You probably know running is one of the most effective cardio workouts. But if you are like most people, you haven’t been able to get comfortable enough running to build the physical conditioning you want.
Often, this discomfort is a result of chronic soreness and aches during and after running. Chronic discomfort or pains can inhibit your ability to sustain the intensity, duration, and consistency needed to reach the peak performance required to push your fitness and physique to the next level.
When I run, I notice runners with improper technique, and wonder how their bodies are feeling as they run. Some look like they are in constant discomfort, while others seem to be keeping a slow enough pace just to avoid significant pain to reach a further distance. I am amazed at how this group of runners perseveres, and still finds reward in the accomplishment of their trek despite the obvious discomfort.
If this describes you, the good news is that some simple adjustments to your running form will drastically reduce any chronic discomfort, aches, and pains. Proper running form is the single most important thing that dictates how efficiently our body is able to reach the intensity and duration needed to get results.
The basic concept behind good kinetic technique (the movement strategies associated with running) is to use the body in the most efficient manner as you harness the forces created with each running stride. In short, the body’s goal is to turn each stride into elastic energy to generate the momentum that propels it forward. The body also works to dissipate forces created by running to minimize residual stress that could negatively impact the body and cause unnecessary wear and tear.
For many of my clients, we discover that their bad habits in running were a result of a lack of awareness (of movement strategies and proper technique) or from compensation (of restricted ranges of motion or injury). Most of the time these habits and conditions have been formed over years and are key contributors to the physical ailments or pain.
If you continue to ignore improper technique, you will continue to work harder and expend more energy than needed. Poor form also creates unnecessary stress that often cause breakdown. Undue stress can be caused by a high concentration of external compressive force from ground reaction and gravity. It may also be from overuse due to compensations.
Eventually, all of these factors can make muscles dysfunctional as they are working in ways in which they were not designed. Conversely, proper running form allows our body to move efficiently in the way it was intended, and be uninhibited in reaching its fitness level potential.
The best and fastest course of action in improving form is to consult an expert. It takes a trained objective eye to assess and make corrections. I’ve helped many people with this sort of thing, and they were able to realize immediate benefit to their running.
Here are some simple steps to help with your form if you’re not able to consult an expert soon:
• Lightly stretch beforehand. Maintain good posture, and be as tall as your full height while you run, instead of appearing to be sitting in a bucket.
• Relax your shoulders down and keep them wide spread.
• Keep your eyes on the horizon, and not down at the ground.
• Keep elbows tight to your side while you simultaneously drive one elbow back, and the opposite unclenched fist forward at a rate and range of motion in accordance to your stride length (Do not let hands and arms cross in front of the body)
• Concentrate more on your hips and mid-section being your power center, instead of trying to power all from the legs. It should look as though you are leading through your hips, instead of running with a poopy diaper.
• Land on your mid-foot directly under your body and roll through the front of your toes. If your lower leg extends out in front of your body, your stride length is too long.
• Make ground contact quiet, instead of loud and hard. Then roll forward of the forefoot straight and spring off the ground.
• Lessen the up-and-down and side-to-side movement of your head and torso. No bobbing, bouncing, or swaying.
• Thoroughly stretch afterwards, consistently. Often pain and poor movement habits are a result of to insufficient flexibility.
To make these corrections stick will require a short-term sacrifice of your usual intensity and distance to ultimately have even greater results and longevity in the future. Initially practice consistently and closely observe these techniques on shorter runs only. Otherwise old habits may creep back during time of fatigue and lost focus. Remember that perfect practice makes perfect. Over time you can build back to longer and intense runs.
Start to take notice of your running form, and build from the guidelines stated above by focusing only on three adjustments per run at a time. This way you won’t become overwhelmed, and you can progress at your own pace.
While on your way to mastering your running technique, you should find that you will have improved performance and much more enjoyable time. Try it on!
Adam Friedman, CSCS, CN, CMT is a kinesiologist, certified strength & conditioning specialist, certified nutritionist, and certified massage technician. He is the founder of Advanced Athletics, Inc. located right next door to the world famous Gold’s Gym in Venice, on the corner of Sunset Ave. and Hampton Drive, one block east of Main Street. To schedule a complimentary assessment, please call 310.396.2100 or e-mail Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, to learn more, visit www.advancedathletics.com.