Sunday, 10 June 2012

Run coaching session

Heel Strike

I've never thought much about my running technique, like many people I just run. Over the last few months I've been thinking about having some coaching sessions. I'd like to learn more about different styles of training (e.g. sprints, hills, fartlek etc...) and also to get some pointers on my technique.

My running club friends organised a coaching session with Keith Bateman as a leaving gift. Awesome!

The first thing Keith does is video you running. I could hear him speaking into the microphone "Ok, this is definitely fixable". It was highly unlikely my technique would have been perfect, but you can always hope!

You can see in the photo above that I'm a classic heal striker (where your heal hits the ground first). Keith advocates mid foot landing and also minimalist / barefoot running. Barefoot running can be a decisive subject for runners, but as Keith explained how it was more efficient and stable I was totally sold.

Despite the key thing being how you land, Keith's coaching approach is all about the take off. If you take off correctly then everything else should work out.

Mid foot landing (sort of)

We took our shoes off (so we could feel what we were doing) and started doing various exercises in Queens Park. The drills involved butt kicks and the more ludicrous chicken scrape and Irish gig.

It was a really interesting session where I could definitely feel my technique change. The most surprising thing I found was how much harder it is to stop using the new running style!

I have never really thought about how I come to a halt at the end of the run. I just stop putting in any effort and it just happens. Extrapolating from what Keith was telling us, heel striking acts as a brake so when you stop putting in effort you come to a halt pretty quickly.

Mid foot landing is much more efficient and you recycle more energy into the next stride. This recycling of energy and forward momentum means that you travel a lot further before coming to stop.

Towards the end of our coaching time Keith took a second video of us running barefoot. As you can see above I'm still landing heel first, but it is much less pronounced. (Keith told me I was doing better moments before the video was taken. I'm clinging to that!)

After the session had finished and we were leaving the park I asked him to inspire me about how much quicker I might be able to run. A 10% improvement should be possible from technique alone, that would be twenty seven minutes off my marathon time. Not bad.

It's a shame that I have left Sydney and can't have any follow up sessions. However, it has got me seriously thinking about trying to find a running coach here in London.


  1. When will the London food reviews start?! We need you Ricardo x

  2. I agree with Keith that mid foot landing is the goal Landing on your heel definitely stops you in your tracks.

    Your foot placement certainly differs in the photos, but the difference may just be the difference between running shod and unshod. can't quite see what shoes you have on, but they look like they have a reasonably high heel-toe offset, which will make you more likely to land on your heels, whereas running barefoot puts your whole foot on an even plane. The improvement in your foot strike may therefore be a result of running barefoot, rather than the result of a profound change in technique after one session. Like Keith, we find barefoot running a great tool for giving runners a good feel for what we are aiming to get across

    Kirsten Todd