As the temperature starts dropping outside, we turn to food to warm us up. Proper running technique can not only help runners become more efficient at running, but help reduce injury and increase performance as well.
Not only do normal body biomechanics come into play (height of the arch in the foot, if you under or over-rotate the foot, etc.), but there are many other factors such as proper shoes; strength of hips, glutes and core; and terrain of the course. Aside from these other factors, there are a few other running techniques to think about that will help with correct running form.
Foot strike: How does the foot strike the ground? Are you leading with the heel of the foot or striking forefoot? For optimal running and decreased injury, the forefoot area of the foot should be the first thing to contact the ground. This helps to decrease the pressure and amount of force being placed on the knee joints when the foot contacts the ground. A good way to test if you are a heel striker is to run with shoes on and then try again with barefoot. With barefoot running, most people will naturally strike with the forefront of the foot. There are specific types of running shoes designed to help eliminate heel striking.
Cadence: What is the cadence of your running? Count how many times your foot hits the ground in one minute. That is your cadence. The goal is for the foot to strike the ground approximately 180 times in one minute. Striking the ground at this rate will usually correct the length of stride to an optimal stride. When running in the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body and the knee should be slightly flexed when foot strikes the ground. If your knee extends in front of the body, the stride is too long.
Body Alignment: What is your body alignment while running? How is the body oriented? Are you leaning forward, backward, or is the body straight up and down? Are your hips forward or back? Having a slight lean with the body, while keeping the body straight, is the optimal body alignment. It is known as “running tall.” This is the optimal position for lung capacity. Keeping the head lifted, instead looking down at the ground will help keep the upper body in proper alignment. If keeping the body straight is difficult, adding core strengthening exercises might help.
- Shoulder alignment: Shoulders should be kept in a relaxed state, meaning down away from the ears. If you feel them creeping up towards your ears, shake them out to release the tension. Keep the shoulders level and don’t let them dip side to side with each stride.
- Arms: Hands control the tension in your upper body. Keep the hands in an unclenched fist. A good analogy is to pretend as if you are holding a chip in each hand and you are trying not to crush it. Thumbs should be up and pointing forward. Your arms also help propel you with each stride and this should occur with a forward and back motion instead of a swinging side to side. Elbows should be bent at 90 degree angle.
- Hips: The hips are the center of gravity and help keep good running posture. They should be kept level.
- Ankles and feet: With each step, your foot should strike with forefoot and then roll forward quickly to push-off the ground. Keep the ankle flexed to create more force. As you roll forward, try to spring off the round. Running should be light and quiet, not a loud slap.
Post by: Julienne McCulloch