Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Legs v. Lungs

OK, so making the transition to a more natural running style isn't all unicorns and rainbows.  It hurts a bit too. 

In the past, when I've had to stop running it's been because I was out of breath.  This time around, my breathing and heart rate are level, even though I'm running faster (a relative term) than I ever did before.  It's my legs that are holding me back.  My calves get tight and if I go too long, I start to compensate and my form suffers (which my body communicates to me in the form of shin splints). 

Here's the good news: my back feels great.  My chiropractor told me I'd never be able to run without pain.  Yet with my inov-8's and a more natural form, I'm running back pain-free.  And while my calves are sore, my breathing has been so good that I know I've become more efficient in a fairly short amount of time, which is really encouraging.

I know that with time, my calves will get stronger and catch up to my lungs.  To help facilitate that, I'm being diligent about stretching, I'm strength training on my off days, and ice has become my new best friend.  If you have any other tips, I'd love to hear them!



  1. Hi,
    I did the transition 2 years ago, and that was the best thing what could happen to my running. First shoes X-Talon 212, and still rocking in them afer 3000Km.

    I think ICE-ing is a very bad, and unnatural habit. Any inflammation appears to create heat and more blood flow to the area, like this more nutrients and healing agents can enter the cells. I never use ice, not even for injuries.

    I recommend you to check out few stretches not only for the calves, but for the soleus too, very important.

    Get a tennis or a golf ball too, and do some plantar fascia massage, as well. Running will fell more relaxed on your feet, and can effect your calf stiffness.
    The other thing is foam rolling. 3-4 times a week you could go over your full lower body, anterior and posterior chain too. It is just amazing feeling. Get the GRID from trigger point therapy. I am using it for more than 2 years and I am not going anywhere without it.

    I hope it helped, and wishing you a goo transition.


  2. I'm not a fan of stretching (I'm too lazy!) but a couple of basic calve stretches combined with self massage on an evening (I use Dog Oil, but I imagine they all do the same thing) and my calves adapted fairly quickly... I think it took about a month to get used to minimum foot ware.

  3. Shin splints in a natural running style is due to not letting your heel kiss the ground before pulling your lower legs off the ground with your hamstrings. Also do not flex your feet at all, the ankle should be loose. If you have close to zero drop shoes you shouldn't necessarily land in the forefoot, it might be best to land in the midfoot. In any case when first starting to run in POSE it's common to have different muscles in use from the calves and feet themselves. So this may be a short-term problem as long as your ankle is loose, and you let your heel kiss the ground.

    Also for post-workout use a foam roller on your calves like a typing machine, as well as post stretch with your calves. www.mobilitywod.com is helpful as well as crossfitendurance.com

  4. I'm strength training 6 days out of 7; 1 set on running days, 2 sets on off days.

    I think it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right strength drills for you. Most of mine are calves and core; it's all either abs or lower leg work, which is great for me because they're the two areas I needed it most.

    My achilles were beginning to be a bit of an issue - around 26 miles/week I was aware that other muscles were overcompensating, so I backed off for a few weeks and started the strength exercises.

    If anyone's interested email me at tim.sharpe at sabisu.co

  5. Nicole - Ice is perfectly fine and highly recommended to treat inflammation! I've actually started doing ice baths (very cold tap water is sufficient, ice optional) and they have made a huge difference in terms of speed of recovery. The cold will reduce the inflammation and the as the body warms, your blood will naturally circulate blood flow back through and help flush out metabolic debris. It is a common and increasing ritual of pro athletes.


    All the best!

  6. Finished last Sunday the fourth week of the transition program (thus I am now 'adapted' :-) ), and I am almost more convinced than I was before. I was able to change my running style significantly in these four weeks - no more heel landing - and I am impressed by the speed gain I made. But above all: pain free! (I quit running in the past because of Achilles and ankle issues; only restarted last October).

    I read in quite a lot of blog posts & articles that most of the 'transitioners' have to cope with sore calves. I must say that I have been saved from that (thus far). But the difference might be the strengthening exercises I have been doing (almost) daily for the last couple of months. The exercise is pretty simple & short - I usually do them just before going to bed:
    stand up straight, relaxed, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend a little through the knees, and lift one leg up until almost parallel to the floor (you might want to use the opposite arm for maintaining your balance). The lower leg and ankle of your raised leg should hang loose. Make sure you keep your upper body/back straight, and keep this position for at least a minute (but you might want to start with a little less). Then do the same exercise for the other leg.
    It might be a bit difficult in the beginning, especially to keep your balance - though that might improve quickly. If you want to take the exercise a step further, try it with your eyes closed. Or, raise your heel of the leg you're standing on a little (start with just loosing contact from the ground). Not sure if it helps everybody (and if it helps you when you already started the transition program already), but it looks like it helped me :-)

  7. Stretching is probably the best thing that could ever happen. My chiropractor says stretching the hamstrings often will help reduce the back pain when sitting. How are you running in natural form? I have scoliosis and I don't want that to stop me from running but it actually makes it worse. Currently running a proform treadmill to help minimize the impact on the joints. Good for temporary run itches but going outside would be the long term goal.

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