n this article, I’ll be outlining the basics behind running. These demonstrations will show you the correct and incorrect ways to run, as well as different ways to prevent injury.
Running is a method of locomotion that allows humans to move rapidly on foot. Our Ancestors developed an ability to run about 2.6 million years ago, as an adaptation that made hunting more successful. Commonly described as the world’s most accessible sport, running competitively dates back to 776 BCE in the first olympic games. Besides being used for hunting and for olympic sport, there are still a few gaps in the history of running. The first evidence of running as a training technique dates back to the 16th century, where swordsmen ran to build their physical endurance. Fast forward to 19th and 20th centuries, running began to appear again as a training regimen.
As a tool for physical fitness, running is essential to building balanced strength in all systems of the body. Long term benefits include prevention of certain diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, as well as an increased of good cholesterol, and lung function efficiency. Running also burns a significant amount of calories, which can contribute to consistent weight loss.
Running with proper form is essential for creating the most efficient stride and preventing injury.
Proper running form is easiest taught starting from the head down. We will start with neck position, move into shoulders and arms, and finally talk about foot strike.
The main points you should look for in your running are: a mid foot strike landing under your hips, a quick and light turnover with a slight knee lift, and running tall. We will go into more detail as your get further into the lesson.
Neck Position: Your head and neck should be aligned so you’re looking forward, instead of your feet. This will allow you to adapt to what is in front of you, and is especially important when running through uneven terrain. When looking forward, let your eyes guide you, this will naturally allow your neck to align properly with your spine, and avoid unnecessary strain on the muscles surrounding the neck.
Upper Body: Focus on relaxing the upper body. Your shoulders should be low, relaxed, and loose. Not high, flexed, and tight. Your arms should be bent 90 degrees at the elbow and your hands should be relaxed, not clenched. When running, your arms should swing frontwards and backwards, from your waistline to your lower chest. It is okay to slightly cross your chest but only to about the middle of the chest. It is natural to tighten up during a run, as it is a sign of fatigue. It is important to recognize when you are starting to tire and actively relax your upper body muscles, simply dropping your arms to your side and shaking them out should relieve this pressure.
Foot Strike: Ideally, you would like to strike the ground in the middle of the foot, directly under your center of gravity. While performing quick and light steps, you also want to be careful not to force striking on the toes, as this may lead to a stride that is out of balance, and places too much strain specifically on the calf muscle.
Over cushioned footwear has made heel striking into a common problem among runners in recent years. An easy and natural way to determine your most efficient stride is to run barefoot. Practicing a simple stride in a plot of grass will release your natural running form and allow you to correct the habit of heel striking. Most importantly your body will generate pain signals if you are running incorrectly or if you rush into changing your form too quickly. If you have never run barefoot before, a good place to start is walking barefoot while slowly increasing your sustained speed and distance within your comfort zone. Matching this with corrective stretching and foam rolling will ensure you are able to sustain longevity in your joints and live pain free throughout the course of a lifetime.
Run Tall: Running tall means lengthening your back and spine to their full capacity so that your torso and hips fall in line. With your eyes focused forward, shoulders low and relaxed, your torso and hips will naturally align when running tall. In order to keep speed, make sure to have a slight lean forward when running. This will let your feet fall under your hips naturally and keep your momentum moving forward. But be mindful not to let your torso fall too far forward, as this will allow your pelvis to tilt in an unnatural direction, which will apply unwanted stress to the muscles surrounding the lower back and legs.
With fatigue, it is common to begin to slouch with the torso and shoulders while running. Slouching is detrimental to an efficient stride because it restricts breathing, and takes away from the mechanics of the stride. If you begin to notice slouching, focus on the breath by controlling a deep inhale and exhale to naturally realign the efficiency of your stride. Where exhaling, slowly release your breath while focusing on maintaining the position that your initial inhale gave you. Cultivating a rhythm with your breath will help you maintain the natural upright position in your running form which ensures its efficiency and health.
Efficient stride (For Distance): Running for distance and running a sprint have slightly different stride mechanics. Today the focus will be on the components of effective distance running. An ideal distance runner’s stride consists of a quick turnover, a slight knee lift, and a proper stride length. A proper stride length varies from person to person. You can ensure that your stride length is correct if your feet are landing directly under your body. If your lower leg is landing out in front of you, your stride is too long and creating an inefficiency. When striking the ground, you want to be as quick and as light as possible. Land between your heel and your midfoot, transferring power forward to your toes. When pushing off, explode off of your toes using the power from your calfs.
Sprint Stride: The difference between being an efficient sprinter and distance runner stems from knee drive. A sprinter needs to lift and drive their knees high, focusing on fast turnover in order to cover a greater distance in a faster amount of time. A distance runner focuses on shorter knee drive, and quick turnover. This is much easier to maintain for a longer amount of time.
Breathing: Your muscles need oxygen to operate. While breathing may seem like the most simple part it is often the most difficult for people to master.
Breathing in and out of your mouth is the most efficient way to feed your muscles oxygen. However, you should avoid chest breathing at all costs and aim to take full deep breaths called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing.
Breathing is a muscle that can be trained just like your legs or arms. (This will be discussed in later article.) The strength of your diaphragm has been studied to have a relation to your fatigue rate in long endurance events. (Source: Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in England)
Next time you go running try to stay aware of your breath and weather you breathe through your nose or mouth or even the deepness of your breath.
Mobility Warm Up and cool down:
In order to keep progressing, a warm up consisting of foam rolling, static and dynamic stretching, along with running drills is recommended. Followed by a post workout cool down, strides, and more static stretches.
Feet, calves, It Bands, Quads, and hamstrings. You can use either a foam roller or a stick massager.
Dynamic Stretches: 10 yards per exercise.
knee hugs, quad pulls, front kicks, IT band pulls, calf walks, lunge walks.
side leg swings,deep knee bends, lying kicks to hip circles, windmills, scorpions, clams, fire hydrants, scissor raises, push backs, kneeling leg swings, arm circles, trunk twists, head circles
Form drills, travelling about 20 yards each:
Fast Leg Right
Fast Leg Left
Fast Leg Alternating
After his run he will perform static stretches. These are
Standing Legs apart: R, L, M
R over L, L over R, Feet together
Seated Legs apart: R, L, M
Seated Legs together, Hurdle stretch
Butterfly, knee hugs, back stretch, knee to chest, calf stretch, quad stretch
Active Isolated Stretching:
Using Bands: hamstring, lower hamstring, calves, pull outs, cross-overs, hip flexor