My legs hurt in new places. I have had awful doms from squatting before, but never from running. Not like this. Calves, hamstrings, hips scream at every step, and it is all down to the fantastic session on running I went to over the weekend.
Organised by CrossFit London and taught by Grace Brown the focus was on sprint drills and coaching advice.
Having never taken any running classes, I jumped at the opportunity to pick the brain of a person like Grace, and she did not disappoint.
In CrossFit the 400 m run features frequently, so getting some practical advice on how to improve is invaluable. Andrew opened the class introducing Grace, and emphasised the fact that finding someone to teach proper sprinting drills is surprisingly difficult. It seems a lot of running is taught by… …running. And then running some more.
With running 400m or 800m being very different from running long distance, just hitting the track won’t cut it.
Alex has already written up what the class covered on the CrossFit London blog, so I won’t repeat that here.
My first insight was my usual one: boy, I need to build up more max effort stamina…! Doing a 400m run, sprinting drills, 4 x 200m max effort and then a final 400m run is really rough. I wasn’t the only one gasping on the ground half way through.
Second, arm movement is crucial. As Grace put it, by the end of an 800m run, when your breath is out the window, posture starts to collapse and you just want it to end, pumping your arms in the way we did in the sprinting drills helps you keep form and forwards momentum together.
The main coaching point Grace gave me was to relax my upper body, especially when starting to get tired. She also pointed out that while my arm movements are ok, I need to think about pulling them back a bit more.
Third, running as done by someone who has practiced it more or less daily for over a decade is a beautiful thing. Grace is pure poetry in motion, and the inspiration drawn from just watching her effortlessly move from one side of a basketball court to another is immense.
There was also talk about using barefoot running shoes or more traditional ones. Grace’s opinion is simple and sounds intuitively correct: unless you have done a lot of running with bare feet and have proper posture for that style of running, using traditional shoes is a given. Everything else amounts to massive risk of injury.
In our society most of us use chunky and protective shoes from day one and mainly spend our time on really hard urban surfaces. Growing up using traditional shoes, a running style formed over decades isn’t simply replaced over night. Changing a body pattern (and the conditioning of your feet) is difficult and takes a long time.
For me, that means that I will use my barefoot running shoes only for short distances and when running on a treadmill (because I do love how comfortable and light they are). For anything above 3k I’ll stick to my regular running shoes, at least for now. Besides, variation is always a good thing.
Certainly hope there will be more of these sessions in the future!
Mentioned to Andrew after the class that they really ought to shoot a few video clips with Grace teaching the sprinting drills and put up on YouTube.