Monday, January 14, 2013

Don’t sweat the technique (or maybe you should)

Hello readers of the Budo Blog.  It has been awhile.  And though I must admit I start far too many blogs with something similar to that, this time I had to wait on the results of an experiment until I posted.

Previously on Budo Blog I posted my goal to be Batman by 40.  Part of that goal is to be able to run 5 consecutive 8 minute miles.  In the time since the last blog, I've been working on all aspects of my goal, but today I will focus on the running portion.

The history of running…
Well, man has been running since he has been on two legs so let me re-phrase that.

My history with running…
When I was a little kid running was fun, just part of play.  As I got into elementary school running became part of the president’s physical fitness challenge where you got an award on the last day of school if you ran fast enough.  In Jr. High running a mile in a certain time was something you needed to do for a grade in Phy Ed. 

In high school running was something I did because the football coach or the wrestling coach told me too.  In fact I distinctly remember every wrestling practice starting with running laps in the wrestling room or in the halls of the school with this song playing on the boom box

Van Halen "Running with the devil"

In college I really didn't run at all until I needed to run a mile and a half in a certain time to pass Dr. Lewinski’s class

Running started as a fun natural activity and evolved into a skill that I was tested on.  A skill that was never taught.  In retrospect I am kind of pissed at my Gym teachers over the years.  It is lazy teaching to tell kids to go run, a real teacher would have taught the kids how to run.

An equivalent would be a Judo Sensei that says just fight.  You need to win a regional tournament to pass your next test but I am not going to teach you any principles or techniques.  Just go wrestle that guy and figure it out.

A gear that finally clicked in my head recently is that running is a skill, could even be considered a martial art in and of it’s self.  If I accept that premise, all the rules of operation I apply to any martial art training to fit my physical skills platform (my individual method) must also be applied to the art of running.

Based on Physics / Bio - Mechanics / Leverage - NOT STRENGTH
Gross Motor Skills
Reality based (proven history of high success rate in the field)
  • WWII Era Combatives / Taiho Jutsu
  • If it doesn’t work on Jeff it doesn’t work
  • If it requires a Gi (special clothing) to work - it doesn't work
Legal / Ethical / Moral.

Ok, so as I mentioned before man has been running since forever, running is natural and simple.  It is also gross motor skill.  Unless you are running on someone else’s private property there should be no legal/ethical/moral conflicts.

So what does that leave us?
Based on Physics / Bio - Mechanics / Leverage - NOT STRENGTH
Proven history of high success rate in the field

There in lies the rub of never being taught how to run.  I take running seriously, I give a maximum effort, but I have not achieved a history of high success rate in the field.

Just as Lise could not lift me over her hear with her best maximal effort, but can all but effortlessly throw me over her head with Physics / Bio - Mechanics / Leverage, I needed to find a way to run more efficiently to turn my maximal efforts into faster times not just rigorous physical activity.

So I asked some guys that know how to run and they pointed me in the direction of Chi Running

Check out the web site but the reader’s digest version can be found in this video

Looks too good to be true. Looks like basically the same drop step principle I use to increase power to strikes.  Could something so simple actually help me move faster with the same amount of effort I am currently putting fourth?

Only one way to find out – experiment on yourself (insert mad scientist laugh here – bwa hahahahahahahahahahahaha!)

First experiment  - On the treadmill.
I have time in my schedule to run 3 times a week.  Tuesdays inside, Fridays and Sundays outside.
My treadmill work generally follows this format.

2 min warm up – walking 3.5 mph
1 min jog 6.0 mph ( 10 min Mile )
30 sec walk 3.5 mph
2 min jog 6.7 ( 9 min mile)
1 min  walk 3.5 mph
3 min run 7.5 ( 8 min mile)
1 min 30 sec walk 3.5 mph
2 min jog 6.7 ( 9 min mile)
1 min  walk 3.5 mph
1 min jog 6.0 mph ( 10 min Mile )
30 sec walk 3.5 mph
1 min jog 6.0 mph ( 10 min Mile )
30 sec walk 3.5 mph
2 min jog 6.7 ( 9 min mile)
1 min  walk 3.5 mph
3 min run 7.5 ( 8 min mile)
1 min 30 sec walk 3.5 mph
2 min jog 6.7 ( 9 min mile)
1 min  walk 3.5 mph
1 min jog 6.0 mph ( 10 min Mile )
2 min cool down – walking 3.5 mph

30 min total
 As I said I take running seriously, I give a maximum effort, this usually kicks my ass.  Last Tuesday I played with the  Chi running method focusing on lengthening my stride.  I ran the same amount of time at the same speeds but it was much easier.  In fact the 10 min mile intervals were all but effortless.

Second experiment – outside.
On Friday mornings I usually run from my house down to the train tracks and back approximately 2.55 miles
On Friday 01/04/13 I ran that in 31 minutes 8 seconds
On Friday 01/11/13 focusing on posture and stride I ran that in 28 minutes 2 seconds knocking 3 minutes off my time without any additional effort.  In fact my fastest minute on the 4th was slower than my slowest minute on the 11th!

Third experiment – also outside.
On Sundays I train right before I go to the Dojo.  That gives me a chance to train at the Dojo with no juice left in the tank so I can’t rely on size and muscle.  On Sundays I like to add agility training to the runs.  There is a park near the Dojo that has a nice trail that runs by the river.  One lap is 1.08 miles long. 
I usually run 1 lap hard then switch over to agility training.  15 yard shuttle run sprints x 6, then box sprints.  Box sprints as the name implies is when you sprint in a box.  I usually use 10-12 yards. 

For example:
Sprint west 12 yards
Animal crawl north 12 yards
Sprint east 12 yards
Animal crawl south 12 yards
Rest 2 minutes, try not to puke
Repeat x4
  • Bear Crawl
  • Crab Walk
  • Alligator Crawl
  • Polish Swimming

Then I finish with road work.  Road work equals another lap but incorporating fundamental combative motions ( building blocks of all techniques) as you run.

On Sunday 12/30/12 I ran lap 1 in 11 min 44 sec and lap 2 in 16 min 11 sec.
On Sunday 01/13/13 I ran lap 1 in 11 min 42 sec and lap 2 in 15 min 36 sec.

Wow, Kasey you shed an entire 2 seconds off your time you should be very proud.  The thing is on the 13th the trail was icy as hell!  I could not run with long strides with out killing myself.  So experiment 3 ended up working as a comparison.  Using no technique I ran pretty much the exact same pace.  Using the Chi technique I shed 3 minutes off my time.

My plan to run 5 miles in 40 minutes 17 months from now follows this logic then.  Continue to improve technique with every run.  Use Tuesday’s run to gradually increase speed .01 mph every two weeks.  I believe this will, in time make running 8 min miles feel like what running 10 minute miles are like now.  Friday’s runs will be focused on maintaining pace for distance.  When I get my time down to 20 minutes I will add distance.  Sunday’s will remain pretty much the same, only faster as my technique and fitness improve.

So I wanted to experiment on Friday and Sunday before I posted a blog.  Stay tuned for the results of the ongoing experiment.

I’ll end with two questions:

If something comes to you naturally, can you explain it / teach it to someone else?
If so, does breaking it down make you even better at it?

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe


  1. Very insightful blog!

    Answer to your questions:
    1. not always, which usually means I don't really understand what I am doing, it's just instinct.
    2. yes it does.

  2. You might want to check out Crossfit Endurance and his Running Basics videos, based on the Pose method.