Lost in Transition

by John Schrup, Rogue coach and retail manager

The other day, I wrote a caffeine-fueled piece about the new design paradigm in running footwear, why it is important and if you should buy in.  (And when I say, “the other day,” by that I mean that it was a day previous to this one, but I can’t remember when.)  Well, guess what?  I’m on the sauce again–thank you Chameleon Cold Brew–and you’re screwed.

So you’ve decided to take ownership of your running, make your body strong from head to toe, inside and out.  You want to be more athletic, you want to be stronger, more injury resistant.  You want to run more naturally.  You’ve decided to put your effort into YOU rather than into your footwear.
How to do it?
First, you need to be committed to it. You have to have faith in your body’s ability to change and adapt.  You need to be comfortable running by feel and listening to the feedback your body gives you, the most exacting information you can get.  You have to believe that the human body, whatever the origin of design, is the most wonderful machine ever built–it will work properly if you let it.
There is no template to follow.  For every one hundred people who want to run more naturally, there are one hundred different bodies with different histories, genetics and experiences.  So the wisest way is to approach it very conservatively, always mindful of the feedback you get from the body–all the sensations, the aches and pains.
When we train for a marathon, for example, we don’t do an 18 miler before we do a 16 mile run.  We don’t run hill reps until we’ve spent considerable time running up and over hills in the middle of a fartlek, or easy run–we get used to things with baby steps.  The structural stress of running in a racing flat is different enough from your standard cushioned trainer that it would be wise to consider it as an added day in the workout cycle.  When you are ten weeks from marathon day is NOT the wisest time to begin to transition.  You are better off making the transition when the training stresses are lower and easy, relaxed running is the norm.
We like to suggest initially running in the new shoes only once per week or so, on the shortest run of the week.  Give yourself two or three weeks at that and see how your body responds.  Are the calves tighter?  Are your hips sore?  Do your feet feel like bricks when you wake up in the morning and walk down stairs?  Instead of looking at aches and pains that need to be corrected, perhaps it is wiser to look at them as messages from your body that these are areas that need to be strengthened.  When something is sore or painful, it is a sign that there is an imbalance, not that there is a fault or problem.  It is all about your intention.
All systems are go?  Then add the second shortest day.  Two weeks of that and you are ready to add the next shortest day.  If you have a day in which you do a very light fartlek or strides, it would be wise to try those after you’ve been running for a month or so in the new shoes.  The shorter, faster efforts will put you through a wider range of motion and allow your body to get familiar with longer or faster running.
The general idea is to run a bit less in the new shoes than you think you should, and let the body adapt on its own time frame, rather than one you’ve created for it.  If you are conservative in the approach, the transition should be easier.
The long run is the tricky part.  The long run is the time when most of the repetitive stress injuries manifest.  Late run fatigue and decline of structural form and integrity seems to be the common factor contributing to injuries across all levels.  Greater structural integrity of the lower leg and core will improve with a focus on proper form and functional strength exercises.  With patience you can do long runs without issue, but they might take longer to adapt to that shorter, faster runs.
The time it takes to transition to natural running will require you to be more aware of your body, to pay attention to the things that you used to ignore–stretching, strengthening, even nutrition–and use your own experience as the guide line.
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