Lesson three is about relaxing the lower leg, lifting the heel and effectively peeling it off the surface and then putting it down in a mid-foot strike. The authors recommended practicing this first while walking, so it took it for a long walk.
During my first half-mile of “peel” walking, I found myself peeling up and then “rolling” down – the peel in reverse, rolling from the heel to the ball of the foot as it came down. I know that in running this should be a midfoot strike, but that’s really awkward walking. It took until the second half-mile to figure out what I was doing wrong. I was still reaching out with my step, and it’s difficult not to heel strike when you’re reaching. I let my step fall under my column. Problem solved.
I had the mechanics down enough to try this running, but I really needed to concentrate on relaxing. An oxymoron? Perhaps. Concentrate is the wrong word. It connotes the intense, furrowed brow that is anything but relaxed. The authors use the word focus, which to me connotes more of a line of sight to a goal. I took a deep breath, and alternated my mind focusing on the peel and focusing on letting go the tension in my lower legs.
The authors used two visuals that really helped me with this exercise. The first was the wheel. I found myself singing my own tweaked version of the Journey song, “wheel in the back keeps on turning” under my breath. The second visual was the roadrunner – speeding along with his feet spinning behind him.
I ran this way for 30 minutes. I discovered that the more I relaxed my feet and ankles, the lighter my strike felt. This could be a breakthrough!