Friday, 26 April 2013

Run Technique Revisited

With the snow melting and runners starting to increase their mileage I thought it was a good idea to revisited running technique and check your run specific strength.

Strength Test  
As a runner, overall muscular health is very important, but there are a few areas of specific concern. These include the hip abductors, quads and hamstrings. So it's helpful to be able to get a good snapshot of these areas so you know whether you have adequate strength.

Weakness in any of these areas can lead to injuries and undermine your hard work to improve your running performance. Dr. Adam Reynolds works with many athletes, including runners. He suggests doing a simple strength test for your abductors, quads and hamstrings. This will let you know what you need to work on -- before you get injured.

In this video, Reynolds demonstrates how to do each exercise and how many reps you should be able to do. He also suggests you repeat the test as you train so you can keep tabs on these important areas.

Strength Program
If you have inadequate strength in any or all of these exercises in the video it is a good idea to incorporate them into your weekly strength program with three sets of each exercise for one minute per side, stopping to rest as needed. Once you can complete the three exercises as outlined in the video with good form for the goal repetitions it is a good idea to maintain this strength throughout the year by completing the three exercises once per week as opposed to two times a week when you were building up your strength to the desired level.

Strength Program
  • Hip Abductor exercise - 3 x 1min
  • Quad exercise - 3 x 1min
  • Hamstring exercise - 3 x 1min
Take 30 second rest between sets and 1min rest between exercises and complete two times per week.

Strength Maintenance
  • Hip Abductor exercise - 1 x 1min
  • Quad exercise - 1 x 1min
  • Hamstring exercise - 1 x 1min
Take 30 second rest between sets and 1min rest between exercises and complete one time per week.

Technique Test
Running faster, more efficiently, and injury free is what runners strive for, and having good running form is paramount to achieving these goals. Watching this video you can get a sense on how the strength test above will work to provide strong running technique.

We have test here at the shop we can put you through on the treadmill to test the efficiency of your technique and how you can apply the strength exercises in the video above to the technique ideas in the technique video below.

Technique Advice
 In the following article, it's my goal to give you some ideas to help you improve your running form. The bulk of this article comes from information gained from my readings and working on my own technique over the past few years.

Running is a skill that can and should be worked on, on a daily basis. 

How to run
Foot contact should occur on the outside edge of the foot and depending on speed either at the mid-foot or forefoot. The initial contact on the outside of the foot is generally not felt and instead for practical reasons should be thought of as a simple mid/whole foot landing. By hitting forefoot or mid-foot the braking action is minimized. Additionally, the landing should occur in a neutral position(90 degrees to the ground) at the ankle, as that sets up the calf and Achilles for optimal use of elastic energy. (This also protects the Achilles from being strained) Once landing has occurred, it is important to allow the foot to load up. Loading up the foot means allowing it to move through the cycle of initial contact to fully supporting the body. Since initial contact is on the outside of the foot, the support will move inwardly. With forefoot strikers, the heel has to settle back and touch the ground to allow for proper loading. Holding the heel off the ground and staying on the forefoot will not allow for the stretch-reflex on the Achilles-calf complex to occur. 

After the initial loading phase, propulsion starts to occur and the foot begins to come off the ground. The center of pressure should move towards with the big toe before the foot leaves the ground and once the hip is extended, leave the foot alone whereby insuring that the foot acts as one entire unit, allowing for greater forward propulsion coming from the hip, the foot coming along for the ride.

While foot contact is occurring the extension of the hip is where the power comes from, not from pushing with your toes. The hip should be thought to work in a piston like fashion. This speed and degree of hip extension is what will partially control the speed. A stronger hip extension results in more force application and greater speed. Once the hip is extended, the foot will come off the ground and the recovery cycle will begin.

The lower leg will lift off the ground and fold so that it comes close to your buttocks (how close depends on the speed you are running) then pass under your hips with the knee leading. Once the knee has led through, the lower leg will unfold and it is then the runner’s job to put it down underneath them. Ideal landing is close to the center of your body and directly underneath the knee.

Once the knee has cycled through, the lower leg should drop to the ground so that it hits close to under your center of gravity. When foot contact is made, it should be made where the lower leg is 90 degrees to the ground. This puts the foot in an optimal position for force production. The leg does not extend outwards and there is no reaching for the ground. Reaching out so to paw back with the lower leg results in over striding and creates a braking action and simply engages the hamstrings and other muscles to a greater degree than necessary, thus wasting energy. The leg should simply unfold and drop underneath the runner.

The lower and upper body are linked together as one unit. First, you should run with an upright body posture with a very slight lean forward from having a relaxed flexible ankle, and not from the waist. The arms and legs should work in a coordinated fashion. 

The arm swing occurs from the shoulders, so that the shoulders do not turn or sway. It is a simple pendulum like forward and backward motion without shoulder sway or the crossing of the arms in front of your body. 

Summary of Running Form:
1. Body Position - upright, slight lean from ground
2. Feet - as soon as knee comes through, put the foot down underneath you

  • land mid or forefoot underneath knee, close to center of the body
3. Arm stroke - controls rhythm
  • forward and backwards from the shoulder without side to side rotation
4. Hip extension - extend the hip and then leave it alone
5. Rhythm - Control rhythm and speed through arm stroke and hip extension

Changing mechanics:
Running drills have not been that useful for improving my mechanics because they do not replicate the running form, instead running form should be worked on when actually running which is why every run I do I am thinking about my technique, looking for that sweet spot.