We are going to keep the technical side of things very basic. The running world of technique is a super fascinating world and one you can delve into for years and years. Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, one of the foremost running experts likes to keep things simple also.
5 Key Points
- Avoid Overstriding
- Flat / Mid-foot strike
- High stride rate (cadence)
- Upright posture
Overstriding is when you land with your leg too far out in front of you. Your foot is landing in front of your knee and hip. Two of the main issues with overstriding are: braking/slowing down too much and losing too much energy as your centre of mass takes time to catch up. This requires much more energy to accelerate forward again. The second challenge it creates is something called ‘impact peak’. This jolt of energy, the impact peak, is sent through your body and increases the likelihood of sustaining an injury. The force is over 3x your body weight and overstriding allow this force to travel undamped through the most vulnerable locations. Ankle, knees and hips.
Flat Foot / Mid Foot Strike
Sometimes it can be a challenge to know exactly where you are landing. A great thing to do is film yourself running side on and if possible in slow motion. Also, you can try looking down (when safe and away from obstacles) to see your landing. You should be able to feel if it is too far in front of your body. Use your hips as a reference point.
Stride Rate (Cadence)
Anywhere between 170-180 is the happy zone. That is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute. This is where the body uses self-generating elastic energy. An example of a cadence of 170 means your feet touched the ground 170 times every minute while running. There is no magic number as it is slightly different for every person, however, the optimal window is 170-180.
Most GPS watches can give you a cadence estimate. An easy non-tech way to work out your cadence is to count your steps for 15 seconds while running (you will need a watch or counting device to monitor the time) and simply times it by 4 (totalling 60 seconds), and the total will be your cadence. I use this method nearly every time I run as my GPS isn’t fancy enough to tell me my estimated cadence. I actually enjoy the process of manually calculating it. It keeps me in tune with my body and allows me to get a better sense of how I move.
This one is an easy one to focus on. Keep your shoulders above your hips and avoid leaning backwards or too far forward. Not too much else to say but the purpose of this is to keep the momentum natural and not forced. There will be an ever so slight lean forward as running is propelling you forward but a lean is not a bend.
Another easy one to understand but surprisingly challenging to execute for a walk or run is to relax. Next session, give your body an audit, notice how your shoulders feel, your upper back, arms and neck. Where are your eyes looking? A great way in finding a relaxed posture is by reducing the tension in your shoulder, look towards the horizon and imagine you are floating forwards. This can be really challenging when we are focused on all of the above changes. I suggest focusing on the first 3 elements. Over-striding, foot strike and cadence. Once you feel comfortable with these 3, you can focus on remaining relaxed and keeping a nice upright posture.
Five of the most immediate changes and relatively simple changes you can quickly do. They will bring about the most benefit to running form and drastically reduce your chances of injury. The most important thing, like everything, is listening to your body. If your body is hurting, if there is an area that is painful, it is an alarm bell. If you load your body too quickly, you will get injured. This is all about progression. No matter where your fitness level is, progression is key.