Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Fly

Yes - it's now officially white!

Webcam HD Lac - 2100 m -

Running in Snow - "barefoot" style
Went for a run in snow for the first time with Merrell Trail Gloves this evening. The snow is nice for "barefoot" running technique. Starting to build up distance and to get a little faster over the 10k but still a long way off proper running pace. The aim is to avoid injury and build up slowly and patiently this time to see how far I can take this technique  - and whether or not it really protects against injury. I'm not mad enough to run properly barefoot in snow but apparently some people do - and they say that due to the extra blood flow to the feet there is no problem when running. I find that a little bit hard to believe though and wouldn't like to spend winter recovering from frostbite instead of skiing. 

Nasal Breathing
Despite running faster today I found that nasal breathing was easier than  last week - perhaps due to feeling less tired after more recovery time than usual. There does seem to be a connection between fatigue levels and ability to control and sustain nasal breathing. Breathing just thorough the nose protects the lungs from the cold air and filters out most bacteria, viruses and other rubbish in the air before they get into the lungs. The body is busy producing CO2 and by constricting breathing slightly this resets the body's CO2 tolerance levels and the higher this goes the better for everything from physical performance to health. CO2 paradoxically is the hormone which determines how much oxygen is released to your tissue and organs - the higher the level absorbed into the blood the better. Our cells need about 7% CO2 to function but air contains only 0.03%. Next time some dumbo talks about CO2 as if it was pollution please ask them to get an education . When cellular life developed on Earth the air was 7% CO2 and that's how cells still work today. Your lungs are CO2 reservoirs - so don't blow it all away with big breaths - that only gives short term benefits at the cost of long term improvement.

How to fly
In ChiRunning and Pose technique they are keen to avoid pushing off with the foot at the end of the stride - but Gordon Pirie in his book "Run fast and injury free!" states that you should push off. Some claim that part of the issue of calf pain comes from pushing off. The main principle is that pushing off isn't necessary because  propulsion comes from gravity. To me it seems like both ideas are right to some extent. You have to extend your ankle and bend at the forefoot to lengthen the stride to the maximum. This extension uses the anterior tibialis in front of the shin and it contracts the calf muscle. It seems to me that proper contraction of the calf muscle can only help with circulation. The active ankle and foot really extend the stride and make you feel like you are flying - but without any significant effort. Gravity is pulling you downwards so as your centre of mass moves forwards the only way to prevent it from losing height is to push off with the foot - more upwards than forwards. Some forwards push must be involved just as a reaction to gravity toppling you forwards - the fact being that your centre of mass would just go straight downwards and not forwards if there was no resistance at the foot on the ground (like slipping on ice). In fact it isn't necessary to push off as such but to counter the component of gravity that is converted into a horizontal backward force. This means that the "push off" is passive and carefully controlled - not a direct source of power or acceleration itself. Calf pain is much more likely to be due to a forefoot strike and using the calf to absorb the landing impact - because this is an eccentric contraction (muscle extending while load is applied) and that stresses the muscle much more. It's the eccentric contractions in running that cause muscle pain when developing fitness compared to cycling where there is no eccentric contraction or related pain. 
The anterior tibialis is a key muscle for use in skiing. Ingemar Stenmark famously stated that it was this muscle he felt the most when skiing. It is a good feeling to actively use it when completing the stride and a good way to develop strength and awareness. 

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