This weekend was just chock full of excitement down at the Cleveland Running Company. For those of you keeping track, this was officially our third attempt at making it down to Shaker Heights (about 35 minutes away) in time for the 9 am start of the store’s Run Club, but our first success. Of course, no weekend run would be truly complete without Linda being injured in some way (two weeks ago, she was run down by a drunk biker, this week, she turned her ankle 30 feet from our doorstep), so this cat went out solo for a nice little 6-miler with Erica, the leader of the group. Upon returning to the store, we were again greeted with a veritable smörgåsbord of bagels, drinks, horribly un-nutritious peanut butter cookie squares, and apples (courtesy of our recent trip to Patterson Fruit Farms). After indulging, yours truly was treated to a free massage, courtesy of a local massage therapist who visits our little club every other week. Once again, this is why brick-and-mortar stores are WICKED AWESOME!
After receiving a very thorough post-run kneading (my calves have never been more grateful), I wandered over to the changing rooms to find that Linda holding a stack of running gear and wearing that all-too-familiar I’m-cute-and-you-love-me-so-you-couldn’t-possibly-be-mad-at-me,-right? look. That’s right – she had taken advantage of my transient incapacitation in order to try on the entire store. Needless to say, we went home with quite a bit of booty. Check out the Flickr stream to see the results…
Anyway, all of the above was merely the prelude to the main event of the day – the free Newton Natural Running Form Clinic, run by the positively affable RD Goodright (see pic to the right), Sir Isaac’s regional educator for Ohio. After setting up his lurid green tent, which drew a small but enthusiastic crowd, he pulled an enormous box of equally eye-pleasing Newton shoes from his trunk and we all lined up to try on a pair.
Naturally, the first thing we did after putting on our pretty new shoes was take one of them off and go for a short run (about the width of three parking spaces). This drill allowed us to simultaneously experience, and thus compare, the tactile and proprioceptive experiences of running naturally barefoot and while wearing the Newtons. This comparison is utterly crucial to learning the art of natural running in shoes, because the entire point is to recreate the experience of running barefoot (except, you know, the whole shards-of-broken-glass-embedded-in-my-sole feeling…).
Once we had the hang of that, we got down to the specifics (with both shoes on). RD took us through the most basic, but important, details of natural running, starting with the feet – landing on the ball of your foot, pushing your heel down until it just barely touches the ground, springing off your loaded calves, and driving forward with your knees high – all the while observing our implementation of his instructions and giving us real-time feedback.
As we progressed through that drill, we moved on to the next – windmill running. It looks pretty silly, but the idea is that with every down-and-back cycle of your arms, the rotational inertia pushes the rest of your body forward, forcing you to lean at the ankles. This is a position many runners aren’t used to (unless, of course, you were one of Mr. Caron‘s athletes and were taught to take downhills like a ski-jumper), which makes such a drill absolutely critical in the progression towards Newton’s “natural running form”.
The next drill built on this concept even further. By “being the Segway”, we solidified the link between “lean” and “acceleration”.
Finally, we put it all together into the “posture” of natural running form, as seen in the next clip. What you don’t see is RD’s explanation of the “tripod”. To do this, you put your thumb and first two fingers in the shape of a tripod. You then place your thumb and middle finger on your chest, with your index finger pushing your chin back to keep your whole spine in alignment. To be honest, I think this bit is somewhat less useful, as I’ve always found that simply “running proud” (back straight, chest out, chin high-ish) will usually put you in the optimal posture. All you have to do is lean forward at the ankles, add in RD’s footwork, and bam! You’re running naturally!
So that’s pretty much it. We owe a big thanks to RD and the folks down at Newton Running for putting on this little shindig, and for providing some sweet shoes to learn in. If anyone wants more information about Newton shoes or natural running in general, feel free to get in touch with me (email, Facebook, or Twitter) or RD and the rest of the Newton crew (also on email, Facebook, or Twitter). We’re more than happy to help!