Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moron Running

The more I look at it, the less you need to know to become a comfortable runner.  The key aspects are being strong and flexible enough to be ready for the stresses of learning to run, followed by learning and maintaining a high cadence and strong arm swing as a beginner.  That's about it.  Most of the rest of the details (foot strike, heel-lift, etc.) develop as natural consequences of the few items above.

Everything else I've come across is focused on what not to do!  And that list is long.  And the list has differences for each of us.  That's why I've chosen to focus only on basic, comfortable running: Becoming a fast runner requires learning the specifics of what works best for your body in terms of both training and technique.

The beginner should have to focus on just a few key elements, with the standard of success not being speed in a race, but comfort over a distance.  Comfort must come first.  Once you have comfort, distance becomes easier.  Once you have distance (still with comfort), then you may be ready to experiment with technique and training changes to focus on speed.

Too many coaches focus on speed as the standard of success.  Probably because it is easiest to measure.  Running with comfort and fun is harder to measure.  For me, fun and comfort are by far the most important indicators of success as a runner!

Only professionals and the hyper-competitive should suffer for their sport.  The rest of us should enjoy the doing, and let the result be whatever it is.  Only those obsessed with speed should be concerned about biomechanics, kinematics, physiology, and similar scientific details.  The rest of us should simply focus on running comfortably, and enjoying the experience.

Comfort and fun:  Don't run without them!  Everything else a beginner needs to learn to run should be the absolute minimum required to provide access to comfortable running and fun.

When learning to run, the KISS Principle definitely applies.  The hard part is finding the few things needed to make learning to run "simple".  Many have written on this topic, but as soon as they boil it down, they turn around and complicate it with explanations and mind-numbing detail that is meaningless to the beginner.

I suspect most would prefer to approach learning to run as a moron who wants to stay that way:  Tell me nothing other than the minimum needed to get me running comfortably!  Don't make me think: Help me do!

The details can wait until the hunger for them appears.


  1. Moron Running ... you're talking my language. So, I've dropped a bunch of weight, spring has come to the Midwest and I'm ready to start moving my body. Is there a difference between "running" and "jogging"? These flat feet are ready to get started.

  2. Running and jogging, when done right, can have virtually identical form. The arbitrary dividing line is based on time, namely 10:30 per mile. Faster, you're running. Slower, you're jogging.

    Unfortunately, neither running nor jogging is done right by way too many people. Many joggers have their shoulders rounded and pushed forward, with their feet slowly trudging with each step. Many runners not only do this too, but also have other ways to run poorly.

    Good runners and joggers share many common traits: A nearly vertical posture, short quick steps, and good arm motion. The main differences are the forcefulness of the arm motion and the length of the stride.

    Jogging is an excellent way to prepare for running. After all, as you become able to jog faster, at some point, by definition, you will be running!

    Many new and former runners skip right past jogging, as if they are in a rush to damage their bodies. Jogging is a great way to experiment with changes to your running gait with little risk of pain or injury, in essence letting you "try before you buy".

    The single most important thing to focus on while jogging is to keep your leg turnover rate (your cadence) at the same high level used for running. Meaning, when done right, jogging is just running with a shorter stride, at a pace at or below 10:30 per mile.

    When you start to run many miles at faster than, say, a 6:00 minute/mile pace, additional changes to your gait may be necessary to adapt to the longer stride needed at this speed. But if you aren't yet such a runner, your run and jog gaits should be extremely similar, if not identical.

    I believe every runner should also train to be an excellent jogger! The reason is simple: There will be times when you run beyond your limits (due either to nutrition, conditioning, terrain, fatigue, or other factors), and you will be tempted to walk for a while. Don't do this! Many running injuries happen during the transition from walking back to running.

    Normal walking and running have very different muscle firing patterns: When returning to a run, the run muscles have uneven levels of recovery, since some are used for walking in ways that are different from how they are used for running. So the initial gait when starting to run again will be forced and awkward until all the muscles get back in sync. During this period it is extremely easy to stumble, twist an ankle, or overload a muscle or tendon.

    Jogging at a walking pace will let you recover while keeping your muscles firing in the running pattern. Rather than call it "jogging", I often call it my "Git 'er home" pace: I can jog almost as far as I can walk.

    If I am too weak to jog and am forced to walk, before I return to running I will completely stop for a few minutes so all my muscles can recover together. Generally, once I start walking, I'm done with both running and jogging.

    I will go to great lengths to avoid walking: Before I reach complete failure, I will stop to get a drink of water and to give myself a quick leg massage, which can do wonders to get me running again.