How to Achieve an Effective Running StyleHow to Achieve an Effective Running Style

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:

 

  1. Posture

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).

 

  1. Cadence

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.

 

  1. 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.


Recognising and Correcting Running Form Mistakes

 

The greatest majority of amateur runners (and some aspiring professionals, as well) are complaining of the inability to exceed a specific threshold in terms of running endurance or speed. They are trying other associated types of exercises, such as strength building and cardio, but there doesn’t seem to be the slightest improvement in their running speed or duration.

Treatment and Recovery from Achilles Tendon Injuries

Surprisingly enough, all these athletes do not take into consideration one critical aspect which prevents them to reach top performance: running posture, or form. However, a good running posture is essential to optimise the use of your energy, improve aerodynamics and prevent muscle fatigue.

 

There are five very common running posture mistakes which a lot of people make. In some of these cases, athletes actually believe that these wrong postures help them run faster and increase their endurance. These are:

 

  1. Slow Cadence

Cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute and it has a mathematical importance in achieving top running speed. Running speed is calculated as the multiplication between stride length and stride frequency. Cadence is the stride frequency in this equation.

 

Now, if you think that you are running faster if you throw your leg forward as far as it goes, you are mistaken. It is true that a longer stride means that you cover more distance in one stride, but it also decreases your cadence. And with low cadence and over-exertion of the hip muscles and tendons, fatigue will set in faster. Moreover, you risk injury in your hip and upper leg muscles.

 

  1. Asymmetrical Running

Do you feel that one of your leg feels more fatigued and in pain than the other? This is the result of an asymmetrical running pattern. It means that you put more body weight on one leg than on the other, effectively reclining to one side or another. You may not notice this problem while you are running, but you will observe the after effects – pain, reduced mobility and less strength in one leg.

 

The best solution is to have a physical therapist observe you while running, identify the problem and recommend the best combination of exercises to get rid of your unhealthy habit.

 

  1. Arm Swing and Fist Clenching

This is the type of running form mistakes when you actually think that you are helping yourself run farther and faster. When you clench your fists, lift up your shoulders and pump your elbows vigorously up and down, you commit the so-called “chicken wings” posture mistake.

 

As you upper body tenses, your energy is actually split between the upper and lower parts of your body and you will never achieve top performance. If you want to understand the importance of a relaxed upper body, look at professional sprint runners in slow motion: their jaw and shoulders are relaxed, their elbow swing is natural and their whole upper body moves in a relaxed flow with the rest of the body.

 

  1. Fore-Running When You Are a Heel-Runner

You may think that it is more efficient to run putting more pressure on your forefoot, when your natural running type is putting pressure on your heel. Trying to change the natural way your body moves is completely detrimental to you. No matter what TV experts and fitness gurus say, your body knows best how to use up energy and achieve top running speed.

 

If your leg muscles are not strong enough to support a forefoot running style, then attempting it will lead to fatigue, muscle cramps and poor performance.

 

  1. Inward Knee Collapse

When you run, your knees should be aligned with your hips, not bow inwardly. This is a sign that you are not working your gluteal muscles properly; thus, your hip muscles are weak and cannot support your body weight while running. In this case, your weight is transferred from the hips to the knees.

 

You must realise that having fatigued knees after a run is not a normal consequence of the effort, but the result of inward knee collapse. The quickest fix is to ask a physical therapist to recommend a set of exercises to strengthen your gluteal and hip muscles.

 


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