Doc’s Talk 04-08-2012

Mr. Roger Kobayashi has been giving his presentation on Running Style for many years, ever since the Honolulu Marathon Clinic met at the Waikiki Bandstand.  Mr. Kobayashi completed his first marathon in 1979 (The Marathon Marathon in Terre Haute, Indiana), and has completed one in every decade since then. 

Mr. Roger Kobayashi shared thoughts and guidelines on the elements that create a Running Style that works for you.


Elements of Running Style

R     relaxed
Keep your arms and handsloose”.
Why?  When you clench your fist, your arm and shoulder muscles are under tension.

S      silent
Run silently.
Why?  If you can hear your footsteps, your feet are probably “slappingthe pavement.  That increases the impact when you land.  Generally, distance runners land on their heels and roll forward.

T     tall
Stand tall – perpendicular to the horizon.
Why?  That position requires the least amount of muscular effort.  If you lean away from the perpendicular position, your trunk muscles will have to work harder to keep you erect.

The following are three basic elements of running style.  There are many more, but these are the only ones I am allowed to address.

Use this information as guidelines as opposed to rules.  What’s the difference?  A rule is like a mold.  Your English teachers insisted that you follow grammar rules.  They ensured that your words fit a mold.  In contrast, your elementary school teachers gave you guidelines for forming letters as you were learning to write.  The result – Your respective handwriting looked similar but was not identical.  With guidelines you have a lot of leeway.

R in Guideline 1 stands for relaxed.
Why?  Because the opposite, not relaxed, requires more muscle tension and therefore, effort.

Your forearms should be roughly parallel to the side of your body, and should describe a gentle, forward‑backward arc.  At the rear-most point of this arc, your fingers might be in the vicinity of the seam of your shorts.  Your forearms should be kind of like the pistons on a steam locomotive, and not move on a plane in front of your stomach.   

Your arms are part of your balance system.  To confirm that, try moving your right arm in conjunction with your right leg and your left arm with your left leg.

Keep your hands loose.  A clenched fist is on the other extreme of the spectrum.  A clenched fist creates muscle tension that involves muscles in your arms as well as those in your shoulders.  If your fists are clenched now, try applying tension between your thumb and forefinger as an alternative and the initial step in change.  Then, move to a relaxed hand.  Be forewarned, it took about two years for me to do that.  You might find it advantageous to violate these guidelines when sprinting the last hundred yards.
Keep your arm swing symmetrical.

Walkers generally let their arms hang down.  As a result, their hands swell.  From personal experience, swelling is a temporary condition.  There’s no reason that walkers can’t carry their arms like runners.  Try it, it might work.

Find out what works, and what doesn’t work.  Just run relaxed, whatever that is for you.

S in Guideline 2 stands for silent.
Why?  Because a noisy foot plant generally indicates that you’re slapping the ground.  Your foot is not acting as a shock absorber.  You’ve heard or will hear terms like pronation and supination.  Those terms describe the motion of the foot as it contacts the running surface.

Is it important to know whether you pronate?  No, not if you go to a shoe store with a knowledgeable staff (like The Running Room in Honolulu, Hawaii).  The staff will evaluate your running gait and suggest shoes which are appropriate.  Yes, you can go to a big box store without a staff to save some money, but you won’t have anyone to evaluate your gait.

T in Guideline 3 stands for tall.
Why?  Because having your torso perpendicular to the horizon is the most efficient way to carry your body.  Have you noticed that utility poles are perpendicular to the horizon?  If the poles were perpendicular to the roadway, they would have to be buried deeper or have larger foundations.  So, if your torso is not perpendicular to the horizon, your muscles will have to work harder to keep your torso upright.

How do you keep your torso erect?  Imagine a “sky hook” attached to your spine, and then imagine that it is pulling you into the sky.

If you keep your eyes open, you may see experienced runners who don’t follow one or more of these guidelines.  Remember, I have presented these elements of style as guidelines, not rules.  If you don’t or can’t follow the guidelines, don’t worry.  It is much better to follow the suggestion of the NIKE commercial which said “JUST DO IT”, than to wait until your running style is perfect.  I won’t be offended if you don’t follow any of the guidelines – My wife doesn’t.  She considers my comments and suggestions to be criticism.

For example, having different leg lengths will probably have an effect on keeping your torso erect.  Today, look at the waist lines of the runners in front of you.  Someone whose waist line tilts to one side may likely have different trouser inseams and will very likely be “tilted” to the side of the shorter leg.  If you’re not sure about your posture, ask a friend to run behind you and look at your posture.

The bottom line is, don’t try to copy someone else’s running styleDo your own thing.

For some good reading on nutrition, Dr. Scaff recommends everyone check out the daily postings on Dr. Alan Titchenal’s “Got Nutrients?” web site:

Here is a recent posting:

April 5, 2012
Well designed vegetarian diets can be healthful. However, avoidance of specific food groups does increase the risk of nutritional inadequacy. For example, in many types of vegetarian eating patterns, iron can be low and/or in forms that are poorly absorbed.

Consumer Link
Eating Vegetarian is Healthy, But Mind the Micronutrients!

Research Link
J Nutr. 1950 Jul;41(3):433-46.