MARC'S RUNNING TIPS
Running is something that almost everyone has done at some point in their life, so most people have an opinion on it.
There is a lot of research out there on different running styles, and how different forces and loads are experienced by the body with those different techniques. Gait analysis is also well documented and widely practiced, with a lot of variables and subtle changes able to be detected with the latest apps and assessment tools.
What is not so clear however, is what the effect of changing someone’s running style actually is, should we be doing all of this wonderful gait analysis and tinkering with the way someone runs, how much should we adjust the way they run, at what point should we intervene, and is this going to do more harm than good.
Below are some tips that I have found useful in my own experience with running. It can be fun to go for a casual run and play around with some different styles, cues and see what works for you! Remember an efficient running style should “feel right” or “feel easy”. If you are struggling to get this feeling when you run, or are having pain or discomfort, it may be worth discussing your running technique and breaking it down a bit further with your physio or fitness coach.
Running tip #1 – Length matters… Stride length that is
We can’t change the amount of force the ground puts through our body as we land, but we can change which structures within our body take the brunt of that force.
Reducing the length of the strides we take when running has been shown to reduce the amount of load going through the knee, hip and ankle joints with each step.
Next time you are out for a run, have a play around with your cadence and step length, find what feels most comfortable – the body knows what it wants and will lead you down the right path.
Running tip #2 – Give your body cues, it may forget it’s tired
Running can be a mental battle, simple cues to think about throughout your run can get your mind back in the zone and your performance back on track.
When we are fatigued we often lack that push into hip extension and drive from our glutes that propels us forward, which effects performance – we need those big powerful muscles on board.
Running tip #3 – Run with your arms
Our arms and legs work in sync when we are running, this keeps our body balanced and coordinated. Ever tried running with fast legs but keeping your arms going at a slow rate? Or vice versa? I wouldn’t recommend doing this one in public.
Use this to your advantage. When you hit that brick wall and you are willing your legs to go harder, but they have no more to give, try forgetting the legs. Focus on your arm swing - Pump the arms through a bit harder and a bit faster, your legs will know what to do.
Running tip #4 – You can mould your body, so create a masterpiece
The body adapts – It will change and mould to whatever we are using it for and to the load we are putting through it. However, going from 0-100 real quick is a recipe for disaster.
We can definitely get you there, but give your body time to adapt as you increase the load you’re putting through it. As a rough guide, 10% increase in load per week seems to be a safe amount.
Ever wondered why you get sore or injured after starting a new type of exercise, rapidly increasing the amount of training you are doing, or jumping back into exercise after a break? The body hasn’t had that chance to adapt, and if you’ve had a break from exercise, the body will adapt to that as well.
Running tip #5 – We are all for equality, but all shoes are not created equal
Running shoes are all designed with a different purpose/foot in mind.
People often ask what is better – the light weight barefoot style, or the heavy duty max support runner. The answer is either may be perfect, or no good, depending on your foot type and running style.
Usually our body will tell us what it likes, if a shoe feels comfortable, doesn’t result in discomfort and makes you feel good when you run, it is probably a safe bet.
The way to be sure – Get in and see the crew at the running company, have your running filmed in different shoes to see what is giving you the best support and feeling the best, then that is the shoe for you.
Running tip #6 – Road run, beach run, hill run, Maccas run… It’s all good
People will warn you off of road running, or beach running, or treadmill running, or running in general. Exercise is going to put a certain amount of load and stress through your body, which is great.
Different surfaces will put that load on different areas of the body, eg. road running may have more impact load on the joints, where as running on sand allows the soft surface to “give” and absorb some of the impact load, but your stabilising muscles around the ankle and hip work a lot harder as they keep you stable on this unstable surface.
We don’t hate on any surface, if you are exercising, that’s the main thing. Just tread carefully when changing the surface you run on, or trying a new surface for the first time, take it easy and build up gradually each session allowing your body to adapt and get use to it.
Running tip #7 – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Gait analysis of runners can be popular, but should we be changing every little defect we find in our running style?
It is thought that we self-optimise our running style to run in the most efficient way for us.
There is no “normal” or “gold standard” running technique to compare to, so it is a lot of educated guessing of what we think may be best and take load off of certain things that may be symptomatic.
Small tweaks can be beneficial, especially if symptomatic or looking to enhance performance, but large changes to our running style are likely to cause more trouble than they are worth.
Running tip #8 – Stay strong
When running there is a lot of load going through the muscles, tendons and other tissues, they absorb this force as we land then use it to propel us forward.
Being strong in the right areas is key for our body to be able to withstand these forces and be able to counteract them and keep us strong and moving forward.
One key area we need to keep strong is the glutes – which are not only the powerhouse that extend the hip and push us forward, but also play a key role in stability of the lower limb, important in hip, knee and ankle injury prevention.
Another important structure when running is the calf, this muscle often absorbs a lot of the load as we land (especially if you land toward your mid to fore foot), and is key in springing us forward in the propulsion phase.
Below are 2 easy exercises that can be done at home to strengthen up these areas, no gym required. Both should be done on days you aren’t running, as they should fatigue the targeted muscles.
Crab Walk – With theraband around legs, keep hips and low back stable while walking to the side, can then walk to the other side to keep things even. Use band around lower thigh initially, can progress to band around ankles, and finally band around the forefoot when able.
Calf Raises – Can do on flat ground initially, and progress to over the edge of a step, should be able to do 20 standing on one leg on flat ground without pain. If you have Achillies tendon issues, check with your physio before doing this one.
Running tip #9 – When the run is done, your work isn’t over
Everything is elevated when we run; our heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, etc.
It is important to take a few minutes at the end of your run to wind down, keep moving but at a very easy level to let these things gradually return to normal, and to keep the blood flowing to help the body eliminate the waste products produced throughout your run (such as lactic acid).
It is also a great chance at the end of a run to give your muscles a bit of TLC . Having a good stretch to restore their flexibility, use your foam roller on your known tight spots, or get your lacrosse ball into those trigger points before they tighten up; these all help to prevent that post run soreness.
The calves are one muscle group that will thank you for the stretch, the ITB and quads/hammies love a good roll on the foam roller, and your glutes and bottoms of your feet respond really well to the lacrosse ball.