The Bouncer

You know… I told you guys how simple running is. Just do it already. Get out there with a pair of trainers. And that’s true but it’s also a complete lie because running is the most complicated thing in the world. I’ve been doing it a lot over the last six years and I still don’t know how to run.

What do you mean? You don’t know how to run, you just… well, run!

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? You’d think that running is just running and everybody can do it but there’s more to it than that. I don’t know how many muscles are in the human leg but there’s a bunch of them. Which ones do you use for running? That’s what I want to know. I’ve Googled that question with no results. Which muscles do you use for running? Because you’ll achieve some kind of forward propulsion with any manner of combination of any those muscles in your legs. Doesn’t mean it’s right, right?

Can’t remember which muscles I used when I first started running all those years ago but I do know I had a horrible technique. I used to over stride all over the shop. I changed that, shortened my stride and increased my cadence. This was much better. Felt much better. I’d use my feet and calves to run. Just my lower leg and everything else just moved on its own. Like, my thigh moved because my foot was pushing off. You know? This is how I ran. I saw photos where I looked more in the air than the people I was running with. That was cool, I had a spring in my step! Springs are cool. My times improved and I got much better at running. Still, I wasn’t convinced I was running correctly. Particularly when running with people who were much faster than me. It wasn’t fitness that allowed them to move so fast because I was as fit as fuck! Others seemed more efficient than I was.

Then for Christmas I got a Garmin Forerunner 620. The one that gives you running dynamics. I was mostly interested in cadence because if I don’t work on my cadence it really drops. I didn’t look at GC(ground contact time) or VO(vertical oscillation) because I figured that if my cadence was good everything else would be good. Then one day I noticed that the VO metric the watch recorded was always red. I’d honestly thought the watch recorded it red. That it recorded different metrics in different colours but it didn’t, it was grading them and red was bad. My VO was bad. Really fucking bad. Terrible. Catastrophic. I went out and tried to run with no bounce but couldn’t. Just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t too downhearted because I never thought the amount of bounce in my step was a problem. I felt I was running smoothly – it was just leg muscles I wasn’t convinced about and so I found something on the internet that said tall runners will have a higher VO, and I forgot about it.

Then some other guy in our running group (Uncool Runnings) – Mark’s his name – got a Garmin 620. He was also tall and to be honest his running style was horrible, or so I thought. I was sure his VO would also be high but, you guessed it, his wasn’t! What a kick in the nuts. He could run fast for a long time too. I clearly had to do something about my VO.

Saturday I went out with the intention of working on it. It had generally been about 12cm. It should be around 7, I guess. Or 8cm. So I went out to work on it. Started running as smoothly as I could. 12cm. Stopped running. Looked confused. Tried again, this time as smooth as I possibly could, almost holding my breath. 12cm. Fuck! Okay, let’s think about this. Start running again. 12 cm. Ha! What a load of shit!

I’d’ve considered the Garmin faulty were it not for the fact it seemed to work fine when I was walking, it was just when I started running my vertical oscillation shot up. It was fucked.

Okay, so walking it was okay. I’ll just walk faster. I walked faster, looking at the watch. I was speed walking, My VO was still okay. Bit faster then. And then I was kinda sorta running in a weird speed walking crouch, well, that’s how it felt but my VO was okay. Managed about five hundred metres. Stopped. I’d made progress! I’d do another half a kilometre. Started running slowly. 12cm. Fuck. Stopped. Did the walking start thing and it was okay. As long as I didn’t relax. If I relaxed it’d shoot up. In the end I did loads of these short efforts, sometimes the VO would be good and sometimes it would be bad. Managed 2k at the end with the VO being good. Definite progress! Considering that an hour before the whole thing seemed literally impossible.

I then went running on Sunday. Tried out what I learnt. Felt I was running nice and smooth but checking out my VO later I saw, much to my chagrin, it was 12cm! Cocksucker! So I hit the internet and found something. Can’t remember where but it said you shouldn’t push off with your feet if you’re not a sprinter. So today I tried that. Again in short bursts. Seemed I could keep my VO down if I relaxed my feet and calves and instead ran with my hips and ass and the top of my thighs. Sort of kept that area all tensed. I’d read something a couple of years ago about running with your ass and tried it but my ass didn’t seem involved in the running process at all. So I stopped thinking about. But today I used my ass and it improved my VO. I mean, when I ran with the complete opposite muscles to the ones I would normally use then my VO was in the green. 8-9cm So maybe there’s something in this. I mean, my thighs were burning towards the end but I figure that’s just because I was using muscles I don’t have. So I’m going to keep on this for a while. See if I turn into Mo Farah. I think it’s more likely to injure me to death, but we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.