I have a confession…I used to be an elephant runner. You all know what I am talking about and we have all been next to them in a race…heavy breathing, feet slapping the bitumen sounding…well HORRIBLE and PAINFUL!!! We then usually find ourselves running faster or slower than normal just to get away from the NOISE!! I too used to be that guy, a heavy, hard landing, hear me coming like a jumbo jet, heal striking, tattooed runner (not quite as many tattoos as now but you get the idea!).
My recovery from runs used to take an eternity, I was living in Skins, running in calf socks and sometimes skins shorts, icing, heat packs, heck if standing on my head, spinning around whilst balancing plates on my toes would have made my legs feel better, I would have done it!
Note the words used to…
I have had a number of conversation/slightly heated conversations with a number of different people recently about the topic of recovery. This has been something I have wanted to discuss in my blog for sometime and here we are. Before I go too much further, I know that a number of you will disagree with me, screw up your faces, hate me forever and probably write a letter to the editor…(that may be an exaggeration!) but I firmly believe in my view points and if you don’t like em well your loss! Ha!
So…where am I now? At this point of my running career, my running recovery is almost instant. I really believe that this is down to a number of minor details however two main contributing factors. These are :
1) My shifting and maintaining a vegetarian diet, and
2) My complete change in running gait.
Ohhhhhh, I can hear the haters already! As mentioned earlier, don’t be quick to pull me down, have a read with an open mind and you never know, you might be encouraged to further your own journey in better your running!
So, I have read countless articles about how ditching the dead animal and moving over to a plant based diet can improve your life in so many ways and one of these being recovery from training. I must say, I was a bit of a sceptic when I first started to be interested in becoming vegetarian. This however has very quickly changed! Since going all hippy on y’all, I seem to be able to train on a far greater workload than before, run more often and not get sore legs! I naturally get what I call ‘running tired’ (this is more of a ‘I’m sleepy and need some rest’ tired than a leg tired) but no longer experience the heaviness, concrete, tough battle to recover from long runs that I did before.
Now I am not going to get all scientific on you but this is due to a vast number of reasons (taking in more valuable nutrients, the body’s ability to absorb plant based products much more quickly, plant based foods being ‘lighter’ and easier to digest etc.) There is a number of websites that are extremely useful and have a wide variety of benefits for, excuse the pun, giving meat the chop!
GAIT…ahhh such a beautiful thing…when right!!!
So, the second thing I attribute to my morph-speed recovery is my change in gait. Now I am sure that most of you have never even thought about this…or even know what it is. Gait is our running form/stride length/foot landing position/body movement amongst other things. Basically, the way we run.
As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a horrible runner. Sounds weird as it is just putting one foot in front of the other right…WRONG! Over time, I have eliminated cushioning in my shoes, freed my feet and ditched the shoes all together. As most of you would know, I now only run in sandals (huaraches) and completely barefoot. This topic is a whole thesis in itself (I would love to do one one day!) but I will try to summarise!
The basic differences (that I have noticed) between shod (shoes) and un-shod (FREE) running are…
Heel striking generally v Forefoot to midfoot landing
Straight leg landing v Bent leg/knee landing
Damaged, weak feet v Strong, uninjured feet
Squashed feet when running v Natural splay, free feet
Constant, niggling injury v Zero to minimal injury
‘Breaking’ with every step v Natural forward momentum
Lengthened, un-natural stride v Shortened, natural stride
Slow, laboured leg turn over v Quick, energy efficient turnover
Black toenails and swelling v Nil of the mentioned
Heavy landing v Up to two thirds lighter landing
Slower, harder running v Natural, faster running
Effort v Joy!
Now this is not an exhaustive list by any means but certainly some good starters. This is a whole nother blog topic!
Sooooo, how does all this help with recovery? Well I believe (and has been tested and proven by some science clown) that it mainly comes down to the foot landing position.
When getting out of shoes, or at least going to a minimal one (not ideal but better), the stride is dramatically shortened and your foot lands nearly under your body as apposed to out in front of it. By doing this, the foot lands on the mid to fore foot and leg turnover is increased. This also reduces the impact on the foot, ankle, lower and upper leg, knee, hip and all other parts of the body. All of this in turn reduces body stress and thereby reduces the amount the body needs to recover when finished a run. No more smashing your legs, just pure, beautiful, unhindered free, light running.
Again, I can see you all giving me the forks and disagreeing. That’s cool. I don’t expect all, or any of you to listen to what I say or rant about. What I do encourage though is for you to open your mind and gain more knowledge about what you do and not just go through the motions.
There are SOOOO many good websites and information out there that go into much more detail than I have here. I will include a few Google topics below for you if you might be interested.
Life is all about learning, knowledge and growing. Let’s all keep our minds open and get amongst it! It is my dream to have all my friends running, injury free, smiling and sharing the same beauty in the simple art of movement that I do. Running is the most primal, simple, basic form of exercise/enjoyment we were ALL built and born to do. If you can have the chance to do it, without injury and minimal soreness, trust me, you will fall in love with the bride that is running!
Here ends my rant...
PS – I have ditched the 100mile a week idea due to it affecting my motivation. I have now done up a pretty hectic 16week program including a run to Childers (road, 55ish k’s sandals), Cooks Tour 50mile (trail, sandals), Rocky River Half Marathon (road, barefoot) and the Gold Coast Marathon (road, barefoot). Should keep me buzy!
RIPPER GOOGLE SEARCHES
No Meat Athlete (One of my favourites)
Scott Jurek (One of the best ever Ultra Marathoners...and VEGAN)
Barefoot Ken Bob
Anton Krupicka (Possibly my favorite runner, along with Killian. Minimal runner but still wears shoes)