Marathon Training 2019 Day 8: “Run Tall” To Help Improve Running Form

August 4 2018 Statue of Runners in Olympic Statue Park“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

After my dynamic warm-up, I ran for ~32 minutes at an easy pace. It was a chilly, dark, and icy run, but I’m glad I got it in! In addition to being aware of ice, at various times during my run, I focused on different aspects of proper running form. One important aspect is running with a smooth, fluid motion, and not choppy motion, as I occasionally see other runners do. Another important aspect is running posture. As I am writing this post, I remember the Statue of Runners in Olympic Statue Park Seattle that is pictured above. You may have heard of the term “running tall”. Basically, it means actively engaging your core and glute muscles, so that you’re pelvis is stable and you are upright when you run. This includes having your upper and lower body in one plane of motion. Today’s tip of the day will help you with this.

After I ran, I immediately performed the following exercises (see yesterday’s post for a video demonstration):

  • Leg swings forward and back with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Leg swings side-to-side with both straight and bent leg (10 repetitions of each for each leg)
  • Single-leg stand (~30 seconds for each leg))
  • Prone planks (~30 seconds)
  • Side planks (~20 seconds)
  • Supine planks (~15 seconds)
  • Clamshells (15 repetitions on each side)
  • Double leg hip bridges (10 repetitions)
  • Quadrupeds (10 repetitions on each side)
  • Toe yoga (10 repetitions times for each foot)
  • Fire hydrants (5 repetitions on each side)
  • Knee circles forward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Knee circles backward (5 repetitions for each leg)
  • Single-leg balance (~30 seconds for each leg)

Then, I performed 10 minutes of foam rolling and eccentric lengthening exercises.

Recommendations:

  • Beginners:
    • I recommend 20-30 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
    • Perform the strengthening exercises above
    • Then perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down
  • Intermediate/advanced:
    • I recommend 30-45 minute run at an easy pace, in a flat area
    • Perform the strengthening exercises above
    • Then perform either active isolated stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, or yoga poses for a cool-down

Tip for Today: One of the best cues that I have heard as far as running form is the following: “Imagine someone grabbing you by your shirt and lifting you up at the chest.” This can help you stay lifted as you engage your core and glute muscles, as well as promoting forward lean, which can help you utilize gravity to help propel you forward while prevent overstriding.

Stay tuned for future posts on more tips to help you improve your running performance and help you prevent your body and health from breaking down as you reach your goals

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

It’s Not All About the Shoes or at Least Not in the Way You Might Think

I’m dating myself, but several years ago Nike had an ad for Air Jordan shoes featuring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee with the tagline “It’s all about shoes.”  However, just like we can’t be amazing basketball players just by wearing Air Jordan basketball shoes, research has shown that running shoes generally have little or no effect on running performance and injury prevention.  In fact, the design of some current running shoes may increase your risk for injury!

So, at some point you will need to purchase running shoes again, unless of course you are going to run barefoot.  If the shoe model you currently use feels good and you feel no pain, then by all means continue with this same model.  Running shoe companies make this a challenge though, because they are constantly changing shoe models.  Also, the current shoes you are running in may be decreasing your running efficiency and increasing your risk for injury.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you a few things to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes. A couple of years ago I posted an article entitled “Runners and Triathletes: Let’s Go Shop Shopping.” Most of the considerations I mentioned in this article still hold true, so please check out this article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/runners-and-triathletes-lets-go-shoe-shopping/).

However, I want to update tips numbered 2 and 3 of the list of 16 tips that I gave based on the research on running shoes.  Basically, these tips addressed determining arch type for your foot and the proper shoe based on your arch type.

Research has shown that trying to “classify” a runner’s arch type or height (high arch, neutral arch, flat arch or flat-footed) doesn’t really describe what is happening when you run.  Differences between structural arch heights are muted when running.  Numerous studies have shown that assigning shoes based on arch type doesn’t improve performance or decrease injury.  No matter your arch type, we all need to dissipate shock during pronation (foot turning inward) and actively stabilize during push-off.  This is the responsibility of our body, not the shoe we are running in.  Proprioception and muscles ability to respond and stabilize when we run, especially with one foot on the ground are critical.

Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs without directly looking at them.  This is important in controlling how we land and stabilize when we run.  Poor proprioception can negatively impact how we use our muscles when we run resulting in overstriding, which increases stress on our body and can make us a less efficient runner.  This sensory information is impacted by the extent to which our foot is in contact with the ground.  The body will respond best when we maximize proprioception.

The better your proprioception and your ability to stabilize your pelvis, hip and ankle joints when you run, the more efficient (and faster) runner you will be, and the better your ability to minimize the risk of injury.  In future articles and videos, I will address how to improve your ability to stabilize, which involves properly engaging the muscles.  In this article I will focus more on how running shoes can affect your proprioception.  Any delay in this proprioception can negatively impact your body’s ability to respond and stabilize, especially since the time that we have one foot on the ground in each stride cycle is so brief (~0.07-0.25 seconds).

Maximum proprioception would occur when we are running barefoot on a firm surface.  If you have run barefoot or watched others run barefoot you may have noticed that you and/or they run differently.  A big part of this is the improved proprioception causes you and/or them to land differently; often softer and closer to the body, which is beneficial, because we will experience less impact on the body and tend not to overstride.  Unfortunately, most of the time we are not running on surfaces which lend itself well to running barefoot.  We need some type of protection on our feet.  Thus, most of us run in running shoes, instead of running barefoot, most or all of the time.

So, how do running shoes affect our proprioception and what can we do to maximize our proprioception if we are running in shoes?

Traditional running shoes evolved to share four basic key features:

Postings – dual-density material that tries to stop motion, think stability and motion control shoes

High heels – heel is about two times as high as the forefoot

Cushioned material – softer surfaces designed to absorb impacts

Narrow toe box – narrow toe boxes supposedly improve fit and control

In a previous article (http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/) I mentioned three of these factors, and that they can be detrimental to running efficiency and potentially increase your risk for injury.

Postings

Postings, which are found in stability and motion control shoes, are supposed to help runners who overpronate.  However, maximum pronation actually occurs just after midstance (when we have one foot fully on the ground), after the heel has left the ground.  This means that the posting under the rearfoot that is designed to “stop” the foot from moving isn’t even in contact with the ground, so it’s not able to do what it is supposed to do!  In addition, these postings create some significant issues at midstance, including increasing the stress on the inside of the knee.  This can lead to the development of osteoarthritis.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a pair of motion control shoes.  I began noticing knee pain when I ran in these shoes.  I switched to a shoe with a significantly lower heel (less posting) and the knee pain went away.  For the shoes in which I had experienced knee pain, I measured the difference in sole from the heel to the front of the shoe on the shoe.  This difference was approximately 15mm (1.5 cm or ~3/4 inch)!  Talk about your high heels!  Well, at least for running shoes.  If you are experiencing knee pain and you currently have motion control or stability shoes, you might consider trying a flatter more neutral shoe and see if that reduces or eliminates your knee pain.

High Heels

Another running shoe feature that can have a negative impact on your running and increase your risk for injury is high heels.  Heel may be high because of a posting for a motion control or stability, or it may be due to excess cushioning.  Research suggests that the proprioceptive responses of the foot works best when the foot is flat and that high heels can mute or compromise proprioception.  Fortunately, shoe manufacturers have been offering flatter shoes, most likely due to Chris McDougal’s “Born To Run” and the barefoot/minimalist movement.  This is a good thing, because these flatter shoes increase our proprioception.

Check your current shoes.  Measure the sole at the heel and front of the shoe.  What’s the difference between this?  If this difference is 10 mm or greater, you might consider trying a shoe with approximately a 5-6 mm drop from the heel to front of the shoe.  Running shoes with a high heel mask our foot’s sensation (reduced proprioception) and allow us to land hard on the heel well in front of our body’s center of mass (overstriding).

Something to consider when you are not running:  If you put your foot in a better position throughout the day by wearing flatter shoes, you’ll be better able to maximize the function of your foot.  This will carry over to your running.  Even if you aren’t running in flat shoes, use flatter shoes throughout the rest of the day, as much as possible.

Cushioning

Just as motion control and stability shoes may be inappropriate for those who overpronate, or have flat arches, shoes with a lot of cushioning may be inappropriate for those who supinate (underpronate), or have high arches.  More cushioning results in less proprioception.  This in turn results in less control with our muscles to stabilize us when we have one foot on the ground and can result in overstriding; decreasing our running efficiency and increasing our risk of injury.

Narrow Toe Box

The last running shoe feature that can significantly impact your efficiency and injury risk is the toe box.  Unfortunately, fashion has dictated that we have shoes that taper in the front.  A shoe with a narrow toe box scrunches your foot, and thus can make it more difficult to control your big toe.  Approximately 80-85% of foot support when you run should come from the big toe.  So, your running shoe should have a wide toe box so that you can spread your toes.  This allows your muscles that control the toes to be properly activated, thus you can better control your big toe and increase your stability when you are in midstance.  This will also allow you to better push off with this foot making you a faster runner.

A few additional qualities in a running shoe that would be beneficial include:

– Thin: to provide some protection for the feet, but allow for near maximum proprioception

– Firm: enough in the midsole to optimize proprioception in the foot, but not so much to allow hard landings in the front of the body

– Light: weight matters in regards to efficiency

Summary:

  • Proprioception is the sensory information that allows our body to sense its position and allows us to control our limbs when we run. This affects our body’s response and along with muscle control affects our stability, which in turn affects our running efficiency and risk for injury
  • Don’t depend on shoes to correct for issues with running form, we’ll discuss how to correct for these in future articles
  • Consider using a firm, flat (6mm drop or less from heel to front of shoe), light shoe that is wide in the toe box
  • Consider using a shoe with little cushioning to maximize your body’s ability to control motion and to effectively respond to changes in conditions while running
  • Running shoes should be about function, not fashion. Adjust your shoe size if your foot grows, such as what can happen with wider toe box shoes as the foot widens

References

Clinghan, R., et al. “Do You Get Value For Money When You Buy an Expensive Pair of Running Shoes?”  Br J Sports Med. (42): 189-93, 2008.

Dicharry, J.  (2012).  Anatomy for Runners.  New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Kurz, MJ, and N. Stergiou. “The Spanning Set Indicates That Variability During the Stance Period of Running Is Affected by Footwear.” Gait Posture. (17): 132-5, 2003.

Nigg, BM, et al. “The Effects of Material Characteristics of Shoe Soles on Muscle Activation and Energy Aspects During Running.” J Biomech. (36): 569-75, 2003.

Ramanathan, AK, Parish EJ, Arnold GP, Drew TS, Wang W, and Abboud RJ.  “The influence of shoe sole’s varying thickness on lower limb muscle activity.” Foot Ankle Surg. (17): 218-23, 2011.

Reinschmidt, C., and BM Nigg. “Influence of Heel Height on Ankle Joint Moments In Running.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. (27): 410-6, 1995.

Richards, CE, PJ Magin, and R. Callister.” Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence-Based?” Br J Sports Med. (43): 159-62, 2009.

Robbins SE, Waked WE, Allard P, McClaran J, Krouglicof N. “Foot position awareness in younger and older men: the influence of foot wear sole properties.” J Am Ger Soc (45): 61–6, 1997.

Robbins SE, Waked E, McClaran J. Proprioception and stability: foot position awareness as a function of age and footwear. Age Aging (24): 67–72. 1995.

Ryan, MB, et al. “The Effect of Three Different Levels of Footwear Stability on Pain Outcomes In Women Runners: A Randomised Control Trial.” Br J Sports Med, (45): 715-21, 2009.

Sekizawa, K, et al. “Effects of Shoe Sole Thickness on Joint Position Sense.” Gait Posture. (13): 221-8, 2001.

Stacoff, A., X. Kalin, and E. Stussi. “The Effects of Shoes on the Torsion and Rearfoot Motion In Running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. (23): 482-490, 1991.

Get Ready To Achieve Your Running Goals for 2017!

Hello Runners and Happy New Year!  I hope that you had a great 2016 and are looking forward to an awesome 2017!

Have you thought about what you want to accomplish as a runner in 2017?  Is it improving your fitness and health?  Do you want to improve on your time in a 5k, 10k, half, full marathon, or ultra distance event?  No matter what your goals are, there are things you should consider, and steps you should take to maximize your chance of achieving your running goals in 2017.  In this article I’m going to briefly discuss five steps to take, which can help get you started on your journey to achieving your running goals for 2017.  So, that you can have a smile on your face when you have done so!

Step 1: Have testing and assessments done

Depending on your age, health, and last visit you should meet with your physician to be cleared to participate in vigorous physical activity.  First and foremost, you should make sure that you don’t have current disease, such as heart or pulmonary disease.  You also want to be sure that your thyroid and metabolic system are functioning properly.  Please check out this previous blog that provides more details on what you should have assessed, including vitamin D and certain hormone levels:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/what-are-your-vitamin-d-levels-and-other-important-testing-for-runners-and-triathletes/

I strongly encourage you to have the function of your shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle joints assessed.  A physical therapist or physiotherapist can identify any possible muscle weaknesses/imbalances or flexibility issues that might be negatively impacting your running performance, increase your risk of injury, and potentially keep you from achieving your running goals in 2017.

Also, if you have not done so, I encourage you to have your running form evaluated.  There may be some minor tweaks or adjustments to your running form that may significantly improve your running performance and help minimize the risk of injury.  This can be performed by a biomechanist, exercise physiologist, or running coach.

For example, I have noticed a number of runners who have their shoulders hunched and/or rounded and have their heads forward.  I know a lot of this has to do with the fact that many of us have desk jobs and we spend hour after hour, day after day, hunched over our computers.  If you are training for longer events like half and full marathons running with hunched and rounded shoulders and a forward head will take its toll!  The upper body will fatigue and will cause other areas of the body to have to work harder to compensate.  Thus, these areas will fatigue faster as well.  So, one important aspect of successful running form is keeping your shoulders relaxed.  When you run you should check periodically to make sure they are relaxed.  If not, shake out your shoulders and hands and reposition them so that your shoulders are relaxed.  In a future article, I will discuss other tips that can help you improve your running form. 
Step 2: Assessing Time for Training and Establishing Goals

Before establishing your running goals for 2017, you should consider how much time you will honestly have for training.  You should honestly assess the time for other important commitments in your life, such as family, work and/or school, time with friends, community, other hobbies/interests, and yes, sleep!  After you have determined the amount of time for these, how much time do you have left for training?  You should also consider your current fitness level and amount of time you have been involved with running in developing your goals.

Also, the goals that you develop for yourself should be challenging and a reach, however you should feel that they are attainable, if you dedicated yourself to their achievement.

Now, write down your goals and how it will feel and what impact this will on your life once you have achieved them.  Post your goals somewhere where you can see them every day, such as on your refrigerator (where I put mine), bathroom mirror, etc.

Step 3: Support

Who will your support team be?  I like to think of this on two levels.  First, who will work with you with the commitments you have, so that you have time available for training?  For example, if you have children and need to take them to school, practices, watch them, etc.   Work out a schedule with your significant other and others who can trade off with you, so that you have time available for training.  For work, you may want to discuss having some flexibility in your work schedule with your boss/supervisor and co-workers, so that you can fit in your workouts.

Second, who will hold you accountable or lend an ear when things aren’t going well with your training?  Who is going to hold you accountable so that you get in most, if not all, of your workouts?  Does it help to train with someone like a significant other, friend or friends, local running group or club?  You might consider hiring a coach, who you meet with, or at least speak with on the phone, every week or couple of weeks, to make sure you stay on track to achieve your running goals.

Also, consider who will support you emotionally if your training isn’t going well.

Step 4: Running shoes/attire

Take a look at the soles of your current running shoes.  How worn are they?  At some point this year you will need to purchase new running shoes.  I will post a more complete article on this in the near future.  For now, here are three important factors to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes:

  1. Avoid high heels, that is a shoe with a significant drop in height from the heel to the front of the shoe. This negatively impacts proprioceptive responses in the foot (see more on proprioception below).  Instead, use a flatter shoe.  Initially, you may want to try a shoe with approximately a 6 mm drop from the heel to the front of the shoe.  Then, at some point, you may consider transitioning to a shoe that is zero-drop or close to a zero-drop shoe.  You may consider this not only for your running shoes, but also the shoes you wear the rest of the day.  Your feet and body will thank you for it.
  2. Avoid too much cushioning. A big factor in maximizing your running performance while minimizing the risk of injury comes from your body’s ability to respond when you have one foot on the ground.  This is termed proprioception.  The more in contact your foot is with the ground or surface you are running on, the better the proprioception.  The more cushioning you have in your shoes, the worse the proprioception, so your body is not able to respond to changes in running surface and your joint positions as well.  Thus, too much cushioning can negatively impact running performance and may increase your risk of injury.
  3. Get a shoe with a wide toe box, so that you can spread your toes. This will help you better control with your toes.  So much of your stability, when you have one foot on the ground, depends on your big toe being firmly on the ground.  If you are not able to get your big toe firmly on the ground, then you negatively impact your running performance and you increase your risk of injury.  So many shoes out there scrunch the toes and do not serve us.  Squeezing your foot puts the squeeze on your ability to control you’re your foot.  So don’t buy shoes with a narrow toe box.

As for running attire, do not run in cotton.  Cotton will soak up sweat leaving your running clothes heavy and you with the chills.  Instead, go with synthetic blends.  In cold, windy, and rainy weather dress in layers.  I will send a more detailed article on running attire in a future article.  Not enough space in this article to go into more detail here.

Step 5: Have a plan

Last, you should have a plan that will progressively get you to your running goals.  When you wake up each morning you should know what you are doing for a workout that day.  “Winging it” will not effectively get you to your goals.  Your plan should include 3-5 runs per week, depending on your goals, running history, age, and time you have for training.  You should also include cross-training, such as swimming, biking, or even walking at least 1-2 days per week to help you recover from your runs.  Strengthening exercises are a must in your training program, and should be done at least 2 days per week, and in most cases, 3-4 days per week.  Many runners are weak in the core, lower back, hip and pelvic stabilizers, so these muscles need to be strengthened.  I will include more on this in future videos.   Your training plan should also allow for proper recovery, so that your body can adapt to your workouts.  Thus, allowing you to become a stronger and faster runner.

Your run workouts should consist of three components: a warmup, the run itself, and post-run, which may include strengthening exercises, in addition to a cooldown.  The warmup should be dynamic to increase blood flow to and increase the temperature of the muscles you will be using when you run.  I will go into more detail on this in a future training video, however some examples would be rolling shoulders forward and backwards, walking on heels, walking on toes, leg swings side-to-side and forward and back.   No, static stretching, in which you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds, is not part of an effective warmup.  The cooldown should include foam rolling and/or rolling with a tennis or lacrosse ball, or some other self-myofascial release.  I will discuss this further in future blogs and training videos.

 

Please share any questions or comments you have by clicking on the contact link at denverrunningcoach.com or by emailing me at brian@denverrunningcoach.com.  I can address these in the next article I send or a future article.

It’s All in the Hips (and Pelvis) Part 3: Activating the “Glutes”

As part of an ongoing discussion of the article entitled “It’s All in the Hips” that appeared in the April issue of Running Times I want to discuss the importance of properly activating the “glutes”. As I mentioned in the last article, many of the injuries that runners develop are due to weak or improperly activated “glutes”. This article will cover making sure the “glutes” are being properly activated.

Neuromuscular activation (NMA) is the fancy term that is often used to discuss whether a muscle is being properly activated. Basically, we want the brain and nervous system signaling the appropriate muscles to be active when we run. We can prime our brain and nervous system to do this during our warm-up. Therefore, there are really two important components of a warm-up. The first is NMA and the second is a dynamic warm-up (important for increased blood flow to muscles and increasing the temperature of the muscles to make them more flexible). For most athletes I have focused solely on the dynamic warm-up, although I have begun incorporating the NMA component of the warm-up with athletes that I have recently started working with.

Below, I will give you a couple of tests to determine if your glutes are properly being activated or “firing”. Then I will give you a few exercises that I use in the warm-up to get the glutes “firing” before your run.

Tests to determine if “glutes” are activated. The Running Times article describes three tests that can be used (I have included two of them):

1. The bridge:

a. Lie on your back with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground

b. Hold your arms straight out above you

c. Lift your hips up to make a straight bridge from shoulders to knees

d. Notice where you are feeling stress. Is it in the butt? If you are feeling the stress elsewhere, rock your hip angle and change

your back arch so that you don’t feel the effort in your back or hamstrings, but in the center of your butt.

e. If you are having trouble isolating the “glutes”, try first pulling one knee to your chest, which locks out the back’s ability to

arch, then do a single-leg bridge.

2. Standing hip extension:

a. Stand on one leg with the other held so that the calf is parallel to the ground by bending at the knee.

b. Hold your hands on your hips, wrapping around the front.

c. Without allowing the pelvis to rotate forward or your spine to tip, drive the lifted foot backward into an imaginary wall. As the

leg extends you should feel the “glute” activate and the hip flexor stretch.

Exercises you can we do to activate the “glutes” and hip abductors during warm-up

1. One leg balance with diagonal abduction:

• While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in back of you at ~ a 45 degree angle with the toes relaxed

• Hold for ~5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

2. Calf raise abduction:

• Stand with both feet flat on the ground

• Raise up on your toes for both feet as if performing a normal calf raise

• At the top of the calf raise, turn your heels out and toes in

• Then turn the heels back in and the toes back out and lower the heels to the ground (starting position)

• Repeat for a total of 8 repetitions

Other helpful NMA exercises which activate the hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings:

1. One leg balance high knee lift:

• While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground

• Hold for ~ 5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

2. Hamstring holds:

• While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground

• Bring this leg back so that the knee is pointing to the ground and the hamstring muscle is engaged

• Hold in this position for 3-4 seconds

• Return to the position in which this leg is in front of you

• Repeat 2-3 times for each leg

3. One leg balance with leg extend & toe pointed out:

• While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in front of you with the foot just slightly off the ground

• Slightly turn the foot outward

• Hold for ~5 seconds

• Repeat 1-2 times for each leg

 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

See you on the road or trail,

Brian

Tips on Running Form

When I’m going for an easy or recovery run I like to watch the running form of other runners. Although my own running form is not perfect and is something that I continue to work on improving, I often see ways in which running form could be improved in the runners I observe. So I wanted to share some tips on running form that could be beneficial to improve running efficiency and help minimize fatigue and injury.

1. Running tall – When you run your abdominal muscles, especially the transverse abdominus, should not be on vacation. These muscles should help you in maintaining proper posture and alignment while you run. When you run your abdominal muscles and stomach should be pulled in (your can check this by putting your index finger on your umbilicus or belly button).

Exercises that can help strengthen the abdominal muscles to help maintain proper posture and alignment include prone planks (up position of a regular pushup resting on your hands or forearms), side planks, and supine planks (start by lying on your back and then raise up on your elbows) See the beginning of this video. These exercises are designated as part of the pedestal routine. Hold each position until fatigue (probably 20-90 seconds).

Advanced: While still remaining tall, add a slight forward lean from the ankles.  This will create a falling forward motion using gravity to pull you forward.  I categorize this as advanced because it can be difficult to maintain the forward lean from the ankles only.  The lean should not be from the waist.

2. Relaxed shoulders – The shoulders should not be hunched up when you run, nor should they be rounded forward. When running trying to keep your shoulder blades pinched together.

Exercises that can help include Y, T, and I in which you lie on your stomach and raise your arms a couple of inches off the floor with thumbs pointing up as your body forms either a Y, T, or I. Make sure that you keep your neck in neutral or normal alignment.

3. Appropriately using the arms – When running the arms should be bent at the elbow at approximately a 90-degree angle with the hands lightly cupped and the thumb gently resting on the index finger. The arms should swing so that the hands brush the top of the hips or the pockets of your shorts (if they have pockets) at the bottom of the arm swing and the hands should be in line with the nipples at the top of the arm swing. Be sure that your hands don’t cross the midline of your body or you will experience twisting of the hips, which can lead to injury.  Also, you should focus on the backswing of the arms, instead of focusing on swinging forward.

4. Short strides with a cadence of approximately 180 steps/minute – Your feet should land under the center of mass of your body. If your foot lands too far forward you will heel strike, which creates a significant amount of force and stress on the ankle, knee, and hip joints, thus increasing the chance of injury. Landing on the forefoot can cause stress fractures in the metatarsals. Meanwhile, landing on the midfoot is beneficial because there are several layers of tissue for cushioning as the foot impacts the ground. Taking short strides with a high cadence will help promote landing on the midfoot.

5. Heel and knee lift – There are a lot of runners that I see who shuffle their feet or who have minimal heel and knee lift. These runners could benefit by activating more muscles, especially the knee extensor, glutes, and hamstring muscles to increase running efficiency and speed.  You should exert force (push down) with the front leg and foot from where the knee is at it’s highest point to when it impacts the ground.  This will create an elastic rebound as the foot hits the ground and will cause the heel to raise up towards the glutes.  This will also cause the knee to be lifted as this leg comes forward.  This elastic rebound reduces the demand on muscles and protects the legs from shock.

These are some of the areas that I evaluate when I perform stride analyses for runners that I coach. In many cases, I can tell visually if adjustments need to be made. I also use videotaping to identify additional areas that could be adjusted to improve running form. I would recommend a stride analysis with a physical therapist, biomechanist or experienced coach to help make your stride more efficient and help minimize the risk of injury. Also, the results of a stride analysis and additional assessments may indicate that there are muscles that need to be strengthened, or muscles whose flexibility needs to be increased to improve running form.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you have. I would love to hear form you!

See you on the road or trial.

Brian