Running clinic offers a 'leg up' for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series about the 509th Medical Operations Squadron Health and Wellness Center and their highlighting of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.)

It would be easy to say that running helps Airmen stay fit to fight, and that exercise helps support the mission by the same means, but, without the necessary knowledge of proper performance, both physiologically and mechanically, a runner could be sabotaging his or her efforts.

Angela Anderson, 509th Medical Operations Squadron Health and Wellness Center exercise physiologist, works to educate Airmen as they work toward becoming efficient runners.

"The first priority would be for individuals to build an aerobic base," said Anderson. "I have individuals slow down their training.'"

Building an aerobic base is not something that can be done two weeks prior to a fitness assessment, and Airmen should be actively training year-round, said Anderson.

"I have runners slow down their training by using the '180 minus your age formula,'" Anderson said. "This allows our bodies to make progressive adaptations without creating injury. Too much, too fast or too hard and too soon, otherwise known as the 'terrible toos,' can create injury or burnout."

She suggests training versus trying.

"Athletes train, they don't try," Anderson said. "Members need to be training to pass their fitness assessment, not trying. I encourage members to create a training program which includes endurance building, strength training and form drills."

Those who are unsure if their running form may be counterproductive should consider attending the running clinic sponsored by the HAWC. Participants will learn about strength training, proper stretching and healthy eating habits, and also receive personalized tips on improving their performance.

Anderson also recommends runners use a heart rate monitor, talk test or a rate of perceived exertion chart (RPE) to measure exercise intensity.

"Running form is also individualized," Anderson said. "The whole idea is that we progress toward becoming an efficient runner. I look at arm swing, lean from ankle, strong core, cadence, gaze at the horizon, vertical oscillation, wasted energy and more."

During the running clinic, Anderson uses a sports video analysis application to analyze how members move on a treadmill as well as the track.

Another factor that could be jeopardizing a runner's peak performance is what type of shoe they use to train.

"My shoe philosophy is similar to my exercise philosophy - there is no bad exercise, just bad exercises for certain people," Anderson said. "A shoe prescription has to be individualized and utilized progressively. I do believe barefoot or minimalist shoes encourage a mid-foot or forefoot strike, just for the mere fact that heel-striking hurts without the cushion."

Everything Anderson teaches, whether it be running endurance, footwear or healthy eating, is all linked to one theory - it is a process, not an event.

"Change takes time, our bodies need to adapt and we have to psychologically change our mindset," Anderson said.

Anderson suggests that people can learn valuable lessons from watching young children run because they have beautiful form.

"Their feet are not Westernized, meaning they still have a wide-toe spread, unlike many adults, who squish their feet into small toe-box shoes," Anderson said. "Children build their aerobic endurance through play-- another tip we can take from a child.

"Don't be too rigid in your training plan. Remember to play," Anderson said.

Staff Sgt. Tiffani Lawter, 131st Bomb Wing Missouri Air National Guard recruiting administration assistant, said she learned through attending the running clinic that she crossed her arms over her chest while running, which was just energy wasted.

"Angela pointed out that arm swing should not cross over your body and should swing from mid-chest to hip," said Lawter. "Additionally, I was very interested in becoming a barefoot runner and she sent me a list of transition shoes and the zero heel-drop shoes and gave me the directions to slowly get myself to my goal without causing injury to my feet."

Lawter said the running clinic was definitely an eye opener for her and has given her more knowledge on how to be an efficient runner. During her fitness assessment, Lawter kept in mind the tips Anderson gave her. Her mile-and-a-half time went from about 15 minutes to 12:41.

"It was incredible and from this point, I only want to get better and continue to improve my running," Lawter said.

The running clinic is offered the third Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. To register for the running clinic, call the Whiteman HAWC at 660-687-7662 or see the HAWC's Facebook page.