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5057 Views 8 Replies Latest reply: Apr 28, 2010 8:08 PM by Run Coach Robert
Francessmom Pro 177 posts since
Feb 11, 2009
Currently Being Moderated

Apr 23, 2010 3:20 PM

Muscle memory and running

I have only been running for about 18 months.  I now follow a modified Chi Runnning approach.  I have completed several 5Ks and just finished my first 8K.  I know that muscle memory is important when trying to master a new skill such as swimming butterfly or learning to pitch a softball.  You have to practice the moves over and over until your muscles do it almost automatically. I am a triathlete, and feel that my freestyle is all muscle memory. Is the same true for running, which is a more basic skill?  There are times during my runs when I can zone out and enjoy the scenery or thoughts, and my body keeps going.  But other times I really have to think about how I am breathing, are my shoulders relaxed, etc. I usually run 3 to 4 times a week and try to do anywhere from 3 to 5 miles.  While I have finally grown to enjoy running, I would like it to be a bit more second nature.  Is it a matter of miles run, frequency of running or something else that seems to elude me?


Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

6/11/2011 - Warrior Dash Pennsylvania - 52:26

6/24/2011 - CBA 5K - 27:11

8/7/2011 - Danskin Sherox Triathlon Philadelphia - 1:54:16

11/5/2011 - Penn Homecoming 5K - 28:46

11/13/11 - Media Mud Stain 5 mile - 53:39

05/06/2012 - Broad Street Run 10 Mile - 1:36:11

06/03/12 - See Chicks Run 10 K - 54:23

06/26/12 - CBA 5 K - 26:28

09/16/12 - Rock & Roll Half Marathon Philadelphia - 2:03:07

  • vanessaruns1 Expert 40 posts since
    Mar 19, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Apr 23, 2010 3:51 PM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    It sounds like it IS starting to become second nature, you might just need more time? I'm not sure if you've been doing the Chi method for the full 18 months, but if not then a new approach would definitely result in more focus. The same thing happened to me when I started incorporating barefoot running or even speedwork into my training. It was almost like learning to run all over again - I had to think about it.


    It DOES get to be more second nature, but then again there are always new improvements that you need to focus on. I don't think any good athlete ever reaches a point where they are not concentrating on improving their form in some way. So I think the fact that you are clearly aware of your running form is a great sign. I would be more concerned if you were just running, and then suffering an injury later.


    Eighteen months might seem like a long time but it's not really THAT long. I'm running half marathons and training to ultimately qualify for the New York marathon and I still constantly think about my form. However, I have yet to suffer an injury and I think I partly owe that to the fact that I think so much! lol


    So keep at it, it sounds like you're doing great!

    Vanessa Rodriguez

  • Jasonhomey Pro 236 posts since
    Jul 19, 2004
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Apr 25, 2010 11:20 PM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    Though the more running you do, the easier it should get and you should become more efficient, I have never found running to be a muscle memory kind of sport. I have played a lot of sports, and that never would come to mind if someone mentioned muscle memory. Maybe things can be different for you, but it is definitely something I always mention in tennis (I am an instructor).

    Do or do not, there is no try. - Yoda


    Marathon - 3:24:47 10/17/10 Columbus Marathon

    1/2 Marathon - 1:34:26  09/07/03 Columbus Half Marathon

    30 K - 2:22:36 09/28/03 Heritage Rails to Trails

    10 Mile - 1:12:20  08/17/03 Alum Creek 10 Miler

    4 Mile - 25:43 11/26/09 Pilgrim Progress

    5 Mile - 34:43 05/26/2003 Upper Arlington 5 Miler

    5K - 18:55 05/22/11 Physicians Free Clinin 5K Fun Run

    10K - 40:50 02/27/11 Last Chance for Boston

  • JasonFitz1 Legend 578 posts since
    Jun 19, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Apr 26, 2010 2:24 PM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    Francessruns -


    Running (well) has a lot to do with muscle memory.  It's like the old saying - "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."  You'll continue to become more efficient as you run more, both in terms of years of experience and volume.


    There's always room for improvement though.  To improve your form, you can start doing two things that I have found to really help your form: form drills and sprints.


    Form drills include butt kicks, A/B skips, karaoke, high knees, etc.  Try going on YouTube and searching those terms and you can get demonstrations, in addition to ideas for more form drills.  You can also google "running form drills" for even more information.


    Sprints are also a good way to increase efficiency and improve your form.  You can do short hill sprints (harder) or strides at the end of an easy run (easier).  It takes time, and even after 11 years of running a lot and pretty competitively, it helps to check your form a few times during your runs.  Good luck, - Fitz.

    Strength Running
  • dfitz* Legend 612 posts since
    Aug 20, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Apr 26, 2010 6:32 PM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    I am a ChiRunning practitioner too, and if you haven't yet perused the discussion boards there, I recommend it ( You'll quickly get an idea of how important it is to return to the focuses regularly and consistently. Even Danny Dreyer, the founder, does it, and occasionally struggles with it. This is not to say it's a "chore" that you'll never escape; rather, it's part of the philosophy, and helps ensure you're relaxed and aren't wasting energy or movement.


    While you're on the ChiRunning site, I would recommend reading Liz Frost's entire blog from beginning to end (it'll take you awhile... but it's fun to read). She was a cyclist, I believe, who never liked running much, but worked for Danny Dreyer and thought she'd better learn about ChiRunning. The blog follows her progress in learning the principles while training for a half marathon. It's really interesting following her progress as she went through the ups and downs of mastering something new. It sounds like you're already more comfortable with it than she was in the beginning.


    We all have days where it just seems easier, and days where nothing feels right, and I'm guessing that's true in cycling and swimming too. I'm still relatively new myself (approx 2 1/2 years) and have done dozens of races, mostly 10k. I had a weird bout of tendinitis at the end of February that lasted until a week ago. My first long run after that felt just awful, but this past Saturday I ran a 10k that felt great. Things came together and I didn't have to constantly return to the focuses.

  • Dog-lover Legend 373 posts since
    Mar 5, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Apr 27, 2010 8:41 AM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    I believe, for me at least that running is a muscle memory function that can be changed and improved with drills and practice.  I've been running for 3 years and have worked hard on form, turnover and cadence. There are a lot of good drills out there to help improve these functions of running.  What I've found is that over time and repetition I've developed a much more efficient form with higher turnover.  I used to really have to concentrate on holding my form and cadence and now it just happens.  I check myself occasionally but it's just become second nature.  I know my form is much more comfortable and feels natural as well.  Good luck

    Quote from Bob Moawad  " You can't make footprints in the sands of time if you are sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time"

    2008 - Grandma's marathon - 4:51            2011 - Get in Gear 1/2 marathon - 1:46

    2009 - Get in Gear 1/2 marathon - 1:49    2011 - Green Bay marathon - 3:51

    2009 - Grandma's marathon - 4:13            2011 - Grandma's marathon - 3:45

    2009 - Twin Cities marathon - 4:02           2011 - Minneapolis Pride 5k - 21:31

    2010 - Grandma's marathon - 3:58 ya hoo!

    2010 - Twin Cities marathhon - 3:55

  • skypilot77 Legend 1,077 posts since
    Dec 16, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Apr 27, 2010 9:12 AM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    There are a couple of things that I do to work on muscle memory which I have found helpful.


    When I spend time at the local track I will run stattling a lane-line. When doing this I can know I am running straight and work on the form of arms, shoulder, and knees all pointing in the same direction. The line forms a reference point.


    The second thing is a mental message where I remind myself to use the big muscles in my legs. On occasion I cathc myself running with seemingly just my lower leg doing the majority of the work. Reminding myself to use the larger/upper muscles of my legs makes for more speed and efficientcy. But working on these things has led to them being done better and consistently.

  • Run Coach Robert Legend 782 posts since
    Jan 7, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Apr 28, 2010 8:08 PM (in response to Francessmom)
    Re: Muscle memory and running

    If you want to improve running, swimming, or any sport for that matter, thinking is mandatory most days no matter what the experience level.


    One of the major differences between elites and the rest of us is their ability to stay focused, for long periods, on what they are doing. Zoning out is an occasional luxury.

    Robert Martin

    NFPT Certified Personal Trainer

    NFPT Endurance Specialist

    RRCA Running Coach

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