Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle?

The fall colors are about to get hammered by some big rains..that will be it for autumn.

It's been a month since I got back from our long trip: 7 weeks since the Berlin Marathon.
Although I didn't have any problems during the marathon or during the hiking around after I started running I pulled the damn thing again. 

This is probably the 6th time I have pulled one calf or another. 

A few weeks passed with me doing a lot of cross training and strength training (which I enjoy reasonably well)..the calf gradually got better. But, I was thinking during that time: "I need to figure how why this is happening ". 

Calf sleeves have helped, but they haven't solved the problem, stretching and strength training...ditto.  Clearly there were some form issues that were Not Right.

Not that it's all bad: over the years I have made a lot of progress in my form:  

  1. I'm using a much more rapid cadence (from 78-82 to 85-90) and amid-foot strike.
  2. I have worked through terrible AT issues, and some slight PF issues as well. 
  3. I learned how to keep my core strong and release my psoas muscle when it's locked up (which is rarely is now that I'm stronger).
  4. I also discovered how to deal with my leg length discrepancy with a small homemade foot lift. 

My last peaked marathon, my fastest to date at 3:54:54 (Eugene, Or) I had no big issues in training or during the race...that was awesome!

Anyway, after this pull I was still noodling over the problem of *why* the pulls?. Then one day before I was to go down to Pasadena for Thanksgiving looking through running books to read for the trip  I stumbled on the ChiRunning book. 

I like books. I like learning things from people that have already been there. Isn't that what makes us different than the animals ;) ? 

I downloaded the ebook and read it during the trip down....Bingo! 

I'm not a fan of the "Chi Energy" theory itself: from my point of view that's just a way of visualizing and explaining things...it's not required to believe in that to get the benefits of the form instructions. There's a lot of good thinking behind the form ideas and so I don't let that bias me.

There were several things that jumped out at me in that book..(in order of 

1) My lower legs are tense and working way to hard. In fact my glutes and upper legs are too tense as well. This is the bingo moment. In ChiRunning you are totally relaxed and not tense in the legs and glutes.

2)I was forward leaning too much. Result: stress on lower legs.

3) I have not been doing enough hip rotation to lengthen my stride during faster paced running...free energy lost!

4) I really don't keep my hips leveled all the time, like most people they are tilted back which is bad. I have the core muscles to do it now but I often let this slide...also resulting in stress on the legs.

Why didn't I read this book before? A couple of years ago I was looking at the Amazon reviews and some guy said "...all this book is y telling you is to lean forward from the ankles when you run". That I had already learned so I didn't think to read the book...what a stupid move on my part, but also  what a stupid thing for this guy to say.

If there is one thing I've learned over and over now, it's that form is critical to running healthy ...and fast.

I started working on adding these elements to my form..I've racked 20 miles for last week at various base paces. So far the calves are feeling better even though the running is more. It's an interesting feeling keeping my lower body loose and relaxed and cranking 9 m/m.  

Read the ChiRunning book..it's good information. As I said I don't care for the 'chi energy' model but you don't really need to use it, you just need to follow the focus lessons on your form. There is also a some chapters on diet etc that I don't really need (I think...hm). 

Official Tacoma training starts Jan 1! Need some good base training under my belt before then...for this peak I want to:

  1. Clean up my form as per the above..no injuries!
  2. Migrate back to the Kinvaras for the race by mixing them back in training.
  3. Hit race day down in the 16X lbs.


  1. Interesting about the calf soreness. I've tried to transition to Newtons, and the main by product has been some calf tightness - especially right after runs. Seems like it's because my calves are now doing work that they haven't done before. I've been trying to foam roll a lot.

    In general I do like the Newtons a lot, they are very responsive. I tried Kinvara's but unfortunately they were just a tad too narrow for my right foot, so I had to return them which is a bummer. I loved them though - besides them being too narrow they are probably my favorite shoe I've ever run in.

    1. Hi Nelly,
      I have tried the newtons and while I like the feel ok (and they are light) they require some tension in the lower legs (or you end up with negative drop)...i.e you have to support yourself on the plugs which are more under the forefoot and not the midfoot

      They are not for me, I think. But if I didn't have this calf pull problem I would love their lightness, good forefoot padding and flexibility

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  3. That's great -- I love when pieces fall into place. I've got that book and have never read it. Not sure why actually but I'll pull it out and give it the once over.

  4. I need to re-read that book, it's been a few years and I remember reading it then thinking it was too "weird". But that was before my big foot strike change. I'm glad it's helping you with the calf problems...those devils really love to give you grief so now you can tell them to go shove it, you have a fix for them - hopefully permanently! :)

  5. Very interesting. I've been very lucky with injuries. I'm a natural forefoot striker and also extremely slow. I think this makes for injury free running. I am doing research for my wife though. She is training for a 10k and have some lower leg aches and pains.

  6. ha, this must be a sign. This is the second time I hear about this book in the last 24 hours. I must get it. I am glad you found answers in this book. I hope your calf heals fast too.

  7. Sorry to hear about your calf :-(
    I hope I didn't cause it by forcing you to push me to the finish line....

    I had looked into ChiRunning when I first became a running coach but I didn't buy the book or go any further into it because I also don't like all the Chi energy stuff. I'm now going to buy the book and take it from there.

    Maybe I should become the first ChiRunning coach in Copenhagen :-)

    I hope to very soon meet up with you again!

  8. Sounds like a great plan Paul! I love having goals and plans :) I've also skimmed through the Chi Running book and did find it interesting, but this was before I got addicted to running...maybe I'll give it another look.

  9. this is really cool, I should check this book out. So sad about another pulled calf issue. :(

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