Your optimal running efficiency will be individual, according to your unique physiological factors. Taking a progressive "head to toe" approach when developing your running form is helpful. Be mindful, changing the 'way you run' too quickly will increase your risk of injury.
An optimal footstrike will land, recoil and spring-off with maximal efficiency. Doing so from the balls of your feet (forefoot strike), in theory, is the best way to achieve this. A heel strike will slow down the movement between landing and toe-off; this is usually less efficient. And will also potentially increase the likelihood of injury.
Whether you’re a heel striker, forefoot/ midfoot striker what matters most is that you land under your body (or at least close to under the body). Focus on pushing down and behind, rather than reaching too far out in front of you (overstriding).
When you utilize a proper forward lean, your feet should naturally contact the ground under your centre of mass—or close to it.
Your shin should be as close to perpendicular as possible when your foot strikes the ground. This is impacted by your foot strike.
Ideally, your knee should align with the middle of your foot so that when your foot strikes the ground, it’s right beneath your knee. Your knee, on uplift, should also be in front of your hips rather than flaring inwards or outwards.
Drive your hip back and lift your knee. When you push off the ground, the higher you lift your knee forward, the further back the opposite hip will travel and vice versa. A strong hip drive is inextricably linked to a more powerful stride.
With your head and shoulders in a good position, lean slightly forward from your ankles as you run. This will translate into striking close to your centre of mass. Avoid hinging or leaning from the hip; you should be able to draw a straight line from your ankles to your ears.
Running tall means being upright and balanced with a forward lean. Straighten your spine and lift your chest with your shoulders pulled back and down. Your head should be stacked above your shoulders that are, in turn, stacked above your hips, knees and ankles. Imagine a string attached to your head, lifting you upward and gently pulling. When you run tall, you will naturally lean at the ankles which enables you to run faster and avoid overstriding.
Aim forward with your hands, this will help prevent your arms from swinging across your body, resulting in body rotation and inefficiency. Be sure to keep your fists loose but still controlled.
With your arms bent at about 90 degrees think about driving the elbow back. Driving your elbows back brings your balance upright and forward and helps your feet land beneath your body to push back to propel you forward. Your hands should brush your waistband or just above.
These should be relaxed and low (away from your ears). Continue to check in with your body as you get tired to make sure tension doesn’t cause you to raise your shoulders, or hunch forward and close down the chest.
Hold a natural gaze with your head up and stacked above your shoulders. Looking at your feet can cause your head to fall forwards, and you will be unable to run tall. Your head is key for balance and everything that happens down to the ground.
Proprioceptors are the sensors in your muscles that govern balance. Each time the foot strikes the ground, these sensors work quickly to control the landing and push off with clean alignment.
These sensors can be trained to improve your proprioception which will result in better alignment, improved efficiency and reduced injury risk.
Performing exercises to improve balance (standing on one leg with eyes closed, then adding movement such as clapping and hopping) will look odd, but help train these sensors.
You can further improve proprioception with trail running. When running over uneven terrain, you will be engaging stabilizing muscles as well as your key running muscles. Your body will receive a higher level of sensory feedback which will help strengthen and improve the ability to react quickly to stimulus in all running environments and at all paces. This will train the whole body to run stronger and more efficiently, from the feet to the core and upper body.
Your optimal cadence will depend on the workout you are targeting. For example, an easy Zone 2 run might be at 165-168 steps per minute (spm), but when running at tempo Zone 4 pace, this could rise to 178-181 spm. The faster your pace, the higher your cadence should be, all the time maintaining proper form.
A metronome built into your sports watch can be useful to practise running at different cadences. Or you can find a music app that allows you to control the bpm of your music. Then you can run to the beat.
Researchers have previously suggested a cadence (or stride frequency) of 180 steps per minute was optimal for race performance. However, anything from 170-190 works depending on the runner. Runners, regardless of speed, that look good, usually have around this cadence.
Specific strength and flexibility exercises are key to supporting your run training. We include exercises designed to increase power, range of movement, coordination, flexibility, agility, strength and stability, providing you with a stable internal ‘scaffold’ to support all aspects of your training. You will improve your efficiency, which will boost your performance.
Including strength and conditioning to your training regime will help minimize the risks of injury through improved strength, stability and by matching imbalances that can be created by repetitive overuse.
Soft and Quiet: To reduce impact and reducing stress on bones, joints and muscles. Research has shown that runners can run more smoothly simply by trying to make less noise. Think about running on thin ice, and your form will become lighter and more springy.
Skateboarding: Visualise riding a skateboard and using your foot to propel you. This will prevent you from planting your foot in front and remind you to drive your leg through in a swinging movement. Push your foot down and drive back for a powerful, effective and efficient stride.
Rhythm: Establishing a steady, smooth and relaxed rhythm, regardless of speed will result in a good running form that flows. Using a cue to help remind you to get into your rhythm with proper form can us useful. Find something that works for you; for example, "run tall, run strong, run relaxed".
Copyright MyProCoach™ Ltd © March 2020. All rights reserved.