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Learning How to Run (again)

Jasper holding up his new Newton runners

Category: Taking Action

I’m delighted with myself today.  It’s a milestone in relation to an ongoing goal of mine. I’m sharing the story because it all relates to the process of improving performance.

Unlearning something that has become habitual isn’t easy. Especially if you have been doing it since childhood, and pretty much most days of your life.

I have managed to completely change my running style. For anyone interested in running, I had a massive heel-strike, loading my joints with impact in every stride before allowing my trailing leg hang out the back like a scarf tied to the back of a speeding van. Now I run economically, with a good foot position, quick pivot and upright posture (or so I am told!)

But you don’t need to be interested in running to take some value from the story. So happy reading.

A few years ago I used to really enjoy running. I never raced with a team or club. But I was competitive with myself.

At the time I worked with a guy called Philly Glynn who was very quick over middle and long distances. He raced competitively. And he saw my growing interest in his passion.

He happened to live around the corner from me in Clapham at the time. He’d always stretch me in terms of pace and distance whether we’d start our runs from the office, heading around the Royal Parks, or from home, around the various Commons of Southwest London.

My times over 10km and longer improved considerably over a 6-12 month period. I wanted to run a half marathon in under 1hr 30m. Slightly disappointed on the day, I managed 1hr 32.

Conditioning and the power of process

On reflection, I was chuffed with the results. So what was the cause? Conditioning. And the power of process. I trained well, frequently building interval sessions into my runs to get faster.

Remember the importance of the Power of Process outlined in my Special Report? If you haven’t read it yet, Click here to access it

Then I started to pick up a couple of injuries over the following year. Not so chuffed about the results. What was the cause? Conditioning. And the Power of Process. But at this point, I wasn’t aware of exactly what or how the process was doing damage.

Bottom line, when you modify the cause of any effect, you transform the associated results.

Over the next few years, I ran periodically at best. It was hurting my knees and ankles. I didn’t want to do myself any lasting damage. Another reason my interest waned was that I started going to Crossfit. I enjoyed the community feeling associated with it.

It was there that I met a guy who analysed people’s running styles for a living; you may be familiar with the term ‘gait analysis’. I was intrigued as I had just read a book called Born to Run. It’s a brilliant book, well worth a read.

While reading the book I became aware that I couldn’t run properly. Running is a skill. One we are not taught. And the traditional running shoe, with all its support and padding, conditions us to run in a less natural way than our ancestors.

Conditioning. And The Power of Process.

It creates injuries of a certain nature. The more I ran in a certain way, the more I compounded the problem.

So I did a couple of sessions with Tim, the gait analyst. He gave me exercises to work on and tips to improve my style.

After my daughter was born, I couldn’t attend Crossfit frequently enough to justify the monthly fees. I wanted to exercise somehow, but with more flexibility. So I returned to running. Briefly!  I half did the exercises Tim gave me. You can see where this is going.

Friends of mine were organising a 10km Fun Run for an Irish charity. Half of the Irish people I knew in London were getting involved somehow.

I decided to make an effort. I aimed to get back to the pace I was able to run a few years previously; under 45 mins for the 10km.

I managed to get there in that time, just about. I think it was about 44m, 44s. But I was in bits over the next few days. Probably not helped by the social side of the evening of course. But I was hobbling around the place for days. It was only 10km.

Lots of things happened between then and this time last year. Here are two of note:

  • My ankle got in the way of a black cab pulling into pick someone up, causing nasty ligament damage. My consultant was big into running, and he put me on to a new running shoe, the Newton. One which was designed to improve my style in the way I had intended a few years before.
  • I ran locally and sporadically in my new Newtons after my ankle improved. Always trying to put the improved style into place. But then I developed considerable breathing difficulties post exercise, eventually diagnosed as ‘late onset asthma’, induced by exercise. Now I use an inhaler before I exercise.

Then, a year ago, as I eased myself back into running with a second pair of Newtons, brand spanking new electric green ones, I injured myself again.

This time I was at a loss. It was my Achilles. And there was no impact, or single event, that caused it. It didn’t seem there was enough ‘repetition’ for it to be a repetitive strain injury. But every time I went to run, it was agony. Even for the bus. All of the online recommendations were the same, rest for at least six weeks. Then do some strengthening exercises if the Achilles was up to it.

Starting from scratch

It wasn’t. Not for months. During which time I did my research. Lots of it. I read. I met experts. And I came up with a plan.

In January, I set about building my foot strength and working on my alignment. Gradually, I introduced short distance runs outside, wearing my old Crossfit trainers (minimal support, not like a running shoe), or barefoot on the treadmill.

I began to feel a different kind of compound effect happening. I was coaching myself successfully, and that felt really good. It was incredibly satisfying. It felt like I was in control again, or at least on my way back to being in control.

After a few runs over longer distances and at faster speeds, I was ready to bring in an expert again. I knew I had improved, but I also knew I was only starting on this journey. So I engaged a running coach, Simon.

In the first of four sessions, Simon took videos of me running. He asked me to run the same line in the park umpteen times at varying speeds. That way, he could record me from different angles. And he could be confident that I was running naturally as I couldn’t fake a running style on that many occasions.

I waited anxiously for his feedback. I began to doubt my previous confidence in my improvement. What had I been thinking? I hadn’t ever seen myself except for the reflection from a shop front window or double door on a bus.

He paused….. “Can I just have another look? I’m…..I just…….”, he sounded like he was trying to break the news gently.

“I’m struggling to find much fault with it, Jasper.”

“What? Really?”

I was delighted with his approval. As if I was 13 years old again and a 15-year-old stunner told me I was cute! He pointed out everything that I was doing well. And he showed me why. The more he looked, the more room for improvement he found of course. And I welcomed that. I still do.

So why is today a great day? Why is today a milestone?

Because I just bought new running shoes. And they’re not the traditional types that act like a cast on your foot protecting it from any sensation with the ground underneath.

They’re not like a ‘barefoot’ shoe either (I know, an oxymoron if ever there was one, but they do exist) – somewhere in between. I can only use them because I have developed an improved running style that so far has allowed me to remain injury free.

What is so rewarding about this is the fact that it is the result of both self-coaching and being coached by various experts. I reviewed what was causing my results and as a consequence, I planned a different course of action.

I implemented a process of change, by modifying the cause of the effect, which has transformed my results.

I can guarantee you that I will use this learning in other areas of life and business.

What results are you frustrated with? What results do you want to create in this area? How can you review the cause of your current results objectively? And then how can you plan effectively to achieve the new results?

If you can’t find the right way of doing it yourself, then find the right person to help you.

If you feel that your leadership style, your ability to engage your millennial talent or the overall performance of your team could be improved, then I’d like to invite you to download my Special Report.

As well as receiving the Special Report itself, you’ll also receive a sequence of emails containing a host of tips and strategies to implement in your own time.

It’s all free. But please only download the Special Report if you are committed to improving your performance.

Thank you.


About The Author

Jasper WalsheI coach leaders, executives, teams and groups of millennials in highly skilled professions to strengthen their leadership skills, engagement and performance. I create bespoke coaching programmes to help busy, fee-earning professionals focus on their best approach to navigating the challenges and opportunities that change brings on a daily basis.
Grab my free paper on improving Leadership, Engagement and Performance here!

Leave a comment
  • Vinny Beirne

    Great read Jasper. Good on you for your perseverance and for finding the right course of action. Happy running!

    August 17, 2017, 6:59 pm permalink
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