I am a running machine. On almost every run I’m giving it my all and pushing past my limits. This is one constant that never gets easier.

But there’s another constant that I hate. Occasionally I feel a twitch or an otherwise uncomfortable sensation somewhere in my limbs. The type of sensation that can quickly translate into a shin splint, knotted calves and hamstrings, adhesion in the fascia or feet pain. If you’re a runner, you’re well familiar with this.

It is not enough just to be able to run and ignore the pain – there should not be any pain whatsoever

It’s time to get honest because that’s not how running is supposed to feel. You shouldn’t have to suffer through pains to enjoy that post-run high. From ancient times, us humans have been running. Long before the sedentary lifestyles and padded shoes with high heels, we were hunting with tribesmen and running for survival. Naturally, it was important to therefore have a well ‘oiled’ and highly maintained body. Many years later, the question is how can you go back to running effortlessly, like the supple creature you were born to be?

If you are into crossfit-style training, you will have heard of Kelly’s Mobility WOD, which focuses on developing essential mobility for athletes like you and I. Outside of the WOD, he has also published books on becoming a ‘supple leopard’ and, very relevant to us OCR enthusiasts, the book ‘Ready to Run’. The latter book can help you answer the question above – it is your fantastic guide to running effortlessly.

It had been on my reading list for a long while, but the constant sliding back into pain and discomfort during my runs made me pick it up. I wanted advice I could apply right away to make running less painful. I’ve been doing 10K races weekly to not only fill in the gap of absence of proper obstacle races, but also to up my running game to the max. Needless to say any knowledge, especially when condensed as well as in this book, is a game-changer.

Kelly Starrett - Ready to Run obstacle racing mobility wodReady to Run is the manual for a runner’s body maintenance. The main takeaway, which is stated by Kelly again and again, is that it’s not enough just to be able to run and ignore the pain; there should not be any pain whatsoever. Furthermore you should be able to perform basic maintenance yourself without any need for fancy massage therapy or eventually dealing with actual injuries.

To completely reset and restart your running so that you learn to do it naturally, Kelly gives you a list of mobility movements and drills that you should be doing daily, for at least 10 minutes. These include couch stretches, foam rolling, lacrosse ball rolls and such. It’s all of the ‘unglamorous’ and painful maintenance work that you don’t like to do.

According to Kelly, it’s also important to re-evaluate the rest of your life as this can have a huge impact on your running potential and how great of a runner yo will be. These lifestyle factors include:

  • Desk bound lifestyle and muscle atrophies.

Solution: Take regular breaks, introduce a standing desk.

I’ve been trying to substitute natural movement and maintain neutral spine position as much as possible. This can be done by reminding yourself to get up, stretch, walk around every 45mins to an hour. We also wrote about collecting miles the easy way, which is another way to stay active and moving. Finally do invest in a standing desk – it is going to make you a better runner and overall athlete while you work and concentrate on the other things. Standing desks might be expensive compared to the conventional sitting ones, however there are some models from IKEA for under $200. Think of it as the most necessary fitness equipment out there. It’ll pay huge dividends in your training and performance.

  • Feet placement resembling ‘duck feet’ – which in the trenches translates to caved-in knees and eventual knee pain, muscle tear and other atrocities.

Solution: pay attention to how your feet are placed while running, walking and standing – they should be facing straight out instead of turning out or inwards.

  • Heel striking and padded/heeled shoes.

Solution: Switch to zero drop or minimal shoes. 

This is not going to magically fix your performance if you ignore all of Kelly’s other advice. However, building up your feet strength slowly and striking properly with your forefeet will turn you into that well-oiled running machine from ancient times. I’ve been working on switching to zero drop for some time and it does take a few weeks to adjust to striking the ground with the forefoot rather than the midsection or heel. It definitely feels more natural to run this way and it has helped me to run my fastest 5Ks and 10Ks. In fact, if you wear Reebok All Terrain Supers, one of the most popular shoes for OCR, you are already halfway to fully transitioning to zero drop shoes. The All Terrains are quite minimal with a drop of around 6mm.

 

‘Ready to Run’ has many more points you can start applying daily to become a better runner. If you want to improve your running game, you should definitely give it a shot and especially if groundbreaking books like ‘Born to Run’ and ‘The Cool Impossible’ already reside on your night table.

One of the best books for a runner. Hands down.

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