Everyone who’s involved in sport wants to do their best and running faster is a common aim, especially among triathletes and runners. But why is it that you can be trying your hardest and you still don’t seem to be improving?
I think the fitness industry is looking at it from the wrong angle, which is limiting people’s performance, so I’m going to share with you why I think they’re wrong and what you can do about it yourself.
Mistake #1: They’re selling you a false dream
Bodies always give you the best and most efficient movement they can. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often fit the ideal movement pattern of the sport so the fitness industry tries to ‘teach’ your body to move ‘better’ using drills and encouraging you to squeeze this muscle or engage that one. This makes you believe that by doing these things, your body will move in the desired way, making your performance better.
I’ll admit, it’ll change the way your body moves, and this may look better, but over time the cost of this new ‘learned’ movement pattern will be injury as this new way is much more tiring for bodies to maintain.
To me, this method of ‘teaching’ the body new movement is the equivalent of forcing it to behave differently. It’s very rare that this kind of change is helpful to the whole body, as making one bit move differently also changes how the rest of it moves and usually, this puts increased pressure on those other areas.
This results in the body fighting itself to create the movement required which is using up precious energy that could be put into performing it better.
Once you have allowed your body to choose it's own way, you'll be able to speed things up.
Mistake #2: Practice makes perfect
Repetition, repetition, repetition! Useful if you’re wanting to remember your times tables, but not so much when it comes to movement.
When you’re first learning a complex movement, repetition is useful up to a point, but then it becomes the majority of the problem.
The repeated use of muscles in the same way leads to muscle tightness which leads to changes in joint position, which leads to a reduced ability to perform the movement. In the context of running, the most commonly affected area are the hip flexors (the area in the crease of your hip about the height of your trouser pockets).
How far the hip flexors will stretch is directly related to your stride length (or how far you can travel before your foot needs to hit the ground) and how high your knee will lift afterwards. The combination of a long stride and a high knee lift is desirable because this reduces the amount of times the foot needs to be in contact with the ground, increasing your running efficiency.
Unfortunately, the fitness industry is set on ‘teaching’ your body to do this, using drills such as high knees and bounding. These drills actually increase the amount of effort the hip flexors and surrounding muscles use to generate this ideal movement, which results in an increased tightening, and therefore reduce performance, of the exact muscles you want to use.
Once you have stopped restricting how your body moves, and you're adding really helpful movements into your daily routine, your body will naturally start to find a more efficient movement pattern for you. Over time, this will become increasingly refined to optimise your movement, giving you the best possible chance of increasing your speed.
Mistake #3: Your efforts are being wasted
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all this time that you’ve been guided by the fitness industry, you've been putting your effort in at the wrong point, leading to minimal improvements for all your hard work!
It’s all about timing you see. Let’s take cadence (how fast your feet turn over) for example.
The fitness industry places great emphasis on turning your feet faster because that gives you the most opportunity to move forward faster. I’ll agree with that, but the problem comes when the focus on the fast feet comes with bad timing.
By implementing all three of these points immediately, you’ll hugely improve your running with much less effort. You might even be able to run less frequently and still improve!
If you want to learn more about how to start listening to your body so you can maximize your training efforts, come and join us in an online Wiggle Class!
The full class is 30 minutes of guided mobility training but you can get a FREE sample of it here
All classes are designed to reduce muscle tightness with simple movements you can fit into your everyday life. You’ll be amazed at how much your movement improves with just a few minutes each day!
Sarah J Pitts
Movement Therapist and Alternative Thinker