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Isolation has seen many of you pick up running, which is fantastic to see! And by now you might be feeling a little more fit and starting to run a little further or faster. Maybe you have completed the Couch to 5K and are now looking for the next challenge. Our ability to run longer distances and/or at a faster pace relies on many physiological and biomechanical factors. One of these factors is the efficiency of our movements, or the way we actually run.
There is no right or wrong way to run, however there are some areas that we can focus on to help your body utilise your energy most efficiently, and not waste it on forces/movements that slow you down or make you work harder. Below are some areas to think about and some tips on how to run more efficiently.
Think tall! Think about having a line from your toes, through your knees, hips, shoulders and up to your head, and you want to have this line at a slight forward tilt to help your momentum forwards. This will also help your foot-strike (more on this below). Try to keep your gaze about 20-30 metres in front of you with your head not too far forward.
Keep your tummy tucked in and hips facing forwards, and try to avoid excessive rotation through your trunk. Too much rotation counteracts the forward motion and it costs us unnecessary energy to control and stabilise the body. Keep your shoulders relaxed! Movement at the shoulders should be a result of your arms moving forwards and backwards, not as a result of your shoulders creating that movement or the body rotating the shoulders around.
Your arms help to propel you forwards, so they should be moving forwards and backwards, not across in front of your body. Your hands should not cross the midline of your body. Keep about a 90 degree bend in your elbows and keep them close to your sides.
Knees and hips
These areas are both so important for running propulsion. Strong glutes are essential for runners! Aim to push through into a good amount of hip extension as your body moves over your foot. As your toes leave the ground flick your heels up towards your buttocks as you swing your leg through and drive forward with your knees.
Cadence and foot strike
Cadence, or stride rate is the number of steps you take in one minute. Foot strike is the way the foot lands on the ground. There is no right and wrong way to land on your foot, however, we do encourage to avoid landing with your foot way out in front of your body (over-striding) and landing heavy on your heel. This can act like a bit of a break as your centre of mass is well behind your foot. Over-striding also increases the impact force on your muscles and joints, potentially increasing the risk of injury.
As everyone is different, don’t worry too much about where on your foot you are landing when running, but rather try thinking about having a quicker turnover with each step with your foot landing underneath your body whilst it has already started to move backwards. Keeping that forward tilt as mentioned above and having a higher cadence will help prevent you from heel striking and landing too far out in front of your body. Landing with your foot under your centre of gravity will help enable your forward momentum and minimise vertical displacement. Try to keep your cadence above 165. Your smart watch will measure your cadence for you.
This is often an area forgotten about but is vital for getting enough oxygen into your body for your hard-working muscles to use. Utilising your whole lung capacity will enable more oxygen to get into your blood stream quickly. Think about filling your lungs right down to their bases near the bottom of your ribs, rather than just breathing up around your chest and shoulders (which should be relaxed!).
Rather than try implementing all these tips at once, pick one area on your next run and see how it feels. Then try another, and eventually you can start to incorporate them all. Don’t forget other important aspects of training such as correct footwear and building and maintaining strength, which enable you to keep your good running form for longer and during faster speeds. If you would like to have your running style assessed by one of our CSSM physiotherapist’s or podiatrist’s, please give us a call!
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