About a month ago, I posted a blog article that I had written about ground contact time on our Facebook page — as I normally do for new content on our blog.
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Shortly thereafter, I noticed a comment on the post from Kevin Simmons that said he was going to try this new technique tomorrow. Not knowing anything about him or his running history, I was quick to respond to remind him that sudden and dramatic changes to running form can put him at risk of injury and recommended that he take it slow.
Hours later, I heard back from Kevin telling me that the new style of running was a success. Curious to learn more about his experience, I asked to hop on a call with him with our biomechanist, Rebecca Shultz. Here is his story….
Kevin is a New York native that currently lives in Florida. He started running about 15 years ago and has done countless 5k and 10k races year round and coming in at the top 10 percent in his age group. At one point in his running career, he was participating in as many as 12-14 races per year. As a lifelong sports and fitness fan, he loves to run because it brings him peace and helps him clear his mind.
About 4 years ago, injuries from running began to creep up on him and plagued his knees, calves, hamstrings, and quads. He suffered through any and all of the common runners injuries like plantar fasciitis, tightness in the muscles, and joint pain. As a runner (or any athlete), injury is one of the most frustrating and disappointing setbacks; it can be a costly expense, both in terms of the medical bills and the impact on performance as it almost always means missed days from running.
This experience was no different for Kevin. He tried adopting new techniques, investing in all new gear, researching different exercises — but to no avail. His once 24-minute 5k time quickly increased to up to 32 minutes, and the injuries kept piling on. He came across our article on ground contact time a month ago and tried the offered technique of focusing on push-offs to power his stride without overstriding and risking further injury. The following message we received through Facebook is all the validation we could ever hope for:
As it turns out, Kevin was in training for the annual Turkey Trot 5k race organized through the ROTC. He participates in this race every year as a finale to his year as he gears up for the upcoming festive holiday season. In anticipation of his race, we were able to give him some last minute tips, as well as overall pointers for improving performance. Here are a few that we shared:
Gradual Changes: Whether the change you’re making is in cadence, ground contact time, core engagement, or a full-on gait retraining, make changes to your form through small, incremental changes on flat terrain. Sudden and drastic changes for long runs or overly challenging terrain can put additional stress on your body and puts you at risk of injury.
Follow a training program: For Kevin’s specific purposes, we recommended following Irene Davis’ barefoot running training program and subbing out the training tips for barefoot running to push-offs to reduce ground contact time. Often times well thought out training programs already incorporate gradual changes to not overload the body, so finding a good one — like Irene Davis’ — and adjusting some of the elements to fit your needs can be an effective way to achieve your goals.
Stretching: To stretch or not to stretch, that is the question. This one comes up frequently in running; should we stretch before running, after, or both? There are lots of studies that support all three options, but our personal recommendation is to do dynamic stretches pre-run, and static stretches post-run.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that utilizes movement and momentum of your body to warm up your muscles without the static “hold” in traditional passive stretches. Walking lunges are a great way to warm up important muscles like your quads and glutes before your run. Post-run, make sure to spend lots of time stretching to help your muscles recover.
Kevin let us know that on race day, he wasn’t able to achieve his race time goal due to unexpected changes in the course, but he felt great the whole way through and had plenty of stamina and energy. He hopes to continue his training and challenge himself with more races in the new year.
Good luck, Kevin!
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