If you can hear your feet, can you imagine what your body is feeling? If your running is loud, the sound comes from the foot landing out in front of you.
Have you ever been next to a runner and you can hear their feet “pounding” the pavement? Or stomping the box during box jumps? Or maybe this is you? I was this person, too, pushing off my back foot as hard as I could, then sticking my heel out in front and crashing down to the ground — also known as the “accepted” mode of running which usually leads to either an animosity towards running or the inevitable injury. I went the injury route and went through hamstring pain, shin splints, and plantar fascitis for several years.
When I first started running 20+ years ago, everyone wore injuries proudly, like badges of mileage honor. Comments like “My knees are killing me, but I got my 18-miler done,” or “My calves are destroyed but I finished” were received with encouragement like “Way to push through!” Initially I bought in too, as it seemed like a normal part of running.
If you can hear your feet, can you imagine what your body is feeling? If your running is loud, the sound comes from the foot landing out in front of you. This causes you to stay on the ground longer, as your body has to catch up to the support leg. The longer you stay on the ground, the more impact you are absorbing — thus causing your muscles to actively contract to push your leg off the ground versus pulling quickly, which uses muscle elasticity and reflexive action.
When I was working initially with Dr. Romanov, creator of the PoseMethod®, he would say, “Be nice to the ground, and it will be nice to you.” Once you shift your focus to falling and pulling up from the ground, you will be able to run using muscle elasticity, regardless of the surface type. Think of boxers jumping rope: their feet are moving quickly, and you can see how light they are on their feet (support).
The good news is that this is a skill that you can learn and integrate into your own movement.
3 Practice Drills to Help You Run More Lightly
1. Banded hops:
Stand on a band; try attaching to a rig, if possible. Start hopping with two feet and feel the band assisting you to pull your feet up from the ground. Next, using muscle elasticity, keep your knees bent and feel your feet pull up in response to touching down on the ground. Then run in place, and feel the same “up” feeling as you pull. You will feel this in your run as long as you stay in position and fall.
2. Jumping step ups:
Start with one foot on a bench and jump up while switching feet. You will feel weightless for a second as both feet are in the air, allowing the lifted foot to land. The key is to pull the grounded foot up before the lifted foot lands, just like in running.
3. Weighted, overhead practice:
With a PVC pipe or light bar to start, stand with the bar overhead in your running position. Switch feet, feeling the bar lift up out of your hands (weightless). This is the goal when we run or jump: to transfer our weight forward (running) or up (jumping) as we leave the ground.
The general goal is to spend more time in the air than on the ground; this is where directional movement happens — forward in running, upwards in jumping. Once you begin to fall and respond to the ground by pulling up, this becomes a reflexive response to your run. Practice these skill drills, then go for a run and enjoy the quiet — your body will thank you.
Valerie Hunt is co-owner of BVM CrossFit in Austin, TX. She is also a certified Pose Method running coach and a CrossFit Endurance coach. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @runatxrun.