Running Form

Why You Should Sprint and 3 Great Cues for Sprinting Better

Want a faster 'easy run' pace? Marathon pace? 5K pace? Science and practical experience tells us that by increasing your maximal sprint speed ALL other speeds become faster, too. Due to your ability to recruit more muscle fibers and generate more stiffness at impact, running starts to cost less energy, so you become more efficient. So, if you've been doing some speedwork and feel ready to level up, here are three great sprinting cues you can use today!

Case Study: Mysterious Hip Pain

Today I had an amazing professional experience. A client, who back in September suffered a hip injury, is now able to run again after a single session. Here's what happened...

The Most Common Injury That Haunts You To This Day

Just like lots of other injuries, surgeries, impacts, traumas, and sometimes just garden variety dings that we sustain over the years, an ankle sprain leaves an imprint on the brain. And it is likely you're still paying a price today.

Runner's Cat 5 Marks (a.k.a. Dirt on Inner Calf)

Recently, I wrapped up a group run with Fairmount Park Conservancy (join us!!) and noticed a friend had dirty scuff marks all over the inner aspect of her calf. The scuff marks are a result of your swing leg foot swiping the stance leg calf as it...

The Form Flaw You're Not Seeing

There's been a ton of focus in recent years on running form. Yet certain aspects of form have gotten WAY more 'press' than others. I'm thinking specifically of footstrike. Forefoot? Mid-foot? Heel strike? Barefoot? Definitely useful to consider, but let's not miss the forest for the trees or overstate it's importance. Today I'd like to draw your attention to all of the various ways rotation is present throughout our body as we walk and run. Or, it's supposed to be.

Footstrike – Should You Worry About It?

Are you a heel striker? Most likely. Perhaps you connect with the ground with the entire foot at once (mid-foot)? Or maybe you're one of the few that land with the ball of the foot first (forefoot)?

Does it even matter?

Yes and no. It depends. Hopefully by now you know there are no absolutes with this stuff. (Run the other way if someone preaches one way for everyone) Here are two things to think about regarding footstrike. As you consider these points, keep in mind that everyone is different and arrives at a running with their own unique set of history, movement patterns, skill, strength, endurance, etc.

Land With Your Foot Beneath The Body

Regardless of exactly which part of your foot hits the ground first, you need to position your leg in such a way that it will absorb impact efficiently AND not slow you down. For teaching purposes I'll typically cue someone to simply put their foot down “earlier”. Sprinters think of stepping “over and down” and I like that for distance runners, too, with less emphasis on “over” and more on “down”.

 

A quick way to determine if you're overstriding is to have someone take a picture of your stride. Notice the angle of your shin as your foot makes initial contact with the ground. The closer that shin is to vertical, the better the body can tolerate load and dissipate force throughout your body. A locked out knee is not a good shock absorber!

Make Sure Your Foot Is Relaxed Before Impact

Toes pointed, calf tensed, braced for impact. THIS is the most common error I encounter during my comprehensive running assessment when I'm working with someone who's attempted to “change their stride”. Prancing = no bueno.

If your calf is already tensed before it hits the ground, you'll have a few issues.

First, you can't take advantage of the natural stretch reflex of your achilles' tendon. You've got to allow the tendon to relax and lengthen fully so that it can then recoil and provide you with some 'free' power.

Second, since you aren't taking advantage of that stretch reflex, you are relying on the calf muscle to contract incredibly forcefully in order to prevent the heel from hitting the ground. This is very inefficient!

Third, since you've got limited stretch reflex and lots of muscle tension going on, you'll also wonder why your calves are incredible SORE. I'm betting that's starting to make some sense now ;-)

Changing your footstrike is a delicate act.

It's just one aspect of the puzzle and I'd say that there are bigger fish to fry in terms of improving your running form. If you're not doing things correctly you can easily get hurt.

Work on Cadence First

Before worrying about changing your footstrike, try optimizing your cadence. Your footstrike will change subtly but you may not even notice that. You may, however, notice that your knee hip, or back pain does feel better!

Identify your current running cadence (how many strides per minute you take) by counting your steps for 20 seconds and multiplying by 3.

The average person should be in the 170-180 range. If you're lower than that (and you're not 6'6”), try adding 5% to your number and work on making that feel normal. This will take a few weeks and can be best implemented by doing increasingly longer intervals at the faster cadence.

Start with only 100m and add on only if you can maintain your form and match your stride to the beat. You can use a metronome app on your smartphone or check out jog.fm to find music that has the right tempo for you. This song has a beats per minute of 180!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEmJ-VWPDM4

 

Treadmill Workouts That Make Time FLY

Is there such a thing? Well, maybe. If you're an outdoor runner like me, it can be a huge mental struggle to slog through a basic easy run. But breaking the run into little chunks is the way to go. And that's what I've got for you today - 3 workouts, easy, medium, and hard - that fly by so you don't lose your mind.

The Workout You're Not Doing: The Form Run

Most of us skip right to the jam out session without much technique work to support it. We lace 'em up and “just run”. And that is totally cool if that's all running is to you, a little jam-out session. But even for the person who doesn't want to run farther, faster, or with less injury risk, I think you'll enjoy your basic jam-out that much more if your running skill is better. Here's a great little routine you can practice

Don't Run On Crack!

I think we can all agree that generally the goal in racing is to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. To that end, the less sideways movement, the better. With crossover gait, you've got a bit of lateral motion in not only the feet, but also the entire center of mass. This is NOT GOOD!

Case Study – Knee Pain and The Over-Strider

This week I want to simply acknowledge the success one of my clients. Back in early March a VERY frustrated guy came in for an assessment session. He'd always been a good athlete – a successful bodybuilder, even - and had switched to endurance training recently. The transformation from bulky bodybuilder to lean aerobic machine was complete. Except for one thing. Persistent knee pain. Could we get him back in the game?

Form Matters

Rough stretch of weather, huh? I slogged through two tough workouts on the treadmill for the first time in a year and intervals seem to be the ONLY way to go for me. Some people enjoy just zoning out on the mill, which is great, but I prefer to take my easy/steady state runs outside ;) Here's another tip that makes use of the treadmill while promoting good running form. Use this as a warm-up during your next session.

  1. Start jogging IN PLACE @ while the treadmill is preparing to start. Count your right foot and make sure it lands 15 times in 10 seconds. Check again to be sure. Most people will tend to bounce slowly from foot to foot when jogging in place. Don't do this!
  2. Maintain that exact same sensation in your feet/body as the treadmill roars to a speed of ... 1 mph.
  3. Run at 1 mph for 1 minute. Check your stride rate. Give your dreadmilling neighbor a thumbs up. “One mph is where it's at, baby!”
  4. If you can maintain that stride rate (15 steps every 10sec), then increase the speed to 2 mph.
  5. Run at 2 mph for 1 minute. Still have that light-on-the-feet sensation?
  6. Continue to increase the speed 1 mph every minute until you can no longer maintain that original sensation of being upright/tall, light on your feet, quick stride rate, etc.

Concentrate on maintaining the original feeling (especially in the feet) you had while jogging in place. Do not let your mind drift to the negativity spewing out of the cable news channels or the latest celebrity gossip.

It is crucial that you are mindful of your body during this warm-up drill. We are trying to establish a new pattern of movement. It's gonna require a little work!

If you try it, let me know how it goes. How fast could you go before you reverted to your old running technique?

Did you feel like you were running differently than before?

Did you like it better or worse?

Did it feel awkward?