As you know, we have recently introduced a Beginners Run Club to Get Fit Today as part of our weekly schedule. This is aimed at non-runners with the intention of improving your endurance over a ten-week period until you can jog comfortably for 20-30 minutes non-stop. This blog is aimed at all runners, beginners, weekenders and long term competition runners. Read on…..
Contrary to popular belief, running isn’t something that we instinctively know how to do. If we go back several centuries, humans were running to capture food and also to prevent themselves from becoming food so although we have been running from an early age, it’s not been in the same way as we run now, and certainly not on paved paths and wearing £100 cushioned sole, arch supported trainers! 😀
As we grow up, it’s natural for us to copy things in order to learn, and when it comes to learning to run the majority of us will only have seen others joggers in the park or at charity run events and reproduced what they do. Unfortunately, as most people aren’t fortunate enough to learn correct running form and technique, we’re only copying their mistakes.
So, how best to run…..
Running can be defined as 2 things: (1) not injuring yourself so that you can continue to run and (2) doing so with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. In other words, the better your form is, the better you will run, the easier it will feel and the more likely you are to continue. Here’s our top tips on running form and technique:
1. Firstly and foremost, stay upright and don’t slouch. Keep your head up and look ahead, focus on something in the distance rather than the floor just in front of you. Keep your head in a neutral position (i.e. not leaning to the left or right and not looking up or down). By maintaining a steady gaze ahead, you will keep your spine aligned and take pressure away from your neck.
2. Due to the amount of time we spend sitting at desks hunched over computers, it’s important that we stretch our shoulders back when we can, and particularly when we run (imagine trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together to grip a pencil). The longer you run, the more likely you are to start hunching your shoulders and tensing them. Shake out your arms, shrug your shoulders, and focus on loosening up, especially as you get fatigued.
3. Your arms should hang naturally to your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. As you run, your arms should swing forwards and backwards and not across the front of your body. Imagine a line that runs vertically down the centre of hour body and don’t allow your hands to cross it. When running at an effort pace, you should aim to bring your fist to your shoulder socket and then down to your trouser pocket (socket to pocket). This will not only help your momentum, but also keep your body straight, more efficient and less likely to cause you back pain.
4. You should aim to keep your hands relaxed and not bunched into a fist too tight. An easy way to think of this is to imagine you are carrying an egg in each hand and are trying not to crack it. Hold it firm enough not to drop it, but not so tight as to break it.
5. It may not feel like you use your abs and core much when running, but as it happens your torso is really important in almost all exercises, especially running. Your core strength allows the hips and lower back to work together more smoothly, with less rocking and less energy expended. It also improves your balance, meaning quicker recovery and fewer missteps. At point 1 we mentioned about keeping your body nice and neutral and not leaning left or right. However, research shows that a slight lean forwards is the most productive and efficient method of running. If you imagine for a second standing up straight and lean forward at the waist whilst keeping your feet still, the muscle that starts to work to stop you from falling to the floor is your gluteus maximum (glutes – your bum! 😀). This is a major muscle when it comes to running so, a slight lean forward whilst moving will activate your glutes which will in turn lead on to a more efficient running style.
6. Don’t lift your knee to high - it’s wasted energy. You should aim to have your knees in line with your feet so that when your foot contacts the floor, your knee is directly above it. You also want to avoid the “runners shuffle“ as this tends to lead to other issues such as slouching, leaning too far and dropping your head.
7. Foot fall is an important part of running, as you might suspect. Not only is it important to alternate between left and right, but also to keep moving forwards! 😀. On a more serious note though, how your foot hits the floor is actually very important:
a. A lot of runners land on their heel, which is effectively applying the brakes to your momentum and also causes a lot of pressure and jarring to go up through yours shins to your knees. You should avoid dong this unless running downhill in order to slow you down.
b. Some runners land on the front of their foot, and their heels very rarely touch the floor. This style is useful when increasing your speed or going for a short timed run but not so useful for long distance
c. Finally, the suggested method for beginner runners and those wanting to stay injury free is to place the majority of your foot on the floor at the same time with your weight balanced just over your hips, knees, and ankles.
8. Cadence. Our final tip is in relation to the speed of your foot movement. This has been studied for the last few decades but the answer is always the same. On average, the suggestion is that you should take around 180 steps per minute when jogging. This has been monitored using top athletes and also weekend runners and although everyone has a slightly different cadence, the average always comes down to approximately 180 steps per minute, so the next time you are out jogging count your steps! 👍
There you go, this is just a brief insight into some tips to improve your running, but bear in mind you won’t be able to do all of this at once. If you are interested in improving your running technique, go through this list and concentrate on one element at a time. Work on that one thing until it starts to become natural to you and then move on to the next.
Implementing all of these tips will definitely improve your running but will take many months to achieve, and as with all fitness, it takes time, effort and commitment.
If this blog has inspired you to start jogging, come and join us at our Beginner Running Club every week in Abington Park. Drop us a message (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.