MINDFUL MONDAY: Another Step Towards Effortlessness, Injury-free Running
One of the main things I see inefficient runners do, is swing their legs in a low, pendular swing. If your foot swings forward as it meets the oncoming road, that braking motion creates an impact felt in your knees, hips and lower back. This braking motion not only creates more impact to your body, it makes your muscles work harder than is necessary. In the Chi Running method, the most efficient leg swing is one in which your foot swings rearward the instant it hits the ground. In the best case scenario, it's actually moving rearward at the same speed as the oncoming road. This creates the least amount of braking and horizontal impact at the moment of touchdown.
So, how do you keep from swinging into the road and get your foot to come straight down onto the road?
Start with creating a circular stride, meaning that your feet are moving in a circular motion (like a wheel) instead of a swinging motion (like a pendulum). To do this, bend your knees and allow each foot to swing higher than the opposite ankle as it swings forward into the next foot strike.
This past weekend I discovered a new trick to get my heelsto float a little higher as they come off the ground, without firing my quads or hamstrings to do it (which would increase my legwork). I put my attention on my heels. And, right at the moment I feel my heel begin to lift off the ground, I do a very tiny lifting action in my mind, and only for a split second. Then, I relax my leg through the rest of the flight phase until it touches down again. By doing this little mental lift of my heel, I'm cooperating with the natural recoil motion of my achilles tendon which acts like a rubber band and lifts my foot up and forward. The result is an effortless and relaxed knee bend.
The biggest challenge most runners face is relaxing their lower legs and simply allowing their feet to be moved by this recoil action. As soon as you add any tension in your ankles, by toeing off, you eliminate that natural elasticity and the recoil doesn't happen. The most efficient runners are the ones who can relax their legs enough to truly allow the tendons and connective tissues of the legs to swing their legs forward at the end of each stride, instead of contracting their leg muscles to do the same thing. One way approaches effortlessness through relaxation. The other way relies on muscle contraction to get the job done.
Which one is more efficient? Try it out for yourself and see if you can feel the difference.