Some of the definitions for the word ‘natural’ include:
- Existing in or caused by nature; not artificial
- Unaffected, easy, spontaneous
- Inherent; innate
- Not disguised or altered
We couldn’t think of a better word to describe the form of running that we practice and teach to our clients. Running should be easy, spontaneous, inherent, innate, and unaltered and we teach the skills of running that make it that way. As additional benefits, it is also incredibly efficient and potentially injury-free.
The short answer to that question is that is that we differ in methodology. Natural Running Coaching is based on Lee Saxby’s proprioceptive philosophy of teaching running form. On a basic level, Newton Natural Running™, ChiRunning®, Pose Method®, and Natural Running Coaching all agree that there is a biomechanically appropriate form of running that is both efficient and reduces injury. How we go about teaching you this form is different than the other three methods. We believe in making achieving this running form as easy and quick to learn to as possible. We employ methods that augment the body’s own biofeedback mechanisms so that you don’t have to think about every detail of your running, you just have to remember the feeling of your body’s positioning, balance, and movement during certain key exercises. We break down the macro skill of running into micro skills. We give you exercises to improve each of these micro skills and give you coaching cues that access the feeling of these movements. As a result, your body will adjust your running to the most biomechanically efficient and healthy form without having to think too much about it, it just happens naturally.
No matter how advanced your running skill or practiced your technique, there is still the potential for injury if unforeseen events occur, you could run too much soon (causing acute injury), or you could overtrain (causing chronic injury). Some examples of unforeseen events might include stubbing your toe on a rock and breaking it, catching your foot under a root and getting hurt from the fall, etc. These injuries might not have been caused by your running form by they are still risks when you go our for run. Running too much too soon causes acute injury because if you overwhelm your tissues with unaccustomed load, they will breakdown causing acute injury. This especially important to avoid when first learning any new skill and Natural Running is no exception. Gradually ease into the new form of running so your tissues have time to adapt to the new demands on them. Overtraining is when you don’t allow sufficient time for your tissues to recover between exercise. This would be like being a habitual 5-mile runner two to three times a week, learning the skills of Natural Running and wanting to practice the new technique to improve, and so you run 5 miles five or six times a week. You might have been used to the distance but not the decrease in recovery time. We can teach you the skills of running but you, as the client, are responsible for listening to your body and gradually increasing both your distance and frequency of running.
During the initial Natural Running Coaching session, we explain why we use being barefoot as a tool to improve your running skills and, ultimately, your overall form. Once you practice these techniques and master the skills of running, it doesn’t matter you wear on your feet. If you decide you want to continue running barefoot, by all means, feel free, but remember to transition slowly to allow tissues time to accommodate to the new demands being placed on them both in terms of strength and textures. If you decide you would like to try minimalist footwear, we can help you pick a brand and model that suits your needs. If you want to wear your conventional running shoes that are comfortable and that you enjoy, go for it. NRC exists to make running fun, efficient, and injury-free. Once you master the skills of running, it doesn’t matter what you wear on your feet because, as you know, it’s all about form.
There are two ways to transition to Natural Running if this form is completely new to you and your running analysis reveals a number of changes to your existing form:
- You can start running using this form from essentially zero mileage and build your running distance gradually and slowly. NOTE – this method sets you back to running from scratch but is easier to transition because you aren’t falling back into muscle memory habits.
For example: You start running one day for 5 minutes, evaluate how your body reacts, run 7.5 minutes two or three days after that, evaluate how your body reacts, and repeat by adding small increments of time to your running distance all the while evaluating how your body feels about that distance. If you feel any pain while running, stop running. If you feel pain the next day, try backing off your mileage for a few runs, and allow your body sufficient time to recover.
- You can incrementally increase the time you spend running with the new form during your habitual runs and then switch back to your accustomed way of running. NOTE – this method allows you to maintain your current mileage but takes a lot longer and is more prone to difficulty because you are allowing the muscle memory you’ve developed to reinforce your running form.
There are two ways to transition this way:
- Purchase a new pair of shoes that you want to use to practice the new form. Wear the new pair of shoes incrementally longer periods of time during your runs and run with the new form while practicing the techniques we gave you. The switch your shoes to your accustomed running shoes and allow your body to run the old way. The different shoes gives your brain and body a cue to switch running forms.
- Gradually increase the time you run concentrating on the new form and practicing the new techniques and then allow your body to run the old way. This way is more difficult because there is no cue for your brain and body to switch forms.
There are a myriad of choices in the minimalist shoe market these days and new ones coming out every season. To start, you can check out the ‘Minimalist Shoe Reviews’ section on the ‘Resources’ page for some websites that specialize in reviews for this kind of shoe. Alternatively, both Angie and Tina have extensive knowledge in this department as we’ve both been writing minimalist shoe reviews of our own for years. If you have specific questions about what minimalist shoes might work for your goals, send us an email at info [at] naturalrunningcoaching.com, and we’d be happy to help you out. If you are a retailer looking into bringing a minimalist line into your stores but aren’t sure what might be the best fit for your store, we offer Minimalist Footwear Consultations, send us an email to the same address above for more details.
Unfortunately, we do not create running programs for distance- or time-oriented goals. We teach you the skills of running and once you master those skills, you can apply them to any distance you want to run. We are continually building relationships with other running and triathlon coaches to provide referrals for this type of program. If you are one of these coaches, and want to build a relationship with us to provide your clients with the benefits of Natural Running Form, please feel free to contact us at info [at] naturalrunningcoaching.com for more details.
Winter is a runner’s reality with its slippery surfaces and colder temperatures. Rather than lament the chilly time of year and long for spring to arrive, I choose to embrace the snowy and icy terrain and use it to work on improving my running form. There are so many aspects of good running form that winter can help us with; I’ll expand on a few of them here.
Flint has posted his third and final article on FlintLand‘s Natural Running Series called Natural Running Technique: Analysis. In this article, he shares his thoughts on the basic principles of Natural Running and the coaching he participated in at In-Sport Fashions, Inc. in Montreal. I love his ‘simple rule’ for running: “Run like a five-year-old. Smile. Breathe. Enjoy.”
Flint has posted his second article on FlintLand‘s Natural Running Series called The Natural Running Technique. In this article, he covers the basic principles behind Natural Running as well as shares his Before and After coaching videos and exercises we covered during the session. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section and Flint and I will reply to them as they come in.