Achieving good running technique is important as it improves running efficiency, enhances performance and reduces the risk of fatigue-related injuries. There is not one absolute style of running that is optimal for all individuals as everyone is different. However, the key elements of good running form include posture, foot strike, and relaxation. Let’s look at this further…
Posture is essential for good running form and the easiest cue to give while running is “Run Tall”. When we think “run tall” we automatically improve our stride length and waste less energy compared to leaning back too far or slouching forwards.
Foot Strike refers to where our foot lands with each step in relation to the rest of our body. Research shows that the closer the foot lands to our centre of mass i.e. lands under our hip rather than touching the ground while the leg is outstretched in front, the braking forces associated with each step are dramatically reduced. Hence, there is reduced risk of overuse injuries such as tibial stress fractures, anterior knee pain and Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome .
Finally, running relaxed is one of the harder concepts to understand for a beginner runner when trying to achieve good running technique. We all have this urge to try run as hard as we can and in the process we tense our body, increase rigidity of our joints and get fatigued more quickly. Running relaxed assists keeping the movement fluent and effortless as well as improve breathing and enjoyment during the run.
So how do we actually achieve good running technique and put these elements into practice?
Practising technique and being aware of your body positioning while running is a good place start. However, in addition to that there are 4 Key Training Strategies outside of a usual running program that provide numerous benefits to your running economy and prevention of long term injuries. They include:
1.Build core strength
A strong core is vital in maintaining good posture, generating power with every step and reduce unnecessary movements that waste energy such as swinging arms across the body or excessive trunk rotation, to help propel us forward.
There are numerous functional and core exercises that are beneficial to runners and seeking advice from an Exercise Physiologist can assist in tailoring these specific core exercises to your functional needs and goals. Please see also “What is your CORE?” Blog written by our Medicine in Motion Physiotherapist Rosie Nicholls.
2. Improve strength of posterior chain
Our “posterior chain” refers to the muscles located at the back of legs: the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Strengthening these muscles are essential for driving us forward when running as well as achieve optimal foot strike patterning and avoid over-striding.
It is recommended that posterior chain exercises performed in a “triple extension position” is one the most beneficial power progressions to include in any strength and conditioning program- this refers to when the leg is extended at the hip, the knee is straight and toes are pushing down off the ground (think of a sprinter exploding from the blocks). See our Instagram page for running strength exercises that target the posterior chain!
Performing single leg exercises are also important as it encourages more glute activation and is more relevant to the running action itself compared to double legged exercises.
3. Perform regular running drills
Running drills are an excellent way to make your body more aware of where it is positioned, maintain relaxation and begin to make good injury prevention habits while we run. Drills such A-skip and B skip encourage good knee lift and foot placement as well as help runners to developing a rhythm in their movements and coordinate their arms with their legs.
How to perform A- Skip:
- Stand tall with upper body relaxed
- Raise left knee up to hip height while skipping on ball of the right foot.
- Lower the left foot back to the ground, landing under the left hip
- Lift Right knee to hip and continue alternating this movement side to side.
4. Introduce Plyometric Training
Plyometric training helps enhance the muscles ability to generate powerful movements and involves activities such as jumping, hopping and bounding. Research shows incorporating a 6 week plyometric training program can improve running economy in distance runners significantly as well as improve overall tendon elasticity and joint strength. Plyometric movements are split into a slow eccentric component followed by a fast concentric movement for example, during a squat jump the runner performs the down phase of a squat slowly in 3-5sec and then explodes up into a jump.
Plyometrics are advanced exercises and it is important to be supervised if you are beginner to ensure correct movement technique, appropriate recovery and safety. Please ensure you have adequately warmed up prior to attempting these movements and introduce gradually into your training routine.
Remember making changes to your running technique may take time and so it is important to be patient and trust the process. Medicine in Motion are always here to help whether it be designing a strength program for your posterior chain, introducing you to more advanced plyometric movements or simply analysing how you run now to identify the elements that can be improved on. Book in to see us to reach your optimal running technique and achieve your health and fitness goals!