2017-05-22

Do You Have The Same Problem I Have?

When I woke up this morning, all my muscles were burning as though I'd just finished a fast run. I got ready for work as usual, but a part of me worried that my blood sugar was just incredibly high. (My muscles often burn if I wake up with high blood sugar.) When I checked it before breakfast, though, it wasn't.

Throughout the morning, my muscles were stiff and sore. I spent a little time stretching them, but the simple fact of the matter is that they just felt tired and sluggish. When I finally set out for my run today - in which I intended to run a moderate seven miles, with a 6:45-per-mile pace target - my muscles felt stiff. Oddly enough, though, I felt like my running cadence was about what it should have been.

Two miles into my run, I checked my watch and noted that my pace was a fair bit slower than my target pace. My legs had loosened-up a little bit, but they were still struggling. By the third mile split, I had to come clean with myself: I was tired.

At this point, I had a choice. Option A was to slow down a bit and use the remainder of my run as a recovery run, to save myself for tomorrow's speed workout. Option B was to somehow power through. I wanted to choose Option B, so I gave myself a little burst of speed to see if I could shock myself into running a little faster. That's when I noticed what the problem was.

I don't know how to put it into words, exactly, but I'll try.

Sometimes, when I am consciously trying to run a little faster, I have a tendency to "bound" a little bit with my stride. I'll take big, long, leaping strides. It certainly is a bit faster, but it comes at a high cost: It's an extremely inefficient running form.

Of course, in the heat of the moment, I don't realize what I'm doing. I think I'm just "striding out" to run a little faster. I don't realize that what I really need, especially when I'm tired, is to shorten my stride and quicken my cadence. I need to make efficiency gains so that I can run a little faster at the same level of energy expenditure. I need to improve my running economy.

Once I noticed my problem, I quickly corrected it and, as you can see from the Strava widget adjacent to this blog post, I came in a few seconds per mile under my target pace. But it took some effort, it required that I correctly diagnose my problem and apply the right fix.

Naturally, the more a runner does this sort of thing, the better he or she gets at running in the future. As I continue to run faster over the ensuing weeks, I'll certainly find myself in many more situations in which my legs feel tired, but mostly because of bad form. In those situations, I'll need to apply a fix like I did today.

Maybe some of this resonates with you, too. So the next time you get out there and your legs are tired, try to find any obvious inefficiencies in your form. It just might save your workout.