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Developing correct technique as a runner

Lisa Tamati

Posted on May 22 2016

Developing correct technique as a runner

Correct technique in running can mean the difference between having longevity in the sport or wearing out your joints.

It can mean far less injuries and a much stronger body if you concentrate on developing the strength necessary to maintain the correct technique for the duration of your runs. 

Strength in the core, both front and back, including the obliques, Rectus abdomenis, External Obliques, TVA, diaphragm, pelvic floor, Lats, etc as well as you Gluteus maximus and medius, (very very important) Hip flexors, quads, adductors hamstrings etc.

Basically everything that takes a load when running. You want stability and endurance in these muscles to be able to run correctly. You have no business doing high mileage if you aren’t strong enough to run correctly if you do you will eventually develop injuries. thats why we are so big on strength training and mobility work.

So what are the crucial basics for correct technique? 

The correct technique takes a life time to perfect and can fill books but here are a few important things you MUST know.

Work on mastering these things

1. Develop rapid cadence: Ideal is to aim for 180 steps per minute (90 each side) minimum. That will be faster than most of you are used to. Download a free app with a metronome on your phone and set it to 90 and run in time with the chime, pulling your right foot up with the sound. 

Developing quicker cadence will lead to many benefits including avoiding overstraining and stopping you heel striking. Think short quick steps with minimal time with the foot actually on the ground. As soon as the foot touches the ground you must teach your hamstring (not hip flexors) to pull straight up as quickly as possible. Think you are running on hot coals and needs to tread lightly and fast.

Hi cadence can only be maintained with a shorter stride so it stops you tending to heel strikes and encourages you to land on the ball of your foot. 

2. Develop a proper forward lean. Engage your core muscles slightly (around 20% of their maximum) in order to brace yourself and give your trunk and hips the stability they need not to drop. Lean forward to utilise the force of gravity as if you were going to fall forward but before that happens of course you pull one leg up and bring the other down (i.e. running). Lean from your ankles not your hips, keep your truck straight, chest forward. Your chest actually acts as an accelerator. You want to go faster push your chest out and lean more, want to go slower lean back or straighten up at least.

practice using your chest (solar plexus) as your accelerator

3. Land underneath your centre of gravity. You should be landing on your forefoot as it passes directly under your centre of gravity rather than having your heel strike out in front of your body. When you get this you will stop pounding the ground and your legs, moving with faster cadence will begin to resemble a spinning wheel. Think of the cartoon road runner, you know the bird that used to race down the road. His legs went so fast they seemed to blur into a wheel and his upper body didn’t bounce or move side to side but just floated along. Its that floating along sensation you are trying to teach yourself.

4. Touch down with your foot for as short a time as possible. Watch people out running and notice how many seem to sink into the ground, all of their muscular elasticity is lost as they suck down onto the road. Rugby players used to be bad at this, not so much nowadays as they have top coaches but they seemed to lurch from side to side smashing into the ground heavily. Think light and springy steps, where you are pulling up with the hamstring toward the butt as fast as you can once you touch down. Use the elasticity generated by your muscles to propel you back up rather than losing it into the ground (skipping drills are great to teach you this and jumping over small hurdles in sequence) 

You shouldn’t hear much when you hit the ground it should be just a light tap and a loud thump

The shorter the contact time on the ground the less time the foot has to get into all sorts of trouble from sheering forces of inward rolling or overpronation.

5. Pull with the hamstring not with the hip flexors. The hip flexors are small muscles that will tire quicklly the hamstrings are some of the biggest strongest most durable muscles in the body, use them.

Try and imitate a piston like running form. Pull your ankle up with your hamstring.

Run within a box - by this I mean picture you are running in a phone booth and you cant push out ahead or behind you. You have to run compactly within the confines of the box. This will lead to more efficiency and faster speeds. 

6. Keep proper posture (remember Neils lectures on the Kinetic chain) keep everything in alignment. Not bent at the waist or caved in in the chest or have the head migrating forward. Eyes up, and looking 20 metres ahead of you, head straight in line with your back, chest forward and open, arms at a 90 degree angle, hanging loosely from your relaxed shoulders, core engaged to 20%, pelvis the neutral position, not tilted forward or back. Knees slightly bent and feet forward facing not out like a duck or turned inward. Think of this position not only when running but throughout the day when standing. Practice that position but now lift one leg as if running. The standing leg is slightly bent at the knee. The bent leg is directly under the bum. That is your perfect figure 4 pose and the position you should transition though when running. 

Good luck and be patient while changing your technique, it takes time, dedication to drills and constant vigilance especially when fatigued. 


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