Run Injury Recovery: First Steps Towards Improved Technique

After my video analysis with Kinetic Revolution I didn’t run a step. There seemed no point continuing to practice bad habits; the fitness gains would be small and this was about rebuilding my technique. The start of a new mindset – no interest in time or mileage, all that mattered was how I ran. Build fitness on top of sound technique.

Monday I returned to the track for the first coached sessions with James. An hour teaching my body to use my hamstrings rather than hip flexors and quads. The process started simply, leaning against a fence lifting my leg using hip flexors and then hamstrings for comparison. It gave a feel for the difference, but the challenge was transferring that into motion.

We worked through a series of exaggerated drills each introducing new focal points and developing my heel lift. As my ability to utilise my hamstrings progressed we shifted focus to the movement of my arms, making it active and driven from the shoulder. By the end of the session I was running laps holding the new technique; it required concentration and wasn’t perfect, but I could already feel a difference – I didn’t notice my calves.

An hour’s work may have enabled me to adapt my technique, but it was a conscious effort. Before my next session I had homework – ten 200m repeats with walk recoveries, the emphasis on good form. A total of two kilometres running per day that took me twenty-five minutes to complete. Executed well it was surprisingly tiring. I also had single leg squats to be performed daily; a seemingly simple strength exercise that ruined my legs and made stairs a challenge.

There was more to be done yet. I finished my homework ready for Thursday’s session. James likes to have the first few close together; there is a lot to learn and this early period is critical in adapting technique. Once he’d established I’d taken to the adjustments we worked on the final part of the puzzle – the forward lean. Developing a slight tilt would give me greater momentum and further unload my calves.

More drills, initially exaggerating the motion and then playing to find my sweet spot. Everything seemed to tie together – once my body weight was shifted forward the movements felt fluid. It took presence of mind to hold the technique, but felt sustainable. I ran a few laps of the track learning how I could control pace and size of movements through the amount of lean. Like an accelerator changing my body position adjusted my speed.

To see how far I’d come James filmed me, the changes were striking. I was running differently – hamstrings were actively lifting my feet, upper body was stationary as my arms actively moved from the shoulders and my body was slightly titled forwards. The degree of change in just two sessions was encouraging as was the lack of stress to my calves. Positive signs, but I know there is a long way to go.

I have the elements and now need to put them in practice. For the foreseeable future running is simple and short. I have three workouts to use each designed to further instill the technique. A long run (ten minutes at first) to practice sustaining the new form and controlling pace; a set of kilometre repeats at slightly higher pace, working on holding technique under more typical training efforts; and short, hard intervals to be performed fatigued (off the bike).

The plan is about correcting technique not run fitness, success can’t be measured in distance covered or time taken. As I struggled through my third day of one leg squats I realised I had to accept that run training would be different. If I want to run well again I have to be willing to step away from old targets and do what’s required. Some sessions won’t feel like much work, but I want to be a better runner not have a training diary that impresses my peers.

I’ll continue to see James regularly to help reinforce and develop the technique. I know it will take time to reach my previous running peak, but I have the patience and am willing to work. Whatever it takes to fix my run – I’m committed to the process and trust in it.

Ironman Training Library

From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.