The real title of this article is “Bulletproof Running Wins Races”.  However, the day after completing Richard Diaz’s running clinic, I feel more like I’ve been riddled with bullets.  My brain was firehosed with information and my legs were shot full of new skill training. Combined, they start turning that information into muscle memory.

Finding Richard Diaz Human Performance

If you sign up early and a critical mass of people commit, Richard will conduct off-site clinics like this, taking advantage of local resources such as hotel treadmills (for analysis) and high school tracks (for advancement).  This past weekend, the rest was up to athletes like me, my son, and about 18 others who came for three days of intense learning, training, and bonding that could only be established through common suffering.

The team gladly posed for a quick pic in the rain at the end of the DHP Clinic

I came into this event knowing what was to come.  I have followed Mr. Diaz for many years through his book and his podcast The Natural Running Network.  My objective was to unlearn 57 years of everything I thought my mind and body knew about running.  My race goal set for this September is to run that race fast, strong, and injury-free.

Saturday Morning

That’s where Richard started the clinic.  He is convinced through thousands of evidence-based experiences with athletes that running can be done injury free AND that most running injuries are caused by poor running form (mechanics, posture, gait, strength, and pre-existing knots (more on that in a minute).  One after another we got up on the treadmill while he filmed us from the side and back. While this was going on, he gave live explanations about what he saw, what the fixes are, and the preventive techniques. By the end of every person’s run (it only takes about a minute each), the real pain starts.  My analysis was next and he tore me up and everybody laughed.

I got on the treadmill already having explained about my ACL surgery and visits to the orthopedic surgeon.  As soon as the video started he said, “I can see why Mr. Caldwell has so many visits to the ortho.” I laughed too.  Then I saw the video in slo-mo. The laughing stops. This is serious time. My running sucks. Even though I read his book and many others, watched hours of YouTube tutorials, had my son videotape me before, and so much more to ensure my running form was good, it wasn’t.  Nobody’s was. So I asked Richard the obvious question. “There are a million things you see wrong here today. But we’re not going to focus on fixing a million things. We’re going to focus on doing one thing right. Right?”

VO2 testing only take a few minutes but feels like an eternity

“Yes.”

“We’re going to learn how to bulletproof your running.”

But not quite yet.  First, something more fundamental had to be fixed.  Complaints.

Pain Relief

Lots of runners run with pain and injury.  Richard claimed that most if not all of this can go away when mitigated by running with proper form.  But sometimes that pain first needs a little attention. So for the next few hours, “Doctor” Diaz performed minor miracles of pain remediation by using a variety of tools and techniques that he prefers including RockTape, Floss, Sauce, and Blades.  I’ve been a big fan of this stuff for years so he didn’t have to convince me. The skeptics were also convinced after treatment. Once the pain was out of the way, we could move back to the treadmill and begin to learn proper running technique for the first time.

Flossing is an excellent pain relief and mobility restoration technique.

Cupping is an effective mobility enhancement technique.

But there’s a caution flag here, one of many raised by Mr. Diaz throughout the weekend.  If you don’t fix your running technique, the pain will return. Good running form takes time, practice, and patience.  Failure is actually built purposefully into the plan so that the brain and the body learn to find the breaking point, then back off, and re-train.  Each iteration brings incremental improvement over time. This can be weeks, months, and years.

One by one, the pain free students mounted the treadmill and the instruction began.  The technique is profoundly simple but can be frustratingly difficult to achieve depending on how radically poor their running was a few minutes ago.  Within minutes everyone’s brain was re-booted and the re-wiring began.

RMR and VO2 Testing

On a sidebar, Richard’s wife Lori was busy administering RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) tests on some folks.  This test helps the athlete understand how well and when they burn fat and sugar. She then worked with them on making appropriate modifications to their nutrition, workouts, recovery, and sleep patterns.

Lori Diaz explaining the Resting Metabolic Rate test

The rest of Saturday afternoon was taken up with VO2-Max testing.  While all this went on, Richard kept up with a running narrative to keep the rest of us engaged.

Saturday Afternoon

We finished the day outdoors where we began to learn the meaning of “bulletproof”.  One of the secrets to good running technique is the combination of mobility and stability up the musculoskeletal chain from the big toe to the brain.  Each joint requires maximum mobility and stability in order to ensure the next joint up the chain also has that opportunity. This is why he spent so much time unlocking many runners’ mobility issues using the RockTape tools.

VO2 testing only takes a few minutes but feels like an eternity

To be mobile and stable, one requires strength, balance, and coordination.  We started by taking off our shoes and getting up on our toes. What began as a liberating exercise as we let our toes splay and our foot receptors respond to the ground, ended up in groans and foot massages as we realized how poorly adapted our feet were.  The first chain in the link ended up being the weakest for many of us. I was thrilled to learn this information and add it to my training regimen.

The feet are probably the most important muscle/joint group in the running chain

After this new excitation to the brain experience, we ran barefoot in the grass for a while.  It was exhilarating. We felt like kids again. We ran like kids again. Free, uninhibited, natural.

Sunday Morning Motor Skill Development

Sunday was all rain.  But after what we went through on Saturday, we were impervious to the blues of bad weather.  We went to the local track and started doing everything again that we’d learned on the treadmill.  We ran to failure and backed off. We removed our shoes and took off. We did time trials and watched the precious seconds fall off.  We gained confidence.

Aaron natural running about a 6-minute pace

Me natural running about an 8-minute pace

Hill Drills

Until we went to the hills for drills.

We put the power chain to the test by doing single leg work up and down the hill.  Single leg work helps identify imbalance, asymmetry, and weakness. I had all three.  I knew that going in. But with these drills, I also learned again some new techniques to help overcome, adapt, and relearn.  All the while, Richard and Lori kept reinforcing good form. I faltered a lot due to fatigue and the still incomplete breaking of bad habits like heel striking and overstriding.  

Heels and elbows are great tools for restoring mobility to a partner

But now my son and I have each other to keep accountable.  We’ll incorporate the lessons into our training plans. We’ll break out the video occasionally to record progress (or regress).   We’ll take everything we’ve learned this weekend to help ourselves reach our goals. How can we do anything but improve? We just learned from, got coached by, and received hands-on rehab, pre-hab, and essential bullet-proofing from Richard Diaz.  He does the same for world champions like Hunter McIntyre, Veejay Jones, Faye Stenning, and so many other familiar names in OCR. In our own ways, we all want to be like those elites. Richard Diaz delivered the full package we need to get bulletproof in order to get there.

Mud Run Guide gladly fires off 5 stars for 5 to Richard “Bullet-proof” Diaz and his Human Performance Running Clinic.  Sign up and go see him in June for his Super Clinic.