Straight from the expert -- improve your run (and your health!)
February 13, 2013
There's more to running than you think. Running comfortably and successfully, that is. "Cheek to pocket" -- can you explain that phrase? If not, read on. You'll probably learn something.
Enter the expert. Staff Sgt. Eduardo Jones, from Newport News, Va., is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 210th Fires Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He's been hitting the track for the last 15 years. He's notorious for turning Soldiers under his leadership who flunk the Army Physical Fitness Test into PT studs. And, now, he shares his coaching tips with you.
Stretching. Jones says we don't do enough of it.
"I would encourage more stretching [prior to your run], at least 15 minutes," he says. "Stretch in your room before formation." An even better idea? "Jog a half mile or a mile to warm up, nice and slow, then stretch," says Jones.
Other experts agree.
"That's probably pretty accurate," says Maj. Genny Gudorf, of Lexington, Ky., physical therapist for 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. "The Army has gone to more of a dynamic warm-up since they realized we weren't stretching enough."
The stretches are nothing fancy or new. Just do them longer.
You don't need a closetful of gear. $300 running watch? Unnecessary, according to Jones.
"If you have a little 10-dollar stopwatch, you can note times and write them down," he says. His solution is to note landmarks on your run -- signs, buildings, your turnaround point -- and remember the time it took you to reach them. Then, shoot for that time. As the weeks go by, shoot for a faster time. No predefined, prescribed distances, just consistency and steady improvement.
Breathing. "Watch Olympic runners," says Jones. "You don't see their mouths open." This time-tested piece of track advice applies to any runner: breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.
Posture. "Run on the balls of your feet -- I've seen and heard Soldiers stomping while they run by, putting unnecessary stress on their joints. On their knees, especially," Jones says. "You want to run on the balls and toes of your feet."
On this one, the jury is still out -- but you won't hurt yourself doing it.
"[Running on the balls of your feet] is debatable -- the research is still out on what the better answer is … but so far, the evidence seems to suggest that it's at least as good as a mid-foot strike," says Gudorf.
Don't forget your arms, either.
"You want to use your arms to drive forward, not flailing all around. Don't waste your energy," says Jones. "It's a good idea to run with five-pound weights and practice moving your arms 'cheek to pocket' [a helpful way to picture good arm movement while you run]."
Diet and hydration. The things that most affect your run may be the things you do two days prior.
"I've been running for 15 years," Jones says. "I know that for a PT test, I'll take at least 48 hours prior and cut off soda, beer, anything like that. That lets you know your system is flushed out. You can throw in your juices for breakfast, have your Gatorade, but cut the other stuff out."
For a technique like this, the key is: does it work for you?
"I notice a world of difference in how you run and how you feel afterward," Jones says.
Don't go crazy with it, though.
"Ultimately, the PT test is an easier day than your average PT day -- you're probably doing fewer situps and pushups," says Gudorf. "[Flushing your system is] certainly not a bad habit, but I wouldn't say it's necessary, either."
The next step. If you're trying to improve your run, it will take time -- specifically, your personal time. Jones recommends three additional runs aside from your regular physical training schedule, with one on the weekend.
Anything to add? If you have some tips, techniques or success stories of your own, share them! Get online at www.facebook.com/210.fires. See you there.