The 100-Up Challenge

What if practicing a simple movement could dramatically improve your ability to run? What if a drill of alternately lifting your legs to hip-level, taking special caution to perform each lift correctly and with care for getting the motion right (And not just getting it over with), could eliminate any chance of injury while running?

What if it could make you faster? Continue Reading…

BigManTank’s Hundred-Up Challenge One-Month Update

“Bigmantank” (his moniker on the birthdayshoes forums) recently completed the one month 100-Up challenge. How’d he do? Well let’s start with where he started:

Background: I am 31 years old and according to the generic charts am obese, coming in currently at 281 lbs at 6′-6″. Measurements cause I figure they will help show that this can work for anyone: 49″ chest, 42″ around torso at belly button, 38″ around hip area at the tail bone level. I have been running (average 20 km per week in the last month) for 3 years, 2 in fivefingers and have been playing soccer for 8 months and currently in an indoor league. I am also Bigmantank1980 on the Birthday shoes forum. Goals hopefully running a half marathon in the fall of 2012.

Most recent run outdoors (end of last weeks sessions)was 3.33 km, took 19:01 minutes, with an average pace 5:42 min/km. Felt good just general fatigue in the legs, some moderate stiffness in the knees after the run, but have been stretching it out. Was landing midfoot, with some occasional foot dragging near the end. Also form was leaning at the ankles back straight arms low by waist slightly bent, relaxed hands at the beginning. Near end some clasping of hands and arms more bent, corrected when noticed but happening more often, same with some leaning at hips and slight arching of back, would also correct when noticed. Pace is near my PB 5 km of 26:42.

Began practicing the minor 100-up drill today (November 7, 2011) and maintained form as instructed. Hoping this will improve form and allow for greater distances in the future.

And here’s where he is now:

One month update.

Finished the run this morning going over the same track, though the weather was better last time. The run was 3.4 km today, took 18:01 at a pace of 5:14/km, felt pretty good, some issues with fatigue but that is likely due to a day on the couch with snacks watching soccer. Those lazy days will get you every time. Otherwise form was a big improvement and quicker muscle recovery. I am going to continue to work 100 ups into my routine during the day and see if the progress was as big of a jump as it was this time, and besides my form can always use a little more fine tuning.

I hope it has help everyone as much as it has me. Now going to work on distance more then speed.

So net-net his pace improved by about 28 seconds! Not bad!

I asked Bigmantnak what he thought about the 100-Up exercise, and how it affected his running/training:

While practicing the 100 ups I noticed that the stablizing muscles in my hips were getting a lot of use and would be tired at the end. I also noticed that it becomes rythmic and easy to maintain. I feel that the exercise helped by giving me a more stable base to run with, making it harder to lose form due to fatgiue of these muscles as they are commonly not worked very hard in most things. I noticed better form and the ability to hold it longer. Also side bonus it has helped with my soccer as well by again strengthening my hip flexors and such so now I am able to cut and stop a lot quicker and with I feel less wear on my body.

Very cool to hear these updates — we should be hearing more in the coming days as other challengers finish out the month of drills!

Ivan talks Day 13 of the 100-Up Challenge

My good friend Ivan (He blogs on better ways of doing business here) took up the 100-Up Challenge two weeks ago. What more, he just posted a video on his progress so far. Check it out:

Ivan is coming at this as a non-runner and has previously vlogged his experience with the 100-Up Challenge so far. You can catch up with his first video here and second here.

Sounds like some great progress so far (“extremely pleased”).

For those who are participating in the challenge, how’s your progress going? Any issues? What have you observed about learning the drill?

Sound off in the comments below!

The 100-Up Exercise and the Would-Be Runner

OR The Merits of Skepticism Over the 100-Up from the Running Elite

There’s been a lot of discussion (gnashing of teeth?) around the 100-up exercise over the past few days. Most of it is skepticism that there could possibly be “one drill to rule them all.” That, coupled with Chris McDougall’s unbridled enthusiasm and knack for telling a good yarn (Sounding a rallying cry to the Born to Run fan-base) … well, a few skeptics got riled up. God bless the Internet.

And a dose of skepticism is warranted whenever anything is held out as a panacea. That said, most of the naysayers haven’t actually had the time to practice the 100-Up exercise and see whether or not it works to improve their running. And by the way, getting at the merits behind George’s 100-Up is what this site is all about.

There’s one more thing I’d like to point out: nearest I can tell, most of the skeptics are already runners. I can only assume most of them already learned how to run properly, too.

Meanwhile, I am not a runner and haven’t dialed in my form to perfection. Sure I run from time to time and don’t heel-strike, but my form feels sloppy to me, unrefined, and prone to degradation. As a result I just don’t consider myself a runner. I see the 100-Up as a possible means to learn proper running form safely, efficiently, and in a manner that hacks at a problem that’s under-appreciated if recognized at all — rewiring my biomechanics through moving in a set, testable range in a controlled manner. It’s pretty hard to do that when you’re running down the street (Going full-monty likely helps in this regard, but is true barefoot running the most direct path to good running form? I don’t know.).

The whole whipped up, frenzied debate around the 100-Up as it is tossed about by established runners just drives me a little batty. Most human beings (in the first world anyway) probably haven’t run in months or even years. Most of us get our walking in at the grocery store or the mall. Stare at a screen lately while sitting slouched over a desk? Check. And finally, most of us are schlepping around in marshmallow soled and/or heel-elevated bricks called shoes (So stylish I’m sure!). Throw it all in a blender you get the modern man: a physiologically atrophied (muscles and tendons to say nothing of excess adiposity) individual hardwired to clunk around with zero notion of grace in movement.

Assume one of these individuals endeavors to run. While “couch to 5K” and other such programs can take the non-runner to running regularly, they don’t strike at the root problem — years of mis-use of the human body and habituated behaviors of injury-prone biomechanics. Worse, they may work to ingrain bad habits even further. Injury waits around the corner.

One irony in some of the criticsm around the 100-Up hype is that it’s being cast as a quick fix (Mind: George is pretty clear in his write-up of the 100-Up that correct form is difficult to maintain but paramount). Yet I can’t help but wonder: how many people lacing up their brand new Nikes and stretching their quads prior to their first run (or “jog”) in years are even remotely aware that they don’t have a clue how to run? That they should even Google proper running form or practice a few running drills before bombing (bouncing?) down the street … most probably don’t think about running drills for a second! We live in the age of the quick fix and a new pair of shoes and a decision to “go for a run” and “lose a couple pounds” is the quick fix du jour. Performing a century-old drill to learn form? No thanks, you can keep your drills while I take to the streets. Don’t you know? Just do it!

People think they know how to run and when it hurts, they assume it’s because they’re out of shape. When this cascades into injury or just giving up on running altogether (been there!), it’s a wonder anyone is running at all. It’s the non-runners who are the silent majority in these nuanced debates among the running elite.

So I hope the 100-Up is an efficient path towards learning how to run. I think it’s worth trying to find that efficient path because I don’t know about you, but my life is too busy. Seems W.G. George had the same problem back in the 1870s. The more things change, right?

I wonder if more of us started out not with a pair of new shoes and a grand plan to run a 5K/half-marathon/marathon but with learning something about proper running form, some intentional biomechanical re-wiring (e.g. the 100-Up exercise), and a bit of back-to-the-basics foot rehabilitation (barefoot locomotion!), maybe the end result would be more healthy and happy runners.

Christopher McDougall Demonstrates W. G. George’s Hundred-Up

As this site is called “Hundred-Up” (or “100-up” if you prefer) and wouldn’t exist but for this article, it’s only fitting to post first on Christopher McDougall’s (Author of Born to Run) N.Y.Times article The Once and Future Way to Run, which introduced me (and a lot of us) to a century old running drill invented by Walter (W.) G. George called the 100-Up exercise.

How did McDougall get to talking about an old running drill from the 19th century? Well, it was in trying to find a “one best way” to re-learn how to run. I emphasize “re-” because children seem to learn how to run with excellent form naturally, that is until something (What could that be?) degrades their form completely. Yes, you could make the bold claim that most of us do not know how to run, including most of the folks pounding the pavement around their neighborhoods, committing to their routine running grind.

Anyway, here’s how McDougall got to W.G. George’s 100-Up:

The only way to halt the running-injury epidemic, it seems, is to find a simple, foolproof method to relearn what the Tarahumara never forgot. A one best way to the one best way.

Earlier this year, I may have found it. I was leafing through the back of an out-of-print book, a collection of runners’ biographies called “The Five Kings of Distance,” when I came across a three-page essay from 1908 titled “W. G. George’s Own Account From the 100-Up Exercise.” According to legend, this single drill turned a 16-year-old with almost no running experience into the foremost racer of his day.

I read George’s words: “By its constant practice and regular use alone, I have myself established many records on the running path and won more amateur track-championships than any other individual.” And it was safe, George said: the 100-Up is “incapable of harm when practiced discreetly.”

Could it be that simple? That day, I began experimenting on myself.

Last fall, at the end of a local 10-mile trail race, I surprised myself by finishing five minutes faster than I had four years ago, when I was in much better shape. I figured the result was a fluke — until it happened again. No special prep, awful travel schedule and yet a personal best in a six-mile race.

“I don’t get it,” I told Cucuzzella this past June when we went for a run together through the Shepherd University campus in Shepherdstown. “I’m four years older. I’m pretty sure I’m heavier. I’m not doing real workouts, just whatever I feel like each day. The only difference is I’ve been 100-Upping.”

It was five months since I discovered W.S. George’s “100-Up,” and I’d been doing the exercise regularly. In George’s essay, he says he invented the 100-Up in 1874, when he was an 16-year-old chemist’s apprentice in England and could train only during his lunch hour. By Year 2 of his experiment, the overworked lab assistant was the fastest amateur miler in England. By Year 5, he held world records in everything from the half-mile to 10 miles.

If you’re not familiar with George (I wasn’t up until this article), W. G. George set a record for the mile back in 1886 that wasn’t beaten for three decades, running the mile in a blazingly fast 4 minutes 12.75 seconds.

So what exactly is W.G. George’s 100-up exercise? Here’s McDougall describing it to Mark Cucuzella, a super fast runner, M.D., and exceedingly humble man hailing from West Virginia, where he runs a store dedicated to minimalist footwear:

Mark Cucuzzella was just as eager [to learn about the 100-Up]. “All right,” he said in the middle of our run. “Let’s get a look at this.” I snapped a twig and dropped the halves on the ground about eight inches apart to form targets for my landings. The 100-Up consists of two parts. For the “Minor,” you stand with both feet on the targets and your arms cocked in running position. “Now raise one knee to the height of the hip,” George writes, “bring the foot back and down again to its original position, touching the line lightly with the ball of the foot, and repeat with the other leg.”

That’s all there is to it. But it’s not so easy to hit your marks 100 times in a row while maintaining balance and proper knee height. Once you can, it’s on to the Major: “The body must be balanced on the ball of the foot, the heels being clear of the ground and the head and body being tilted very slightly forward. . . . Now, spring from the toe, bringing the knee to the level of the hip. . . . Repeat with the other leg and continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. This action is exactly that of running.”

That’s it? Basically, yes. And since George did us a favor and committed to writing his full account of the drill (he believed in it’s power that much), I’ll be posting it later. For now, let’s take one more look at Chris McDougall’s article.

Specifically, let’s take a look at the video included in the article on how to do the Hundred-Up as you might have missed it (I did on first pass). Below McDougall and Peter Sarsgaard (the actor, director, and wait for it, minimalist/barefoot/natural running enthusiast) demo the 100-Up. Check it out: