Whilst runners focus on routines for improving speed or stamina, few consider their running technique - or put simply, how they run. Yet, this is the most significant factor in performance - and also whether you'll suffer from injury.
For example, if you're a heel-striker, you'll put excessive strain on your knee and hip joint every time you foot lands on the floor. Heel-strikers also come to a 'stop' with each pace, as they lose the momentum and have to regain the force from the floor by rolling through the foot. This running style will also jolt your spine as there's little shock absorption from the ankles and knees of the forces coming back from the ground.
So what is the best running technique?
Whilst we're all different shapes and sizes, there are a few basic 'rules' that apply to every runner. Let's have a look at some here - there's more detailed explanations below.
Every runner knows that the longer your stride length, the less steps you'll take on a long run - pretty obvious really. But unfortunately, many runners sacrifice efficiency for the sake of a longer stride. If you try to kick your leg through for a few extra inches, it will land in front of your body, and usually on your heel. Aside from the jarring effect, you'll also lose the ground reaction force effect. That is, much of your weight is landing behind your foot, so you won't get the most from the 'push' coming back from the ground.
To increase your stride length you just need to relax. If your ankle is soft, your foot will tip forward as it raises, you'll land on the ball (with it under your head) so you'll get the spring to send you further.
Try this on a treadmill to test the theory.
If you do this correctly, it will suddenly feel like you're running slower. Now the speed on the console will tell you the same MPH - but it feels slower because you've lengthened your stride, and therefore, taking fewer strides to keep up with the speed of the belt! You didn't need to kick your legs forward (also inefficient), you relaxed and let your leg muscles coordinate accordingly to get the most from the floor.
So on your next run, observe how you're running and see whether you can take any unnecessary effort out of your technique - and see what a difference that can make!
This article was written by our Alexander Technique Teacher, runner and athletics coach, Roy Palmer. If you'd like to attend one of his running workshops, please contact us for more information.
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