Pulling Vs. Pushing

Let's do a little thought experiment first:

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So you're cooking pasta after a long day at work. Your mind is still buzzing from all that happened during the day. You are not paying much attention to what you are doing and you accidentally place your hand on the stove that you didn't think was already hot. What would you do?

We can pretty much agree that you want to get the hand off from the stove as quick as possible for it to not get burnt. And I'm guessing you would not first press the hand hard against the stove to only then take it off? So let's just agree that you would, as a reflex, PULL the hand off from the stove as quick as possible, because the longer the hand is on the stove the more likely it is to getting burned, right? You pull the hand off because that's the quickest way of getting it off.

That leads us to the subject of......

Ground contact time and its correlation to running efficiency and speed

There may be a lot of things under discussion and a lot of misunderstandings happening amongst the running community, but one thing that we can all agree on and that's been proven to be correct through numerous studies is that great runners spend less time on the ground and more time in flight. So in other words, their ground contact time (GCT) is shorter that the times of some not-so-great runners.

Researchers from Ryukoku University in Japan examined the running gait of elite half-marathon race athletes and videotaped 415 runners as they passed the 15km mark. As they studied the tape to gather measurements of ground contact time for each runner, they observed a strong negative correlation between ground contact time and speed. The feet of the fastest athletes, spent the least amount of time on the ground. 

What is your goal as a runner?

As a runner, you most probably want to move forwards? That's your ultimate goal right? So why should you be concerned about your Ground contact time?

Here I'll explain you that as simply as possible. 

Firstly - When your foot is in contact with the ground during running, you are not moving forward. You are only moving forward during the flight phase of the running gait. So the more time you spend in the air and the less time you spend on the ground, the faster and more efficiently you run. 

" Ground contact times were ~10.0% shorter (very large effect) than in previously published literature in elite runners at similar speeds, alongside an 8.9% lower oxygen cost (very large effect). These results provide evidence to hypothesise that the short ground contact times may contribute to the exceptional running economy of Kenyan runners."

- A Study concluded by a group based in the University of Cape Town, published in The Journal of Sports Sciences: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27157507 

Secondly - the longer your leg is loaded with the weight of your body, so the longer it stays in contact with the ground, the more increased is your risk for potential injuries. You will not get injured in the air right?

" We conclude that subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce the loading to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.
Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during.... Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44803486_Effects_of_Step_Rate_Manipulation_on_Joint_Mechanics_during_Running[accessed Apr 20 2018]. "

Pulling Vs. Pushing

So let's go back to our little thought experiment at the beginning of this text. 

We agreed that you would pull the hand off from the stove to get it off the heat as quick as possible, right? You would do that without thinking, as a reflex to the heat that you would feel in your hand.

Almost the same applies to running. We could simplify the running movement to as simple as:

" Pulling the leg up from the ground as a reflective response to the foot contact to the ground "

Try moving forward by fully extending your leg and pushing off and then try moving forward by removing your foot off support by pulling it up. Which one is easier and faster?

Conclusion

We've only scraped the surface here to what it comes to running technique, but we need to understand the "why's" and "what's in it for me's" for to really be ready to make a change.

Now we understand that the fastest and most efficient runners in the world have the shortest ground contact times and that the fastest way for us to get the feet up from the ground is by pulling can we start our journey towards becoming, not just better, but healthier runners.

You may have the hips of steel and buns perfectly shaped like little peaches, but it all doesn't really matter if you don't improve your movement efficiency first. Trying to push off instead of focusing on simply pulling the foot from the ground and your simply just wasting your energy and strength in stopping yourself. Think how fast you would be if you used that energy towards moving forwards?

Start your experiment with pulling by these hill accelerations.

Try first to just push your body up the hill and then try and fall towards the hill and as you need to change support just simply pull your leg up from the ground.

Which one did you find easier? Which one required less muscular effort?

Even a small improvement is always better than no improvement! :)

These box drills may also be helpfull with starting to feel the difference between pulling vs. pushing. Try first to push yourself off from the box and move forwards. Try to then fall of from the box and pull your leg up from the ground as you feel the foot touching the ground. Did you feel any different? 

 

PS. I've just opened up my newest online program of 12 weeks that is focused on improving running speed and efficiency. Let me know if you are interested :) https://skillbasedrunningcoaching.trainerize.com/contact.aspx

" Every step counts"

I've been lucky enough having had the chance of coaching some great athletes.

For me the definition of a great athlete means somebody who is ambitious with their goals, does not settle for the average, but does it with an humble attitude. Somebody whos mind stays open and always willing to learn and explore new. And someone who does not give up easily, who is willing to also do the work that's required for to reach the goals they've set for themselves.

That's someone like Merja. 

Below she tells about her experience with Skill based running training and our journey together learning about "the art of pulling my leg up" ! 

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" In the picture above, you can see a cadence trail and hear the metronome beating at the speed of 95 bpm in your ear, whispering in a coach-like way, “hamstring-hamstring-hamstring-hamstring”. The elderly gentlemen playing pétanque glance more than once at the person pulling up her legs (and swearing) on the sandy sports field in Kaivopuisto who once in a while spurts into the movement that everyone could understand as running. That was me, it was the summer of 2015, and I had decided to learn to run.

I wanted to learn to understand why running is fun, but I didn’t want to risk having an injury and being sore every few weeks or months. In addition to my inner motivation, an important reason to why I wanted to try a totally new way of running was my trust in the proposer and my knowledge of the coaching methods she and her colleagues practise in their CrossFit box. When I started CrossFit, I really started to rethink my ideas about training volumes, technique, performing methods and the meaning of mobility training. Our coaches in the box (Stadi CrossFit) impressed the meaning of skill work as a way to avoid injuries. They emphasized the importance of performing the workouts correctly rather than quickly. They didn’t let you avoid mobility training, and you learned the significance of the core muscles. I get bored easily and need new stimuli quite often. That’s why I appreciate the variety of workouts in CrossFit. I’m also someone who likes to have guidance, is interested in new perspectives on training, and is eager to learn new things in cooperation with professionals.

Instead of running as much as possible, I had to rely on that the new way of training could give me a new start and enough training stimuli

In that context, I was quite an easy target for trying out something new and also for a paradigm shift in my running habits. Coach Ansku suggested to me that instead of focusing on long runs, I could learn new priorities, such as running skill work, running form, balance and technique, and special strength training that could also help in avoiding injuries. Learning skills and a good running posture could give me the base for adding more distance, volume and intensity. Running and long-lasting (and long-distance) workouts in general were decreased to a few workouts per week in which technique work, time trial (tempo) running, and interval running alternated. Instead of running as much as possible, I had to rely on that the new way of training could give me a new start and enough training stimuli. Because it was summer time when I started and I hadn’t set my sights on any competitions, I decided to maintain my long-distance cycling routines in the background. But when the intensity of the running workouts increased, I also trimmed my cycling routine so that I could concentrate more on my running to build the basic level of skills.

My running workouts included a variety of functional movements and strength training that improved my coordination, balance, core muscles and the art of pulling my leg up!

I did running technique workouts in which different drills helped to improve my performance technique. I had to replace long steps and heel strikes with a “brisk” running form. I started to learn a rapid cadence and more pulls per minute. Like at CrossFit classes, my running workouts included a variety of functional movements and strength training that improved my coordination, balance, core muscles and the art of pulling my leg up. After I had learned at least a little bit of controlling my body (from head to ankles, from hands to legs), maintaining a good running posture and understanding a cadence higher than 91 bpm, I started to do high-intensity interval workouts. But even in the beginning I was given challenges in the form of shorter sprints (25–50 m), which helped the new technique to become part of practice. I also realised that I could learn to run slowly by running fast sprints. Mobility work became part of my routines in every workout and even between them.  

The hardest part in the beginning was to accept being a beginner

When we had reviewed my running on video and did the first drills in Kaivopuisto, the hardest part in the beginning was to accept being a beginner. Exercises that were appropriate for learning were hard at the first steps. I got frustrated, when the simple drills and high cadence got me exhausted, and I felt that I didn’t face anything else but new weaknesses. It was crucial that Ansku was and is a coach with a mission and passion for her work. She was always able to tell me what the meaning of each workout was as part of the whole and what its intention was and gave lots of feedback. Humbly and patiently I continued to jump back and forth on the sandy sports field. When I was learning something totally new, I needed a programme, instructions, visual and written stimuli and supervision. In addition, it was motivating for me that we did workouts in different places: We met in the misty Kaivopuisto in the early mornings, cycled through snow to the running tube at the Eläintarha sports field and “ran” with a rubber band and skipping ropes in the box. I was surprised to notice that my body responded little by little; I started to enjoy running and really felt like I was learning something. I started to feel how my body felt more stable when running 100-m sprints, I learned to use my hands while running, higher cadences started to feel normal, and it was suddenly easy to jump onto the block of wood on one foot. I got more aware of my training routines and my own ways of learning – also that I’m pretty lazy if I don’t do a weekly training programme.  I felt that my running condition increased even if I did just sprints.

Between the springs of 2015 and 2016, I focused on technique and skill work both in running and in CrossFit in general and did mostly high-intensity interval workouts instead of long-distance/lasting workouts (in the winter time I had spinning or swimming once or twice a week). I took condition tests both in the summer of 2015 and spring of 2016 and I got better results in the latter. Never before had the start of cycling season been as easy as in the spring of 2016. Even though I started to manage a good technique in running and continued to combine that with a little more distance, my heel was still aching every now and then and I had problems with my breathing. I had a little decline in my training in 2016, especially in my new running routines, but I noticed that high-intensity training in the CrossFit box and cycling helped to sustain my condition. At the same time I noticed how a stressful working period and too goal-directed training might be hard to combine.  At the end I abandoned wearing high heels and I got a new medication for my mild asthma. Not to mention changes in my stress levels. I started running again with indoors training in the winter of 2017. I knew how to start, what to do and how to programme thanks to the good advices I had got before. Running felt very nice and I started to feel that this could really be a part of my training repertoire.

 

My goals are somewhere else than in competitions. Because every step counts, I want to maintain the meaning of good basic technique and a playful feeling.

Ever since then I have been running and doing CrossFit and my other sports without any pain, and the whole package is working now.  I explore running with barefoot shoes and I’ve started to run on trails and playing in the woods with a compass. My goals are somewhere else than in competitions. Because every step counts, I want to maintain the meaning of good basic technique and a playful feeling. I want to know how I run and that my running workouts have variation. With the help of CrossFit training in general and experimenting with a new type of running, I have gained structure in my training and understood the meaning of technique and skills over loads, distance and speed. By concentrating in learning something new I gained new enthusiasm, perspectives and learning experiences. I have also learned that this CrossFit-type of running training helps me not only to develop but also sustain my endurance for example in the times when I don’t have lots of time to train.

- Merja

 

Change, what does it actually mean?

At the beginning of a New Year, we often make plans and think of things where we could do better. We want to improve our nutritional habits, workout more, relax more etc. All of those means a change in something.

And even more, a change usually also means giving up on something else. In order to do something more, we often need to do less of something else.

If I want to improve my nutritional habits, I often need to give up on some bad habits that I have. You need to add more of the good stuff and decrease eating the bad stuff. Makes sense right?

But what does it mean becoming a better runner?

The biggest obstacle I see stopping some people that I train, is the fact that they haven't truly made the decision of changing. Coming back to what I wrote above, if you want to change you need to be willing to give up on something that you are currently doing!

When improving or often changing the running technique, it means that you will need to give up on the distance and work your way back by owning the skill first. Because, you wouldn't say that you're going to improve your nutritional habits, but still keep on eating a chocolate bar every day. That would not make any sense, right?

So whatever change you are planning to do, make sure you have it clear in your head; Why you want to do the change? And What that actually means in practice?

When you have those things sorted out in your head, then nothing can really stop you. Change means giving up on something, but the reward that will be waiting for you in the end is usually a lot bigger! :)

This year is another great chance to become a better runner! ;)

Coach Ansku - Skill Based Running Coaching

https://skillbasedrunningcoaching.trainerize.com

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Why do we need movement standards?

"Every single person who runs goes through the Running Pose, but not everybody is Pose Running." - Pose Method

To be able to improve and analyze a movement, we need movement standards. You know those; we practice the Burgener Warm-up and learn how a sequence of poses leads into us getting under a heavy load held on straight arms on top of our head. That does not happen by chance of luck. No, we practice the different poses that lead into the end result. We know that the more efficient we are in getting from a pose to another, the more we can lift. We would never think of just starting to Snatch without any understanding of the movement itself. Right?

Well running should be no different from that. 

"Every single person who runs goes through the Running Pose, but not everybody is Pose Running. That is why video analysis is essential. The video reveals what happens before and after the runner goes through the Running Pose. And that is what makes all the difference. Some runners go from Running Pose to Running Pose, that is what the Pose Method of Running essentially teaches, and others land on the heel or flatfooted, roll through, then attempt to toe off as they also attempt to produce full knee extension thinking they are propelling themselves somewhere as they waste precious seconds and significant effort on completely unnecessary commotion."

- Pose Method

That's why the video analysis of running is very standardized as well. We have the standard of a running pose that we know every runner goes through. That is the point in the movement when any forward movement can start to happen ( and that's the goal in running). So what we want to know is how efficiently a runner goes from a pose to another and how much of extra movement a runner does outside those poses.

Does it help a runner to improve knowing the angle of their knee flexion? Not really, as it doesn't really have a meaning to the athlete. How do you then practice that? Should it be more or less and how will it eventually affect the running performance?

A runner will benefit from knowing what extra movement is happening and how to eliminate that. 

"Movement related misuse injuries and pain are our signals that we’re deviating from the already existing standard of movement. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, won’t change this standard."

"Think of any possibility of teaching without any standards. It’s impossible, because you can’t build any movement without knowing the forces influencing your body parts, and you can’t correct any errors in your movement, because errors are by definition deviations from the standard."

- Pose Method

We will never get to a point when our movement is "just perfect" and we can stop doing any technique work. No, that's the point when you will stop improving. If you understand the meaning of a movement standard, then you also understand that the closer you are to that the more efficiently you will move. If you can eliminate extra unnecessary movement, you will spend less energy in the same distance. So the faster and longer you can go without fighting against the laws of nature.

You get better results with less effort and don’t traumatize your body in the process.

 - Pose Method

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PS. Would you want to know how you run? Ask for more info about our running technique analysis!

 

 

Why learning is the key to ongoing progress?

" As a beginner, your mind is empty and open. You’re willing to learn and you are receptive to all new information. As you develop more knowledge, your mind often becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.
The problem is that when you already know a lot, you actually need to pay more attention, not less. Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.
And why does that 2% matter? That 2 percent is what the greatest athletes never miss and that's why you see them never plateau."

As we get better at something we also build up the understanding of it. Whether the subject was the World War 2 or Running, we can only build up our understanding of the subject on top of what we already know about it.

First we learn the "bigger picture"; who was fighting agains whom or what movement creates running. That's how much we can learn and understand when we begin. But is that it? The World War 2 can be understood by simply who was fighting against whom? Or that running has no other nuances than a step followed by another step?

No that's when we have learned the basics of it and that's when we can start understanding the relation of the smaller things with the bigger picture as it now has a meaning to us.

We learn things in terms of meaning. Finding meaning in our learning is the key

You can always learn new if you keep your mind open to it.

First you have an open canvas, then you paint the rough lines on it and then you add the small little details.

So it goes with learning any movement; first you learn the basics, then you learn the little details as they now makes sense to you as you understand the basics. You can connect those details with  your experiences and make them mean something in your practice.

Often times this means that we learn something, then we challenge our selves; whether it's with weights at the gym or by distance in running. At this stage we maybe hit a small bump on the road as we understand that we are no longer progressing. So we go and study the subject a little more, we learn something new and understand that we are not able to implement that new information without taking a little step backwards (unloading the barbell or lesseninng the distance or speed). We practice, so that we can implement that new information. As we then learn to do that, we progress again with the weights or with the distance. Having improved our technique by learning something new we now stand a better chance of progressing further than where we were before.

"Why haven't I learnt this before?"

"Why haven't I learnt this before?" or " Why no one ever told me about this before?"

Probably you have came across that same information before, but you don't remember as you couldn't find a meaning for that information before as you weren't where you are now, knowing what you know now.

Probably your coach also left that information out as they knew you couldn't have been able to absorb that information before as you lacked the basic understanding to build up on.

What ever case, you can only learn so much on one go. So don't feel bad about yourself for not knowing it all yet, because you never will. What actually matters is that you never stop!

As long as you are learning, you are progressing.

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How to transition from cushioned shoes to barefoot shoes? Or should you even?

Using true minimalist shoes—shoes that are widest at the ends of the toes, have a flexible sole, and possess a completely flat support platform—offers the possibility of profound and enduring foot health benefits. Like most aspects of health, it’s always best to exercise caution and restraint in transitioning to a new and natural approach. Your feet and body are amazingly adaptable and will indeed strengthen if treated appropriately. But this remarkable adaptation works best with patience, diligence, and a progressive approach. It is an investment well worth making, as it will pay foot health dividends for an entire lifetime.

- Natural Foot Gear

There are so many good articles over this subject that I will not just settle for telling you about the facts (all the facts you need to know are written here) , but instead I'll tell you from my experience and try and give you some practical tools to work on!

 2003 - 10-12 mm heel drop, cushioned, over pronation arch support

2003 - 10-12 mm heel drop, cushioned, over pronation arch support

When I started running regularly, I was 16. We were living the time when just about every shoe had "over pronation supports" and just about every shoe seller at the stores "analyzed" you having over pronation without actually ever looking at your gait (funny that! ;) ) So I ran with over pronation running shoes (as almost everybody!) with the intention of landing on the heel and rolling over the toes, as at that time, we were told to do so (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEFEIDtjdeo )  

 2005-2011 10mm heel drop

2005-2011 10mm heel drop

......until I started running longer distances and my medial knees started hurting. At the same time I started researching a little more and came into the conclusion that I don't need the extra arch support, changed my shoe model to new, but they were still highy cushioned. My new go to shoe had been found: Asics Gel Nimbus! I ran with those through the years I covered the most amount of distances. My long runs were...long.

 2010-2011 Less cushioned shoe from Asic's "fast running" series. Cause the speed is in the shoe right? A little less heel drop, maybe 8mm?

2010-2011 Less cushioned shoe from Asic's "fast running" series. Cause the speed is in the shoe right? A little less heel drop, maybe 8mm?

After finishing the Helsinki City Marathon, I started looking for more speed. Not that I was unhappy about my performance, but that's what I thought I should be doing, right? So I purchased another pair for to use along side with my "long distance shoes" for speed work. Less cushioned, more lightweight shoes, that were supposed to get me faster.

So did they get me faster?

No, I was still a runner of one speed. Every time I tried to improve my speed and do more interval type speed work, it only lead me to getting injured.

I can remember quite clearly completing a 30k run with my goal pace of 5:13-5:14 that was supposed to get me over the finish line of my next marathon in 3:40. Again, as I was pushing my limits, I got injured and then the whole idea of doing annother marathon just faded away. I'm sure I could have ran several marathons within the same average time of 3:50 - 4h, but somehow I felt I was just slowly wearing my body down, rather than using my time in building it.

 2012-2013 Heel-To-Toe-Drop 3.8 mm

2012-2013 Heel-To-Toe-Drop 3.8 mm

My first pair of barefoot shoes

My first barefoot shoes, I purchased already back in 2008. Those were probably one of the first ones in the market, but I used them only occasionally in some group fitness classes. But my first pair for to use in running, I purchased around 4 years ago. That was the Skora Form shoe.

At around the same time I got curious over this new wave in the running world: natural running technique. I attended a course over the subject and really started to work on it. 

Now that I had a sense of the technique, the whole idea of a barefoot shoe, started to make more sense. So I stack with the Skoras and worked on my technique. I had my fare share of problems too. Looking back now, if I had known better, I would have searched for a pair with a 6mm heel drop. As I went down "4 sizes" on one go!

Many people benefit from a stepwise approach to minimalist shoes that involves a gradual transition from a built-up conventional shoe to a transitional type of shoe to a true minimalist shoe.

- Natural Foot Gear

My first pair of Skoras started to wear out, so I ordered myself a new pair. I needed them quickly, so I think I rushed with the order a little bit as I didn't notice that the new pair was a full 0 drop barefoot shoe!

 2014 - 2015 Skora Phase 0mm heel drop

2014 - 2015 Skora Phase 0mm heel drop

So what did I feel the next day after my first run with them? That my lower calves and achilles tendons were super sore! A clear sign that the demand was much greater than with the 3,8mm that my feet were accustomed to. 3,8mm sounds little, but for your structures, it's a lot!

Did I suffer from any injuries?

Yes. I had several problems with my feet and the soles of my feet. Nothing major, nothing gone broken, but things that forced me to have breaks from running.

I did a lot of mobility work, I used a voodoo floss band on my ankles almost every single day, rolled the soles of my feet every day while washing my teeth and gave some good massage to my calves after each running session. And I didn't need to sit much as I don't have a desk job.

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But what made the final change for me, is the fact that I changed all my shoes to barefoot shoes. That's when I finally got rid of the tightness I felt in the soles of my feet. Nowadays, rolling my feet with a golf ball is really not a big deal as I don't feel much anything at all. And the most importantly, I wear high heels probably only 2 few time/ year! Yes they look nice, but women; is it really worth it?

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Would I recommend changing from cushioned shoes to barefoot shoes?

There's really only one question that will determine my answer to that: 

How much are you willing to work for it?

You can't simply just jump into a pair of 0 drops from a 12mm heel drops and think that your body will just adjust, because you know, it won't. 

This is what you need to consider:

- Wearing high heels or even just normal heel raised shoes everyday at work or elsewhere and then just suddenly jumping into barefoot shoes for your runs is not going to happen. If you truly want to transition to barefoot shoes, you will need to make some changes in your all around shoes too to support the change

- You will need to do a lot of mobility work in order to get your structures ready for the change. Are you willing to do that work? As we know, nothing comes for free.

- You may need to consider how much time you spend sitting at your desk. As the whole body is connected. Sitting for long periods of time will shorten up your hamstrings and tighten up your lower back, this will affect the whole posterior chain: the chain that runs from the soles of your feet all the way up to your neck and your head. If one link in this chain gets tight, it will affect the whole rest of the chain.

- You may need to do some strength work on your feet as the little muscles in your feet get weak when you are not using them at all wearing cushioned shoes.

- You may have some bumps on the road, as what it comes to your feet, there are so many little structures that may possibly be overloaded by this change.

- And the most importantly: You will need to cut down your long runs temporarily.

So knowing what I know now and learning from my own mistakes this is the receipt I would give you

  1. step - learn the proper running technique first : it's not that the shoe will somehow fix your technique
  2. step - start doing mobility work regularly, I mean daily : a little but often goes a long way!
  3. step - buy another pair of shoes with 2mm less heel to toe drop and use them along side with your old shoes : If you have a 12mm heel to drop now, buy a pair with 10mm and use them in your technique work first only and slowly transition to using the new pair only.
  4. step - do as in step 3, but the next pair would be 8mm
  5. step - ...and the next one 6mm
  6. step - 4mm
  7. step - 2mm
  8. step - 0 drops 

How long will it take? Think of it as "as long as is needed" . Steering away from injuries for as much as you can should be a priority number one on your list. So rather take it too slowly than too fast. For me it took all together for around 4 years and you know, still I didn't stay free from injuries. So it might take you even more. If it takes you 8 years without injuries, then you've done a good job in respecting your body and in giving it time to adjust!

Conclusion

This text is not there to intimidate you or to stop you from making the change, as there are huge benefits in using the barefoot shoes! I would never change back anymore. But instead to support you and to give you a little background for how to make a successful change.

The barefoot shoes suddenly disappeared from the stores as people weren't given any information over how to use those properly and got injured. But the problem is not in the shoe, it's in the shoe we have all been wearing for decades. So it's about how to restore what has been lost in order to be able to walk and run barefoot again.

Why do we let other people's perceptions define who we are and what we should or shouldn't do?

Written by our Coach Ansku Kangas

This subject of course carries through to all aspects in life, but I'm only going to look at it from an athlete's perspective.

So why do we let other people's perceptions define who we are and what we should or shouldn't do? Or is it that they define us or do we define ourselves first?

Before this gets too philosophical, I'm going to open it up a little bit more. So I do not like defining myself as a runner. That might sound bad, as I'm a running coach. But labeling myself as a runner, for me, would feel like putting myself in a small box. In a box where I'm putting myself in a position where the common perception of a runner defines me. So what is a runner and what SHOULD a runner do.

By labeling ourselves as a practitioner of a certain sport, we also search for reinforcement to our own beliefs. We spend a lot of time with others that are just like us and think alike. We share the common beliefs, so our beliefs tend to become stronger. It gives us the insurance that what we are doing is okey. Because who would want to hear that what they were doing is not okey? Or want to have somebody questioning us? But that's actually exactly what we should do. Spend time with people who practice a different sport, the less alike, the better!

So let's play with the idea a little bit. You ran 70km last week. Then you go and chat with other runners. The conversation could be something like this: 

How was your week? How much distance you covered?*
”I ran 70k’s. My lower back feels a little sore now, but I think a 10k warmup run will make it feel better.”
”Dude, that’s impressive! I had my old achilles injury warning me again, so I needed to take it a little bit easier and only did 50

A CrossFitter or a weightlifter would probably say " Are you crazy?". Not that what the CrossFitter or weightlifter does would be any better, but just that they can see it from the outside. Outside the little box called "a runner".

For me, labeling myself as a runner, would only mean putting unnecessary chains on myself. As a runner I should probably be skinny, stay clear from big weights as I shouldn't grow unnecessary muscle mass, do only leg work and stick with sets of 15-30 reps as that's what a runner should do. Forget about upper body work and measure my own worth by the kilometers I cover within a week.

What if I want to be a runner who is strong, flexible and fast? Who doesn't take herself too seriously and actually grows doing things that are out from my comfort zone? While running, I'm at my comfort zone however hard it gets. Under big weights? Not so much. And that's why it's exactly where I should spend more time at.

Could a yogi benefit from a little weight training? Absolutely! Would it be good for a gymnast to relax a little, let the hips go loose and do some salsa? Absolutely! How about a CrossFitter, would it be good to kick off the lifters some time, not think so much and count so much and just flow where ever the body feels like going? Absolutely!

Whenever a someone says " You don't look like a runner" or "You don't look like a CrossFitter" you should only take it as a compliment! Your just doing your own thing and that's just fine!

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