A Guide to Enjoyable Running:

Hey there runners, would you like to run great distances on sidewalks or streets with less of those severe aches and painstaking over your body the next day? I have some tips for those of you who live in a forest of concrete. I personally live in Little Rock, Arkansas, which has plenty of great trails, but none of them are within ten miles of my house. I prefer to lace up my shoes and stretch in my house and then start my run from there, rather than drive out to a trail. I live in an area with neighborhood after neighborhood for miles and miles so the only real good thing for running on is a sidewalk.

Well, last summer I decided that I was going to run in the Little Rock Marathon, one of my life goals. I simple thought that I should just start running extremely long distances as soon as I felt I could. I was terrible wrong. I quickly found out that a 5-7 mile runner can’t go out and run 13 miles because he feels ready. I simple wasn’t ready, and I would wake up feeling terrible sore for a day or even two. I needed what my coach calls a base. For me, my base was running 5-7 miles. I found out that I needed to first run about 9 miles every other day for about a week maybe two. Once I was able to do that without soreness, I moved to doing 11 miles every other day. Then I continued this process.

The process worked well for me until I hit the 15-mile mark, and I was still sore the next day no matter what I did. I wasn’t sure how to fix it, but then I got a break. My cross country team was going to Ashville, North Carolina for the Nike Running Camp. At the camp, I was told that my form was good, but not perfect and that as more miles build up it would get worse with every mile. I learned some great tips about my form that allowed me to keep going and to have less wear and tear on my body.

Running isn’t just about from the waist down; there is a lot going on from the waist up.

1. First off, keep the head looking forward; don’t be starring at the ground the whole time. Keep your body up, don’t slump over. Holding your head up will help with this.

2. Keep your shoulders loose and free for smooth arm movement. Your arms should make right angles at the elbow. Let your hands relax too, the thumbs should rest on your middle and index fingers.

3. When swinging your arms, make sure you don’t cross the median of your chest. If you do it causes your upper body to twist left and right while you run which kills your energy level and can cause problems with your back.

And of course, there is a lot going on with the waist down.

1. Keep moving forward with every stride. Your knees should be pushing forward, not rising up or staying low.

2. Your stride needs to feel natural more than anything. Your stride should be long, but don’t try and reach your leg out in order to get a bigger stride, just drive your knee forward and let your foot land where it feels natural and smooth. If your toes are catching every now and then, you are probably taking “baby-steps.”

3. Critical Tip for Soreness: The feet, this is where the actual impact with the ground is happening. Your feet should land almost flat, but with the heel hitting just a bit before. This does not mean land on your heel. If you let your heel hit first and the rest of your foot slam down, then your feet are acting as a brake every time they hit. Your feet should hit a little bit on the heel and roll along the ground until just the area from the balls of your feet to the toes is on the ground. From here there needs to be a strong push of the ground with your toes and ankle, not a lazy lift the toes and prepare for the next impact.

A smooth form is vital to running long distances. If you pay attention to your form while you are running it will help maintain energy and the soreness will decrease dramatically. Make sure to keep your form, but don’t try and force yourself into running with a longer stride or shorter stride, just relax and let your stride come naturally. I can still hear my coach yelling at me during the races, “Relax and let yourself rollover!”

So what if none of this helps out? Then there may be more problems other than your actual running form. I remember I used to use the same running shoes everywhere. They were Asics designed for running trails, and they worked great until I ran on sidewalks when training for the marathon. I was wakening up with tremendous sourness in my Calves. It finally hit me one day. Just because they are running shoes does not mean they will work for all forms of running. I decided I needed some new shoes.

So, I began looking at street shoes or marathon shoes, and I found a pair I may never run on concrete without. I guess you can call this advertisement, but I am in love. I picked up a pair of the Nike Luna Trainers with the LunarLite technology that Nike has recently developed. Before I got them, the furthest I had ever run was about 17 miles. I usually had to quit early because my knees would start hurting, but when I got my Lunar Trainers I literally felt like I could go forever. The first day I had them it stormed all day. The next day I had work. I ended up asking off from work with a little white lie because I wanted to test them so bad. I laced them up, did some stretching, and heading out. Instantly I realized how much easier it was with them. They were much lighter than my previous shoes. I also noticed a significant difference in the amount of impact I felt when I hit the ground. I ended up running my 17 mile route and getting back home and realizing that I had no soreness at all. I was shocked, and of course Nike has a new common customer.

So if you used all the tips for your form and had little success, check and make sure you have some quality running shoes that are designed for concrete/street running. It can make a world of difference. Obviously, along with those tips, you need to do the usual like hydrating and stretching before and after every run. The tips should help you with your soreness and pains, and also give you some extra energy during your runs. Oh and one last tip, appreciate your current ability and work to improve it, and always enjoy your runs!