We can all agree that, at the beginning, running hurts. Starting out isn’t easy and while we want to be a picture of heath, bounding up hills like a gazelle, the reality is similar to a charging rhino: panting, heavy and resentful. Despite running home from work for the past year, my 5k time hangs over me like the weight on the scale and I still haven’t caught the ‘running bug.’ But it had never occurred to me that my running technique could be seriously impeding my progress.
One early-summer evening I caught the train from London to Cambridge and watched the metropolis slowly turn to rolling fields. I was bound for Hotel Felix, a charming boutique hotel one mile outside Cambridge, for an evening of wining and dining, with a running analysis at Advanced Performance scheduled for the following morning. My mistake, I was yet to discover, was inviting my marathon-running, Triathlon-training, fitness-fanatic friend, Viki, to join me.
Our alarms roused us early the next morning and we headed off on a morning run before breakfast. We ran together to Jesus Park where I happily waved her off on her seven mile route while I, rather smugly, slowed down to a light jog and embarked on a five mile circuit. The colleges, cobbled market squares and winding river Cam, framed by blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine, looked majestic and I marvelled at this handsome city, just an hour from the capital.
It was so charming, I almost forgot I was running – but when I met Viki for the final mile back to the hotel my aching hip got the better of me. She, the gazelle, bounded ahead while I, the rhino, trailed behind, breathless and fed up. Finally back at the hotel a princely breakfast spread awaited and we wolfed it down on the terrace overlooking the pretty garden.
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Once showered we popped over the road to meet James from Advanced Performance. The company gives professional advice on how to run further, quicker and more effectively, whether you’re training for a race or not. Its key principles are built on helping all runners, from beginners to athletes, to get results while avoiding injury. People travel from far and wide for their RunBetter programme.
On instruction from James I nervously jumped on the treadmill wearing my, admittedly, rather flimsy trainers I’d been given for Christmas. James filmed my feet as I ran and on consulting the footage it was clear my ankles were overpronating, giving the illusion they were going to snap. Overpronation, when your feet roll inwards, can cause serious injury so a more supportive shoe is highly advised. I couldn’t argue with the footage, with the most supportive trainer my ankles were now perfectly in line with my calf.
Next, while I lumbered along on the treadmill, James assessed my running technique. It was unsurprising to hear my body was naturally trying to take the easy route, flicking my right leg out to the side to avoid using my glutes. This was likely to be the reason for my hip pain, James explained, and took me through some ways to fire up my lazy buttocks before each run.
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I still hadn’t decided which trainer design I liked best so James rigged me up to ViMove to test my Ground Reaction Force (GRF), among other variables, in both pairs. The results were unquestionable, with one pair of trainers my GRF, the force at which my feet were hitting the ground, was considerably lower, putting significantly less strain on my joints. In fact all the variables pointed to the fact that one pair of trainers was helping me run more efficiently. It was a done deal.
Back at home I thought I’d take my new trainers out for a spin. James warned that it might take some time to learn new habits – but I was going to give it my best shot. Feeling confident and professional in my new shoes, and with freshly warmed glutes, I headed off. Admittedly I had set my expectations high, my trainers weren’t going to give me a fresh set of lungs, but I did feel strong, powerful and most importantly pain free.
Two months on and I’m still running regularly. My 5k time is on the decline, my hip doesn’t give me issues, and it’s safe to say my slow transformation from rhino to gazelle has begun. Who knows, with further sessions at Advanced Performance I might be one step closer to catching that elusive running bug.
Words by Belinda Maude
Belinda Maude was a guest of Hotel Felix and Advanced Performance. Starting from £160pp per night, the running experience includes one nights’ accommodation, breakfast, and £30pp towards dinner for two at Graffiti restaurant. Guests also receive expert guidance from Advanced Performance with a running shoe MOT, professional running shoe fitting and gait analysis, and a bite-size injury clinic. Also included is a pair of technical running socks and a £5 voucher, valid for in-store purchases over £60.