Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Personal Record Without Injury

It’s been a few weeks since the Canyonlands Half Marathon, and many of you have set your sights on a new challenge (hopefully the Other Half Marathon on October 17th!).  You may be setting up training logs, scouting new running routes, and adding up mileage.  One aspect you should also focus on is improving your running technique.  Having the correct technique can not only improve your running efficiency, but also prevent many injuries.  Here are a few common mistakes and how to improve them.
Body Position:
Many runners tend to keep their upper bodies either too far forward or too far back.  If the upper body leans too far over the hips your stride becomes very high impact and can lead to leg and back issues   When the body is too far back, sometimes called the “sitting position” the feet strike out too far in front of the body.  This leads to striking the ground with your heel first which can break your stride and increase stress on your back, knees, ankles and shins.  The correct running position should be a slight forward lean with the upper body stacked directly over the hips.  This should create a “falling forward” feeling, and you will essentially be using gravity and mechanics to increase your forward momentum instead of just your legs.
Foot Strike:
The correct part of the foot to land on has been highly contested in recent years, but most experts agree that the heel strike is the least efficient and most often leads to injury.  When you end your stride on your heel it often means you are over-extending your stride and not keeping your body weight over your feet.  Ideally your foot should come underneath you in a shorter stride; the closer your foot hits to your body the stronger stride you will have.  In the other extreme, springing off your toes isn’t efficient either.  It tends to draw your knees up high creating an up and down bouncing motion which takes away from forward momentum.  It’s best to aim for a strike on the middle or ball of the foot for the best power and least impact.
Your want your arms to swing on a pendulum track back and forth.  They are used to help with forward momentum and rhythm.  Any excessive movement or twisting of the arms can set you off balance, add unwanted torque on your back and joints, and lead to inefficient energy use.  Keep your arms loose and relaxed.  For longer distances keep them lower than you would for sprinting or running harder at a shorter distance.
These are just a few ideas to get you started, but it may be beneficial to hiring a running coach for a few sessions.  A professional can assess your strengths and weaknesses narrow in on what you need to adjust.  Running is the same as any sport, it takes practice and guidance to hit the next level, improve your PR, and reduce potential for injury.

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