Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett

I’ve always got the sense that Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD really knows his stuff, but I’ve never found him very relatable.

He uses too much jargon, and his ideas are out there, which is fine, because I suspect we really know very little about our own physiology and mobility, but he doesn’t offer an easy way in.

I’ve tried writing this summary for a while — I shoved his book to the top of my list, because I’m forcing myself to be a runner, but lo and behold — IT band injury. Better start doing what he says.

My Notes:

Kelly offers 12 standards that all runners should look to maintain — this is the “for dummies” version of how to be a runner and not get injured.

1: Neutral Feet. As much as possible, keep your feet straight. The tendency is to splay them out. In classic Kelly Starrett fashion, I don’t really know why straight feet are so much better. I mean, if they naturally splay out, isn’t that ok, who says they’re supposed to be straight? is it from all the sitting? I’m unclear. Anyway — I do this. Mostly I notice when I’m walking somewhere and have to wait for something. I then remember to make my feet straight and parallel. And I stand up straight. Seems like a good idea.

Before standard 2: My beef with Kelly Starrett — a quotation: “By maintaining your feet in a neutral position while standing, walking and running, you’re setting the stage for efficient movement, defined as the way your body was engineered to move.”

While in general the difference between a neutral position and a stress position is a matter of common sense, what is the evidence that the feet are supposed to be neutrally parallel as opposed to splayed out slightly? Is it really possible to be that prescriptive with our posture? This stuff confuses me.

Anyway — this book is FULL of prescriptive claims about how your body is “supposed” to be, and very light on the evidence to back up these “supposed tos”. And what would the evidence look like? That’s an interesting question.

I should also mention at this point that I’m still trying to do much of this shit. So I’m as full of shit as anyone.

2: Flat shoes: Switch to low or zero drop shoes when possible, and go barefoot as much as possible. This makes sense — you can be prescriptive that our feet were likely supposed to interface directly with the ground. However, hard ground surfaces are probably an abomination, but then so are high heels. Barefoot if possible, zero drop if not.

3: A supple thoracic spine: again makes perfect sense — this is the mobile phone/computer pose. Don’t put your head out over the cliff, and also imagine that your pelvis and shoulders are a bowl of water filled to the brim that you aren;t allowed to spill. We spend so little time engaging our core when we sit that it feels like work, but brace yourself at every opportunity you get. Over time it takes less effort to stand and sit tall.

4: An efficient squatting technique: No knees over feet, knees drive outward, sit yourself down. Do a fast interval and maintain form. Have a good deep squat you can sit in. Keep your feet as straight as possible. Keep midline tight, i.e. engage core, flat back. Hang out in the squat position.

5: Hip flexion. I have tight hips, apparently it’s a common problem for male runners. You are in hip flexion when you’re sitting, but it’s not enough, hip range should be up to 120 degrees. Minimize sitting to help hip flexion range — and get up and brace yourself so you’re straight up periodically if you have to sit. 20% core engagement.

6: Hip extension. This is the couch stretch — apparently what flossing is to healthy teeth. It really helps with knee issues.

7: Ankle range of motion. Both flexion and extension — deep squat, pistol, but also sitting on your feet. Work on your ankle mobility

8: Warm up and cool down. Warm up: mobility work — deep squat, couch stretch, wake up feet and ankles, tabletop stretch, crab walks. Cool down, final stretch of run is a walk, then roll out legs, lacrosse ball feet, open up back arms and trunk too.

9: Compression — wear compression socks after your run while you roll out and cool down. Only real rationale offered for this: T.J. Murphy has seen a bunch of triathloners wearing them. Byrne study says it supports blood flow/recovery?

10: No hotspots, be vigilant of hotspots during your run, and focus on mobility exercises for those areas. Key here is to pay attention.

11. Hydration — drink 2–3 L of water every day — if not drinking it with food, add a pinch of salt. You could use RRUD to test your hydration, the level is the specific gravity marker, aim for 1.005 to 1.015

12. Jumping and landing technique — feet straight throughout, midline neutral, knees move outward with feet straight as you land. Foot straight and knee neutral, don’t let knee or arch collapse inward as you land.

To recap:

1: Neutral feet — straight parallel feet.
2: Flat shoes — zero drop, ideally barefoot.
3: A supple thoracic spine — brace yourself, don’t hunch over, don’t put your head over the cliff.
4: An efficient squatting technique — hang out in a good, deep squat.
5:Hip flexion — stand and raise a knee to its highest point while remaining neutral throughout.
6: Hip extension — do the couch stretch.
7:Ankle range of motion — go through entire range as part of warm up
8: Warm up and cool down — mobility work before run, walk, swings, compression and roll after run
9:Compression — see above, and also wear compression socks while travelling.
10:No hotspots, pay attention to body when running and work on problem areas.
11: Hydration — 2 to 3 L of water, if not drinking with food, add a pinch of salt
12: Jumping — do jump rope, neutral body, straight feet, knee moves outward when landing, foot stays straight, no collapsing inward.

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