Running Form Related Keywords & Suggestions - Running Form
This blog is brought to you by Fitness Ignition. Like us on facebook!Running form is a frequently discussed topic among injured runners and runners looking to perform better. How should we run? Is there one ideal way to run? Should we run on the forefoot, mid-foot or heel? Does our core matter? What should our upper body do when we run?There are many schools of thought in the running world and there doesn’t seem to be any ironclad consensus on any of these questions. If you’re running pain-free and you’re performing as well as you’d like then I don’t believe you should change your running form. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.If, on the other hand, you experience pain when you run or if you’re not as fast as you’d like to be then some technique changes may be in order.A lot of us run in a hunched type of posture that resembles the way we sit (and sit and sit…) in our work chairs or in our cars. This hunched position may be problematic and may be contributing to running problems. To address this issue:Imagine a chain is attached to the top of your skull. That chain pulls you up. It lengthens your spine and makes you tall. See if you can feel this long, tall spine as you run. As part of this process, keep your gaze up and out toward the horizon. Don’t stare at the ground directly in front of you. This tall posture should help with some of our other running form considerations.Tight hip flexors may contribute to a hunched posture. The following stretch sequence may help.The impact of the foot hitting the ground is worth considering as it concerns injuries. Recent evidence suggests runners who hit the ground lightly are injured less than runners who hit the ground hard.You may run with earphones and you may be unaware that you stomp and pound the ground with each footfall. So to run light, remove the earphones and pay attention to the sound you make.Imagine you’re weightless. Your strides are feathery light, and energetic. You don’t pound the ground but rather you glide across gossamer.Another way to run lightly comes through this skipping drill: One way to lighten the impact of running is to drop the foot very nearly under your hips. This should result in your shin being vertical or near-vertical. Look at the picture. Try running like #2. The skipping drill from above can help you feel that foot landing directly below your hips.Want to run lightly? Run like #2.Don’t concern yourself with whether or not you’re hitting on the heel, mid-foot or forefoot. Where the foot lands is more important than on what part of the foot hits first.Quickening your cadence too much can be a problem. There is an obvious point at which gait can becomes too quick and inefficient. An excellent way to work on your cadence is to use a metronome. Kinetic Revolution has a great article that discusses research on cadence as well as how to introduce metronome running into your training. The article also links to a digital metronome that you can download.Running may seem like something we should all be able to do. In fact, most of us can execute some version of movement in which we rapidly put one foot in front of the other. Kids learn to run without detailed instruction and without much in the way of typical running injuries. Shouldn’t adults be able to do the same thing? Maybe or maybe not… If we hurt while running or if we think we’re too slow, then some sort of alteration to our running style may make sense.Changing your gait takes some tinkering, some awareness and mindfulness. It won’t happen automatically. Physical therapist Rick Olderman helped me to change my running gait. He once said that “if it feels normal, then you’re doing it wrong.” He meant that in the early stages of changing how we move, it should feel weird and unnatural to us. Learning any new skill requires some struggle and awkwardness. If you practice frequently and work at it then things should improve at a reasonable rate.Personally, I never listen to music while running. I pay attention to how I run, where my foot falls, how I move. I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.I can’t guarantee that any of these changes will result in either a pain-free running experience or a podium finish in a race.Time with a physical therapist, podiatrist, chiropractor and/or a running coach may be what you need. That said, these cues have helped my running as well as several of my clients’ running experience. I’ve also incorporated things like the short foot drill, ankle dorsiflexion work, and a wide variety of single-leg squats and lunges (here, here, here for instance) to improve my movement competence. Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts to consider when we run!I’ve used a few simple techniques to help a few of my clients with their running technique. These ideas have also helped me overcome a long-term bout of heel and Achilles trouble.My clients often hurt when they ran so if nothing else, I figured they needed to run differently somehow. There was no guarantee that what I would show them would solve their problems but clearly the way they were running wasn’t quite working.The following are drills and cues that I’ve used. Effective cueing can be challenging. I have in my mind a movement a feeling and an experience that I’d like you to have. I have to translate what I feel into English and transmit that message to you. My words may hit the mark or you may have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about!Hop up and down. How do you land? On your heels? Most people land on their toes and to some degree their heels settle to the ground. It happens naturally. Your probably don’t need to think about it too much. In this way, we effectively dissipate the impact forces and avoid too much jarring and banging into the ground.Now run in place–quickly! Again, how do you land? I think most people land similar to the way described above. It’s a light landing on the toes, not heels first. This is pretty much one-footed hopping.Where do your feet land? Directly under your hips. That’s about where we want the feet to land. In contrast, what we don’t want is for your feet to fling out in front and slam into the ground. To that point…Overstriding is a frequent issue in injured runners. By overstriding the foot lands out in front of the runner and he or she slams hard into the ground with every foot fall. This can cause lots of stress to various tissues and joints and it’s likely a cause of pain.This is a good contrast in foot placement. The guy in back is overstriding.By running at a quick(er) pace we facilitate the feet landing under us, not out in front. We create shorter loading times of the bones and joints and thus reduce the stress that may be causing our pain. It’s difficult to overstride with a quick cadence.For a most runners this means consciously picking up the pace. This can feel awkward at first and may feel inefficient. One way to start to adjust your cadence is by using a metronome when you run. Start at your normal pace and sync the metronome to your pace. From there you can up the beat and match your pace to the metronome. This takes time and practice. If it’s important then you’ll do it.Again, this all may feel very strange–and it should. After all, if our current chosen running technique is causing pain, then it stands to reason that a new and better running technique should feel weird. As with any new skill, it won’t feel strange forever.Learning to lean from the ankles–not the hips!–is important. By leaning from the ankles we sort of fall forward. We keep the hips under us, not poked out behind. When leaning from the ankles it’s difficult to overstride and slam the foot into the ground. Here’s a drill to learn how to lean from the ankles.The simple cue to “run tall” seems to work well for a lot of runners. I’ll keep it simple and leave that phrase as is.Keep your eyes on the horizon. This works well to help keep you tall. Your body tends to go where your eyes go. If you stare at the ground then you’re likely to slump forward. You won’t be running tall. Learn to use your peripheral vision to see the ground. The guys below are running tall and gazing out.These guys are RUNNING REALLY TALL!! You should try it!Run lightly. Quick pace. Lean from the ankles. Run tall. Eyes on the horizon.I’m not going to say a lot more other than I like the information presented here:Finally, here’s a skipping drill that may help you get a feel for running tall, running lightly and not pounding your heel into the ground. My hope is that this drill will transfer to your actual running. Skipping involves an exaggerated running gait and you don’t actually want to bound and prance to an extreme degree.There are so many knowledgable people out there putting out good information. Here’s a little bit that I’ve found recently.Kinetic Revolution: Better hip flexion for better running plus overcoming our sitting habitIf you’re a runner or triathlete then you should definitely check out Kinetic Revolution. The author is James Dunne and he’s a rehab and biomechanics expert. His recent post is Flexion Inspection: How Long Do You Sit Down Each Day? He discusses the perils of setting, namely tight hip flexors that inhibit the glutes and thus limit your hip extension. He makes two suggestions:1. Record Your Time Spent Sitting For 1 WeekThis is Claire’s brilliant idea… I had to share it!Keep a simple diary. Much like a food diary, but recording the time you spend sitting down every day. Every single form of seated activity, from working at a desk to cycling.If you’re anything like me, the results will be ALARMING.2. Offset Time Spent In Flexion With Specific Extension ExercisesI’m a realist. I get that much of 21st century living requires sitting – not to mention the leisure activities we engage in. Cycling for instance.I usually suggest for every two hours spent in a flexion pattern, athletes should get up, and spend 5mins working on extension exercises such as hip flexor stretches and glute activations.And he explains a hip flexor stretch progression here I can’t really resist posting this video so we’ll meander away from running technique for a moment. Nilofer Merchant gives a TED talk on this dreadful sitting habit we have. She even suggests that perhaps walking while talking may drive creative thinking: Sweat Science: When is the ideal time to cease strength training?If you’re a runner who strength trains (And if you’re a runner, you should strength train.) then this piece from Alex Hutchinson’s Sweat Science column at Runner’s World is very much up your alley. It’s titled When to Stop Strength Training. He discusses research from the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Here’s the big rock you should know (emphasis is mine):What you’re looking at is the change in muscular power after resistance training was halted, based on meta-ysis of 103 studies. Note that power is different from absolute strength — power is your ability to deliver large amounts of force in a short period of time, which is often more relevant to athletic performance than plain strength is. And the interesting thing to note is that, 8 to 14 days after stopping, power appears to be a little higher than it was during training, though it’s not statistically significant. (The graph for strength, which I didn’t show, starts declining immediately.)Speculation aside, if you’re an endurance athlete who includes resistance training in your regimen, you have to eliminate or reduce it at some point before race day. The graph above suggests that one to two weeks in advance might be an interesting time to stop. Running technique & mirror neurons: Watch and learnHumans are visually-oritented people. We primarily learn by watching and imitating others around us. (Why did you ever decide to walk? Did someone propose the idea to you? Did you come upon the idea of walking from a book you read? No. You decided to give walking a shot because you looked around and saw a bunch of other people doing it.) Mirror neurons are the specialized structures in our nervous system that enable our learn-by-watching process.The cool thing is that we can improve our skills by watching other people do things. I’ve watched skiing videos to improve my turns and I’ve watched mountain biking videos to improve my switchback riding. We can improve our running technique the same way.There are a lot of youtube videos out there on running technique and I’ve found a couple that are fairly informative and somewhat entertaining. These videos are a slightly funny compliation of 80s instructional video, current running ysis and in one clip we see vintage black & white footage of the great Roger Bannister, the man who first broke the 4-minute-mile barrier.
Obviously you are using your leg muscles when you run – but which ones are really doing the work? Well, it depends on what type of run you are doing. Each type of run (see below) works your muscles differently and and may target one group more than the other. Also, the type of muscles you have can make a big difference in which distance you excel at. Typically, people with a higher percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers do better at sprints and other things (weight training, etc) that require short bursts of energy. Long distance runners and people with more stamina typically have more slow twitch muscle fibers. What’s the difference? Well, mainly how the muscles use oxygen for fuel. Your fast twitch muscles barely use oxygen at all and can even perform without you taking a breath (like during a very short sprint).Can you increase the percent of short twitch or fast twitch muscles? Not really. You are born with a certain amount of both and for most people, it’s about 50/50. For certain athletes, they may have a higher percentage of one or the other, so that makes them excel at their particular sport. So, what if you really want to be a sprinter but think you don’t have the right muscle fibers? Well, you have to work at it! You can’t really change the type of fibers you have, but you can make the muscles that you do have stronger. So, if you are wanting to do more fast twitch activities like sprinting or weight training, then focus on those muscles and improving your speed and strength with those activities. If you want to run a marathon or work on your endurance, then practice adding endurance and distance into your routine each week so that your slow twitch fibers get stronger.Regardless of what distance you WANT to excel at – it’s a good idea to incorporate a little of every distance and style of running into your routine, but just make your goal distance the priority. For instance, right now I’m training for the Houston Marathon. So, I do incorporate 1 speed day a week (a short tempo run or even a day with sprints) and even a hill day. But, my priority is building endurance – so my most important run of the week is my long run and how I recover from that.As I said above, you are technically working all of your leg muscles during each of these runs, but just some more than others. Everyone is different, but below is where I typically feel my legs working the most and where I am the most sore after a hard run:Sprints: Quads, hamstrings and calves. Short Distances (5k): Quads and hip flexors. Hill Workouts: Glutes, hamstrings and calves. Medium Distance (10k-Half Marathon): Hamstrings and quads. Long Distance (Marathon+): All over tiredness and a little of each. You never know when you run this far! When I’m super tired or at mile 20+ I start to feel my glutes activate for extra power. I also feel my core working more – because it acts to stabilize your body and keep you upright. After previous marathons I also feel soreness in my upper back (from swinging my arms for so long) and some in my feet and calves from the pounding.Glutes: They stabilize your hips and legs and help give you extra power. They also work with the hamstring and hip flexors when your leg retracts behind you preparing to propel forward. Try sumo squats, regular squats, the “clam” and walking lunges. Quads: They propel you forward and help straighten out the leg in front so that it can make contact with the ground. Quads are the primary muscle used in the “drive” phase. Do leg lifts, leg extensions (machines at the gym are good for this), squats and lunges. Calves: They give you spring in your step and also act as shock absorbers. Try calf raises. Hamstrings: They help pull the leg back behind you and give you the strength to propel your body forward. They have to lengthen quite a big when you run, so be sure to include flexibility every week. Do hamstring “pushups”, deadlifts and lying leg curls + stretches (or yoga!). Core: Strong abs and back are important because they keep your posture upright and overall form good. Do regular crunches, v-ups and focus on planks which work all your core muscles. Biceps: You need good biceps to maintain a bent arm and they help you swing your arms back and forth. Try regular bicep curls (use medium weights), hammer curls and curls with a resistance band.When is the best time to do strength training for your legs? Or a rest day or a running day?Hi Angela! I would recommend that your rest day or off day be a true rest day without any activity (maybe some light yoga if you don’t have injuries). So, I would incorporate your leg workouts into either your race pace day or your slow run day. I wouldn’t do any heavy weight training the day before (or right before) your hill runs or sprint runs because you want your legs to be fresh. If you happen to do a workout that makes your legs super sore- just slow down your pace some and be sure to stretch and foam roll after the run.Does running also build up your abdominal muscles or does it just target the lower half of your body?Hi Mariya! Running tones and strengthens the whole body – not just the lower body. It does tend to work and strengthen the lower body muscles the most because you are using them the most when you run. But, you use your arms too when you swing them back and forth and your whole entire core (not just abs but also back) muscles are working to keep you upright and stabilize your body. Running is really a great form of exercise. If you are new to running – just mix walking with running and gradually reduce the amount of walking until you are running most of the time. Hope this helps!Your commentName* E-mail* Website