Friday, July 7, 2017

Basic Running Technique Tips

Running has to be the most basic 'sport' around, right? Just left foot, right foot, repeat til finish line. Not so fast (sorry heh). There is actually a lot more to the technique of running well, with a lot of room for debate.


Paradoxically, we will start with your head. For some reason, many people start running with a heads-down posture, watching their feet fall. This tends to cause the rib cage to collapse, making breathing more difficult. Running with your head up, eyes scanning the road, is much better. The tips for good posture overall apply doubly while running. Imagine a string attached the top of your head, pulling you up. Round your shoulders back so that your chest is wide open. If oxygen is the fuel of running (it is), then your rib cage / thorax is the tank - you want it to be as large as possible.

Continuing down, you want your neck and spine in alignment, stacked on top of each other. Much like Jenga, your spinal column will be stable if it is vertically aligned but will cause problems if it is off to one side. Try to keep your head centered on top of your spine and pelvis. If you want to know what this feels like, just press your body up against a wall. The back of your head, shoulders, hips, and calves should all touch. If they do not or you have difficulty, you should see a physical therapist to help improve your static posture.

Your arms should swing gently at your side with your elbows are about a 90 degree angle. I like to think of it as if you are trying to serve someone breakfast in bed but you're late so you're running to them. You have a tray of food that you have to hold, but you have to hold it flat enough that the items on it do not fall. If you can mentally do that, you should have pretty good form.


Cadence, also known as stride rate, is the number of steps you take per minute. The consensus is that most runners take too few steps per minute, while each stride itself is too long. There is room for debate though. The number that most posts discuss is 180. This comes from research from long-time running coach Jack Daniels who found that most competitive runners run at 180 steps per minute or higher during races.

Of course, your total distance is going to be a function of your cadence multiplied by your stride length. Increasing either will increase your speed. Since most people tend to overstride and under-cadence, fixing your cadence is easier to start with. At first, it will feel like you are running too slowly but once you get the hang of it, you can accelerate faster by changing up your cadence (rather than trying to elongate your stride length). It should feel like you are stepping on pebbles or jumping rope at first - that's normal. Give it a shot two or three times and see how it feels.


The last major concern is your pace. You want to run at a speed you can maintain. Generally that means slow down! A common rookie mistake to start out running at too fast a pace to maintain, leading one to get winded easily and feel 'slow.' A better strategy is to start jogging comfortably at a pace you think you could maintain indefinitely. You should be able to maintain a conversation at this pace. As one advances, there are training styles in which you will sprint but to start, maintaining an even pace throughout a run is a great goal.

But what about terrain? It's hard to stay at the same speed going up a hill! The key with uphill or downhill segments is to focus on maintaining constant effort. If  you could maintaing a conversation on flat terrain, you should slow down enough to be able to continue that conversation going up the hill.

That's it! Making these simple tweaks will make your early runs more enjoyable and possibly even avoid injury. If you have any doubts, just remember - you were born to run!


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