All runners, professionals and amateurs alike, started somewhere – they started with their first runs, where their equipment was inadequate and their movements uncoordinated. They have since either perfected their running style, or remained stuck in a vicious cycle of lack of performance which is owed mostly to the way they run.
Yes, it is not your lack of muscle strength or endurance which hinders you. You are strong enough to run a long distance or to achieve high speeds. But your running style is incorrect: it prevents you from achieving acceleration and gaining momentum, it uses up your energy inefficiently, and it may even lead to various running injuries – from plantar fasciitis to an ankle sprain.
In order to achieve an effective running style, you need to understand that it is made up of different elements: posture, cadence, and upper/lower body coordinating. Reaching an accurate and efficient running style means correcting these elements, so that every move you make is natural, easy, coordinated and does not put too much strain on your joints, muscles and ligaments. Let us go in depth with the top critical elements of running and show you how to perfect them:
When you were growing up as a teenager, you tended to slouch and your mother would constantly remind you to keep your shoulders straight and push your chest out. This is a lesson you should also apply when you are running. A slouching posture is not uncommon among newbie runners because they are trying to imitate the professional athlete’s lean which helps them achieve an aerodynamic posture.
The main mistake of beginner runners is that they do not understand that professionals achieve their lean from the ankles, not from the waist and shoulders. Before you learn this specialised technique, keep a straight posture of the whole body. This will help you develop your endurance and muscle strength without the risk of developing lower back pain (a frequent consequence of slouching).
Cadence is the number of times each of your feet hits the ground per minute as you are running. If you are exercising on a treadmill, this may affect your cadence, because most people have the tendency to keep their feet in the air as much as possible to avoid strain.
The ideal cadence, observed and confirmed by professional coaches, is 180 steps per minute. This type of cadence creates a fair balance between the times each foot strikes the ground and thus allows both legs to be exercised equally, without putting too much strain on one to the detriment of the other. If you have a hard time setting your cadence correctly, you could use a metronome in your initial training sessions.
- Upper/Lower Body Coordination
When you are running, your whole body is in action. Ideally, the effort should be split 50/50 between the upper and lower body. It is extremely important to coordinate your movements, so that the lateral swings of your arms are in sync with your strides. In this way, your whole body is pushed forward, fighting the resistance of the air pressure around you.
When you are not coordinated, your energy is spent pointlessly, you get tired quickly and without reaching your running target. If you have trouble with coordination, you should ask your coach or physical therapist to devise a set of exercises. They will help you reach a satisfactory level of coordination and you will observe an improvement in your running style, endurance, and performance.
If you can master these three basic elements of running, your running style will become more and more accurate, and you will become more confident in your abilities and reach the training goals you set for yourself.