It seems that everyone I talk to lately is getting ready to run or has just run in an event (like the half-marathon or the upcoming Urbanathlon). Why are these things so popular? Because running, unlike swimming, cycling or lifting, requires nothing but pavement and a pair of shoes (or Five Fingers!).
Unfortunately, this accessibility also leads to injury. Deconditioned or inexperienced runners usually find this out rather early in their running careers. Like every other human movement, there’s a technique to running (more than just getting one foot in front of the other). So here’s a few tips and tricks to avoid injury and maximise efficiency for both training and competitive races:
1. Never cross the midline
Draw an imaginary line down the body, separating it into left and right halves. At no point when running should you find your arms crossing to opposite side of the body, nor should the legs cross over behind the body at the end of a stride. Both generate torsion through the spine and pelvis, and any rotation is energy that’s not really helping you move forward (not to mention the poor loading and injury risk!).
Carry as little tension as possible outside of the working muscles. Relax the hands and shoulders, with just enought tension to hold the arms at about 90 degrees at the elbow. Relax the face and jaw – just watch elite sprinters do this. Less tension means more efficiency.
3. Land light
Are you a “heavy” runner? Quiet runners are efficient runners. Generally, landing heavy (with a hard footstrike) can indicate a couple of things – overstriding, heel running and fatigue.
Overstriding is not particularly productive. It’s generally more efficient to increase cadence during longer runs (about 180 strides/min). This reduces the likelihood of heel running, where the runner’s first point of contact with the ground is the heel. When the heel contacts first, it is often in front of the body, as opposed to directly under the body. When this happens, there is a decelerating effect (any contact in front of the body when moving forwards will slow you down), thus reducing efficiency and increasing joint loading (not good for injury risk).
There’s plenty more things to increasing running effiency – these are just a couple of big ones that I see on a regular (daily) basis. If you want any advice or opinions, just ask the trainers or check in with Scott (our resident marathon man) for some running technique tips!