 days a week. I almost never ran inside because my running time was about the only hour I got to myself, and I wanted to make sure I was outside when doing it, no matter how the weather was. Through this period, I never got new running shoes, almost never stretched, and generally felt okay, but I certainly found a point after which it was hard to run any faster or for a longer distance.|
Then came the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, a 3.5 mile fun run for charity through Central Park. I signed up along with most people in my group and because I'm competitive, I clearly wanted to beat everyone I possibly could (and hopefully everyone I work with). Now, 3.5 miles should have been an absolute piece of cake. I hoped to run it no slower than 6 minutes per mile (considering I was averaging about 6:50 - 7:00 / mile for longer distances), but the week before things were starting to break down. I felt a certain pain in my left leg I couldn't quite put my finger on, but I kept running, and I figured it would be fine. I was feeling okay through the race until about mile 2.5. At that point, it was almost like I felt something snap in my left leg, and I limped through the final mile of the race. I still finished (yeah!) but I was in serious pain. I couldn't walk without a severe limp, and worst of all, I was about to go on a 5-day hiking trip to Italy (maybe not worst of all, but it couldn't have been worse timing). I actually was fine hiking, thankfully, but my leg continued to deteriorate through the course of my week in Italy. I have basically been through doctors and physical therapists since the beginning of July because of it.
Physical therapy has actually been very helpful because I feel like I'm finally learning how to run. The very first day, they put me on the treadmill to try and run, and although I was still very clearly injured, a few simple things really seem to alleviate pain and make running much faster and more sustainable. What I've learned is that no matter what speed you run, you need to try and get your cadence up to 180 beats per minute. What differentiates fast and slow is not a difference in cadence; it's a difference in stride. Cadence should remain consistent at fast and slow speeds. Running a fast pace at low cadence (~150 beats per minute) can be very dangerous and tends to cause injury. Moreover, when you run, it's imperative that you land on or near the balls of your feet. You should feel yourself bounding forward with each step, but you should always remain upright. Additionally, you should keep your arms to your side and moving parallel to your course -- arm movement should not be diagonal.
All of this makes so much sense once it's told to you, but I had either not listened before or had not been told any of this crucial information. I'm still in physical therapy, but I hope I'll be out soon. Once I am, I'm confident I'll be faster than ever and on my way to running marathons, like I've always wanted to do.
I hope this averts some injury or that you already know all of this information. It was new to me, and if running is as important to you as it is to me, make sure you take care of yourself, because it really hurts not to run.