Running Technique, what’s it all about and what is the EVO?

I am really looking forward to testing the EVO’s when they arrive and look forward to hearing what you think about them too.  Have you tried barefoot running,  light weight running or are you sold on the more conventional style?  I would really love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Year’s ago I wore support trainers and orthotics, to sort out chronic shin splints and a stress fracture following over , inconsistent training before I knew what I knew now!  I now run in neutral, light weight shoes following lots of biomechanic and core strengthening. I have clients who follow both running styles, but all follow these basic ‘rule’s I believe are fundamental whatever shoe you are running in, to give you the best performance and reduce the risk of injry.

Correct running technique is really important as, combined with good, progressive training & strength & core work, it will allow you to run faster, for longer, feeling stronger which makes it more enjoyable, and reduce the risk of injury.  Have a read and any questions do let me know.
 
The body:

Head
Where should my head be when I am running? What should I be looking at? Should it be dead still? why?

Your head should be relaxed and in motion with the body.  Most people will be familiar with famous runner’s unusual head positions, but aim to have a straight, balanced relaxed head. It is about 10% of your bodyweight so can really unbalance your gait and biomechanics if out of alignment – be aware of tilting your head to one side when you start to feel tired, as this could lead to tightness of your shoulders, or even refer to a rotation of the pelvis.

Naturally your head will move with the running motion of your body, allowing your body to ‘flow’ easily with each style, it rarely will be dead still.  To keep your head relaxed and strong, think about running tall, look ahead (not down at the ground or with your chin sticking out) and this will keep your head in the right position.

Shoulders
Where should my shoulders be? Relaxed? pulled down? why is this?
Aim to get your shoulders a relaxed as possible, yet strong through the upper mid back area to give you the power to use your arms correctly. Relaxed, low, loose, strong shoulders are critical to efficient running technique.  Be especially aware of your shoulders tensing up if you are cold, running in the rain and wind – layer up and wear the right protective kit to prevent this happening. If you become aware of them tensing up shake your arms out, and take a deep breath.

 
Elbows
At what angle should me elbows be? should they be close to body or swinging out where comfortable? Why will this help me?

Elbows should be at a 90 degree angle close to the body, but natural for you – so not too close, and equally not too wide. You want your arms to work with your leg stride, to give you a more efficient, quick running stride.  Many people often find one arm will cross over the centre line of the body (especially if you are desk bound and dominant on one side or play a lot of racquet sports), slowing the efficiency of the stride down, be aware of this and try to correct it. Cable machines are useful to build upper body strength and helping make all the muscles functional to run.  People often find it useful to think about their arms like two pistons – moving forward and back with the legs, making full use of forward and backward movement of the arm motion.
Hands
Should my fists be clinched or relaxed? Will this help relax the rest of my body?
People would argue this is personal preference, but generally it is considered that a relaxed but closed hand is the most efficient way of running, unless you are doing speed intervals on the track – and then if you technique is good you may consider an open hand.  By keeping the hands relaxed it should keep the shoulders and neck relaxed to, which will effect the hips… think of the whole body as a unit working together.  If you rest you thumb on your forefinger, you will know if you are getting tense overall (or sometimes fatigued), as you will feel pressure there – if this happens shake out the hands to relax the tension.

Core
What should I be doing with my tummy muscles? Suck them in? brace them? Why?
How do I know if I am doing it right?
You core muscles are your natural corset and can be used to good effect to improve your running speed, efficiency and stability when you run, greatly reducing the risk of injury if they are effective. Plus it gives you an extra core workout – so in every way use them! Gently pull the lower core muscles in, from your pelvic floor muscles to your tummy button – this will naturally switch on the main stabilisers and allow you to feel stronger in your trunk. Aim to run with the core muscles about 30% active, think about ‘running tall’ lifting through the rib cage and remember to breathe effectively. You will know if you are doing right as you will feel the tummy muscles working and you should feel stronger in your stride.   TRX & Kettlebell training can really help link all the muscles together.

 Hips/pelvis

Should my feet be in line with my hips? should I tuck my pelvis under? will this have any impact on my lower back?
Your hips are the centre of gravity and the key to good running posture. The strength of your core muscles will allow you to help stabilise and ensure your hips will be in the best position. If your torso is strong and upright, your hips should naturally fall into proper alignment, with your feet in line with your hips . If you allow your torso to hunch over or lean too far forward during a run, your pelvis will tilt forward as well, which can put pressure on your lower back and throw the rest of your lower body out of alignment and leading to injuries.  If you have had children, or feel unbalanced, you may find it helpful to have your pelvic alignment checked. Buttock strengthening exercises are essential, your buttock in isolation is your biggest muscle in your body so make sure it is used as it will really help.

Legs – Should my stride be long or short? Should I lift my knees up high?
If you watch a sprinter on the track they will lift their knees high to achieve maximum leg power, however, distance runners, and those who run for fitness and fun will find this hard to sustain for a long period of time, and unnecessary. Instead, try running and focusing on just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover, and a shorter stride. This will create a fluid forward movement using the least amount of energy. When you run with a good stride length you will feel your feet landing directly underneath your body.  As your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can bend naturally on impact. If your lower leg extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long wasting energy, and could cause you to be prone to knee injuries due to the impact on the joint. Swiss Ball & Bosu Lunges and Squats will help to strengthen this area. 

Feet

What part of the foot should I land on? Why would this help starve off an injury or make me faster? Should I be light on my toes or does this not really matter?

To run well,  there are two main schools of thought about foot placement. The most common, natural way is with each step, your foot should hit the ground lightly, landing between your heel and midfoot, quickly rolling forward. If you keep your ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward, you can create more force for push-off and speed. As you roll onto your toes, try to spring off the ground. You should feel your calf muscles (combined with your buttocks working) propelling you forward on each step. Your feet should not sound ‘noisy’ as they hit the ground as this is creating too much impact. Good running is quiet, springy and quick, and comes from consistent, progressive training combined with strength & plyometric drills. Specific calve strengthening and balance exercise, plus good stretching will help create this good stride pattern.

The other well established technique is the light weight technique which takes longer to establish and works on a forefoot strike. Many runners have found it to increase speed, and greatly reduce the risk of injury, specifically in the knee joint but this does take longer to adapt to and requires the support of a knowledgeable trainer to assess if it is appropriate for you.

Finally… have fun when you run, visualise yourself running with good technique and start to put little changes in place to make the big difference.

So quite a long blog to start us off…. But I really wanted to get you thinking about how you run? And welcome you to join us on our Lightweight EVO journey over the next few weeks.   Next week I will look at the specific exercises that could be beneficial if you want to take you ‘traditional’ running to light weight. 

In the meantime, any questions just tweet @kimingleby , happy running… The Triathlon Shop in Bristol have a FREE Minimalist Running Workshop on Sat 16th Feb so book into that too 🙂 

The rest of the Super Blog #EVO Team can be followed on Twitter too, there links are: 

@jonmackintosh
@RunningPeekay
@gofasterfood
@Boshrun
@kimingleby
@BePrettyFit
@NatRunClinic
@Ashton378
@JuliaArmstrong