180 Challenge: Connor Winter
I had a wonderful time interviewing Connor Winter last week. He is a former member of the CU track team and an entrepreneur. He is a founder at Shoe Sense Running, where they help eliminate running injuries due to wearing worn out shoes.
AH: Thanks so much for joining us today. To get started, can you tell us about how you got into running.
CW: It started when my parents put me in a fun run when I was about 5 years old. I was running with my parents and then they were too slow, so I just kept running. And I started beating adults; they were looking down and getting mad at me. So I kept running and from there I started running with some clubs. And I like the meditative process of running: to listen to my body and work through things that have gone on through the day; to get the endorphins going and to feel like I’ve accomplished something because I’ve had a good work out.
AH: So then you did track in high school as well as college?
CW: Yes, I ran track my freshman through senior year in high school. And then my junior and senior year I also ran cross country. I won six state titles in Colorado for track, which was really fun. Then I got a scholarship to run for CU and then ran 5 years at CU and we won a couple national championships, we won the PAC-12 championship, and I ran sub-4 minutes in the mile. I was PAC-12 champion in the steeplechase and 4 seconds off the Olympic trial standards.
AH: What’s your primary event?
CW: The 3,000 meter steeplechase. That’s where you have 4 barriers and you jump over them and one of them is in water on the track.
AH: Wow! That sounds intense!
CW: Yeah, it’s insane! I started that my junior and senior year of college so I only race that event a couple years, so it was pretty fun. That’s the goal; to keep getting better at that. Keep training.
AH: Can you tell me about your experience with running cadence?
CW: So it started off when I was in high school, I had a really good coach. He was looking at my stride when I was a freshman and he saw that I was overstriding. He explained that I needed to land underneath my body, rather than overstride because I was wasting so much energy by striding too far.
It took me probably about a year. My sophomore I was working on it and challenging because different muscles were working and I had to figure out how to land underneath my body and how to just be really quick with my feet. That year I did alright, but my junior year I performed much, much better and was able to win state championships.
The cadence really made a huge difference because I was then able to be much more efficient, with hardly any injuries, and then be able to work on other things with strength that added on to that really nice cadence. These things kept my body healthy and kept me from overstriding with a huge heel strike to having more of a mid-foot strike that kept me going fast. And during races it felt better because that’s where you stayed most of the time. Racing is more of an aggressive foot strike and so you want to make sure you can continue to run that for a long time when you’re training, so when you’re racing it is comfortable as well.
AH: How did you work to increase your cadence and improve your stride?
CW: The big thing was understanding the stride. Understanding that I want to plant underneath my shoulders and never go outside of the circle from my shoulder to my hips to my feet. So we worked on it and did a lot of drills, where you quicken your feet, and made sure you were understanding and landing differently. And the cool thing about your body is it changes to understand that. So now when I'm landing underneath my body, my body adapts so I shouldn't land on my heel anymore, because it's more efficient to land on my forefoot. It wasn't anything special, I just slowly had to change the way my foot hit the ground, but it automatically happened when I just shortened the stride up. It was kind of interesting, because I thought my calves would hurt. They were a little sore, but once I got better they continue to feel that benefit, so I wanted to stay right at 180 and somehow I just stayed there.
AH: What kinds of drills did you do?
CW: A lot of skips and stuff like that, so you would learn how to land underneath your foot. We did high knees or butt kicks or toe taps or calf raises or anything where we would learned how to run slowly in place that would help us to land quickly and lightly on our feet. So when you're doing drills, like skipping or jumping, you land nicely right underneath your body. And so that really helped my understand the fundamentals of the stride.
AH: Thank you for your time today and your insightful perspective on running cadence and form! It was a pleasure to interview you.
Thanks for reading! Consider taking the 180 Challenge -- I would love to hear about your experience.