"Bend the knees" versus "running light"

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by Jaap Francke, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. Jaap Francke

    Jaap Francke
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    Hi there!

    I am still working on my form. And I am a DIY kind of guy, so I read a lot of stuff to get tips&tricks that I can pay attention to while running.

    One of the things that puzzles me is that I feel there is a contradiction between Bob's mantra "Bend the knees" and the concept of "running light", which is promoted in for example Michael Sandler's book on barefoot running.

    When I focus on bending my knees, it seems the time my foot is in contact with the ground gets longer and I am making myself less tall. When I try to adopt the idea of running light - as if there is a string pulling me up through my head - this encourages making myself tall and bending the knees doesn't work anymore.

    Can anyone explain how the 2 views can be combined? Or are we talking about 2 different barefoot techniques?

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  2. Christian Lemburg

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    First, these are cues, not different techniques. They are ways to focus your attention on specific issues.

    „Bend the knees“ is a cue to avoid overstriding and to use the whole leg as impact absorber and power generator, instead of overly relying on your calves.

    „Running light“ is also a cue to avoid overstriding, by encouraging smaller steps and focusing on lightly touching the ground instead of stomping into it heel first.

    „String pulling me up“ is a third cue intended to encourage erect upper body posture and hip extension.

    All of these are combined in good running technique. Look at the videos of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella running barefoot, he demonstrates all of these aspects in his technique.

    In training, one usually works on one cue at a given time, for better focus and improved results. If any of these cues confuse you, or seem contradictory, go back to video and try to imitate the actual movement or aspect you are interested in. Cues are just verbal shortcuts for insights about movements that happen to work for many people.
     
  3. Barefoot TJ

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    Great response, Christian. Well thought out.
     
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  4. Jaap Francke

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    Thanks Christian, your reply was really helpful to me.
    I did a few runs and suddenly the cues 'connected' rather than feeling somewhat in contradiction.

    Sunday I did a 25km trail run in the Ardennes. Not barefooted but I did try to focus on proper 'barefoot' running form. I was doing great and in particular I was happy to find I could run downhill fairly fast without my knees hurting. I really felt good about that because I used to hate running downhill before when I was still overstriding and landing on my heels.
     
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  5. flammee

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    Well, I have had this plantar fasciitis issue for last half a year. Last monday I was running and my heel started to ache, then I just tested this knee bending (idea popped into my mind because I had read this thread lately) and aching stopped. I have run 40 km so far this week, so I'm pretty sure it was knee bending that helped. I kinda rejected idea of knee bending during running as unnecessary and implausible, when I read Ken Bob's book few years ago.. I would say that it's pretty solid concept for me from now on. :D Thanks for reminder. :)
     
  6. Modenacart

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    Walking on rocks help with plantar fasciitis. For most people it is lack of flexibility that causes the pain.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  7. trevize1138

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    I was struggling with exactly this for a while myself. To this day if I think "bend my knees" that results in me crouching way too much and it's just terrible. And even if I try to focus on the words "run light" it never worked.

    The mind-body connection is weird and illogical just like how language is weird and illogical. So, it is very true as others have said that you have to keep hunting around for what kind of verbal cue works for your specific mind-body connection.

    For me, the "ah-ha" moment came when I tried running "like I'm on hot coals." This seems to work for others I've talked to as well. For a good friend of mine, however, that phrase did nothing for him. I then mentioned another phrase to him "like you're sneaking up on someone." He went about 10 meters after I said that and responded "Oh my God! It really IS like sneaking up on someone!"

    Other variants: marching or prancing. Try them all out for a good while and see which one makes you click.

    Ultimately, all of these cues lead to the same place: a focus on lifting your feet off the ground quickly rather than so much focus on how, where you land. I've found any time I think about how my feet come down to the ground the motion is always harsh and inefficient. When I just try to lift my feet off the ground ASAP everything just falls in line.

    Again: it's illogical but it works: "If I just lift my feet I'm not going to move forward." Your feet will move you forward without your micro-management and gravity will bring them back down the the ground. A focus only on lifting those feet off the ground ASAP encourages you to use your big, strong, upper leg muscles, hips and glutes. A focus on landing only stresses out your lower legs, feet and ankles.

    Look again at the running-in-place exercise in Dr. Cucuzzella's video. When I first saw it I thought it was driving your feet down to the ground quickly. Instead, the exercise should be lifting your feet quickly which allows them to bounce quickly. A far easier way to perform the same motion.

    Something else to try:

    * Stand up and let one leg go limp from the knee down
    * Lift that knee until your toes are dangling a couple inches from the ground
    * Switch legs
    * Get a metronome and start cranking up the bpm and step to that, eventually hitting 180bpm

    You'll notice right away when you lift that leg with everything below-the-knee gone dead how you only need upper leg muscles for that motion. That's the lifting motion to focus on. Yes, when you run your lower leg muscles are certainly involved but you'll only over-use them and injure yourself focusing at all on them. Call on your upper legs only. They're the ones that are good for it.
     
  8. Jaap Francke

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    Thanks for all your replies - helpfull stuff!

    For the moment I am struggling with a little whiplash kind of pain in my right calve.
    I think focussing on lifting my foot may have caused that I lifted my heal and creating more push-off on the ball of my foot. I don't know.
    I'm gettinga bit frustrated and I'm starting to mis the days I could run 15-20km without a care in the world. Now I'm happy I can run 7km.... :-(
     
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  9. Paul NL

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    Jaap, I hope you did manage to recover in time for the 'Koning van Spanje' trail on May 5th. Did you run it?
     
  10. johan131

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    Downhill in races I try to touch the ground as long as possible and this makes me overtake a lot of other runners. Like the other cues this is a really helpfull one. Another one: relax relax relax (and lift your toes). Read them in Bob's book I think.
     
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  11. johan131

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    Maybe all the thinking makes its hard to listen to your feet/body? Sometimes I just forget all of it and try to run painless/effortless.

    Or just slow down! Till you run nice.

    Or speed up a lot and then slow down and try keeping this form.

    Hope this is helpful
     
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