For six months out of the year, our local area becomes a trendy area for runners. That's not to say the hardcore runners in our beautiful area stop running in winter months as some of you run in the most inclement weather imaginable
Whether you are an elite runner, a hardcore enthusiast or a recreational runner, all of you have a natural gait, stride, cadence, foot strike, and tendency for either pronation or sublimation. These five aspects of running are essential for you to understand and adjust to proper form when you start running.
Here's a brief breakdown on the five key aspects to running:
1. Your gait cycle describes the continuous and repetitive pattern of walking or running when you move from one point to another. It is essential to know your gait since it sets the biomechanics or your locomotion.
2. Everyone has a unique stride which ties to your gait. Your stride sets your pace and adjusts your running speed. Strides are typically 55 inches to 80 inches in length, they can be shorter and can be affected by your foot strike. A person's height plays into establishing your stride. Tall runners can have considerable strides which give them an advantage with speed if their endurance can hold the pace.
3. Cadence is considered your stride rate. The faster your cadence, the more steps a runner takes per minute. It's the most common way to measure your running form and can be vital in establishing a winning pace. For example, if your stride is shorter in length, then the quicker your stride rate may need to be at a faster pace and a better running form.
4. Foot strike: There are three types of foot strikes. Heel strike is the most common and least desired. The forefoot strike (toe running) takes the most energy and makes for shorter strides. Then there's the mid-foot strike, the most neutral and desirable. It is essential to understand which you have and correct it to as close to a neutral mid-foot strike as you can for the best running form.
5. Pronation and Sublimation: Pronation refers to the inward roll of the foot when it hits the ground during normal motion and sublimation is the opposite of pronation and relates to the outward roll of the foot when it hits the ground during normal movement. Both come with potential risks to all runners and it is essential to know which way your foot falls when running.
Finally, poor posture can be a runner's worst nightmare. By improving your running posture and minimizing excess body movement, you can improve your form, prevent injury, increase your endurance for more distance and, of course, quicken your pace.
Here are a few ideas to help you find good running form.
1. In Danny Dreyer's book "Chi Running", he describes the idea of imagining you have a hook holding your head up straight. This idea is one of the best ways to start working on your running posture. I would recommend all runners who have not read "Chi Running" to get the book and follow many of the guidelines in the book.
2. Running is a complexed series of movements that sets the stage for all the above mentions biomechanics to fall into place. Many new runners tend to run with their body tight, swinging their arms across their body with a lot of shoulder movement which requires a great deal of energy to run. It is important to run with our shoulders relaxed, arms moving in a forward and backward motion, minimizing excess cross body motion. Poor posture and body mechanics make running a labor intensive effort that leads quickly to a number of injuries that can linger for months.
3. It is also important to fine tune your lower body movement. Since everyone will have a different gait, stride and foot strike, fine tuning of our lower body form can be difficult to master. What's important with lower body movement is finding what feels the most natural for knee movement and stride. Great core strength has big benefits for your pelvic hip complex and lower back while running. Strong core strength is one thing that all elite runners strive for and work on regularly. Making sure you have the correct type of running shoes for your specific biomechanics can make all the difference in developing great lower body form.
4. Once you find your correct running posture and dial in your body movements, it's time to set your various paces. Defining a good pace will take a lot of road or trail time. Keep in mind that you will need to establish three different pace strategies. Elite runners become so good at pace selection that they use it like a 6 speed transmission. Some of you may only have a warm-up, easy and mid level pace. Competitive runners may have a warm-up pace, recovery pace, mid level pace and a competitive pace. It is important to dedicate training time across all your various paces.
One note on stretching, it is more about giving yourself time to warm up then it is about pre-run stretching. Warming up slowly is more effective then pre-run stretching. If you feel you need to stretch, do it after a ten minute slow warm up run for the best effect.
Hiring a running coach can be a good idea and we have some very good running coaches in our area. The biggest aspect to keep in mind when it comes to running is to listen to your body. Running should not be a painful event and if you have pain during or immediately after a run, you need to look at your form. One last point, running road and running trails are very different and can change your form, so keep that in mind when you head off a level smooth road surface onto trails.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.