After 3 half-marathons in the span of 1.5 years (2006-2007), I felt accomplished. I had a great running partner, we pushed each other, and it was fun! Circumstances led to a friendship ending and I was left without the same motivation to run consistently.
Fast forward almost 3 years, and I was in search of an anchor/some help to keep up the runs that I always enjoyed, but found difficult to progress with. Insert medieval trumpet announcement here – through some friendly conversations The Running Room (High Park) presented itself!
I ran IN clinics for a few years before being prodded to lead them – call it an innate leadership energy, or the urge to see people use good running form and posture, it was a calling of sorts.
So, I offered my services at the Running Room in Rosedale, and lead clinics for almost 5 years (2012-2016) before my son came into play.
What follows are my chiropractic/spinal alignment inspired guidelines for any runner looking to reduce injury frequency, run with more freedom and energy, and take less time off (compared to many people who over-run and need recovery time).
5-keys to strong running form:
- Balance/ground impact
a. Tall – Imagine a string pulling your chest to the sky
- Keep your shoulders back, but not rigid
- Keep your hands in a fist – LOOSE AND OPEN
- Lead with your knees, not your hips (this should be easy if
your shoulders are back)
- Slight lean forward – you are moving forward, let your body weight help you
b. Breathing – your lung capacity and therefore vascular effort is minimized and easier when your chest is “up and open”
c. Hill training
- Going up – lean forward, still leading with your knees; a tall torso,
and “eyes on the prize” (top of the hill) will help you “float” up
- Going down – soft legs and knees; bounce more, absorb
shock; don’t create it.
–Ideally lean slightly forward in safe ground conditions and keep from translating more force through your heels. I came across this image showing a nice breakdown and visual.
Breathing – it’s ALL about rhythm –
a. The constant exchange of O2 and CO2 is crucial – muscles use Oxygen to function; the buildup of Carbon Dioxide creates – fatigue, muscle
cramps, “a stitch”, and slows you down…
b. LSD – conversational breathing rate
c. Steady – some words, but not a consistent conversation
d. Tempo – few to NO words spoken if breathing rhythm is appropriate
e. Match with your stride – a personal “addiction” – I breathe as I step
- 3steps-1breath – LSD
- 2steps-1breath – anything from Steady to Tempo, to some
- 1step-1breath – speed work or sprinting (minimal usage until “racing pace”)
Pace & Stride
a. Start SLOW = finish STRONG – unless you’re racing, conserve your energy for 30- 50% of your planned time or distance.
b. A slow and steady pace increase over the 2nd half of any given run challenges your cardiovascular system, and ensures you have the “steam” left over for it.
c. To increase your pace/speed ability – Cross training – significant impact on your running capabilities and limits
1. yoga, pilates
2. cycling, swimming
3. hybrid/metabolic training
d. Stride – shorter and quicker = safer. Long and heel-striking strides have long seemed “appropriate” and natural with a good cushioned shoe. But research shows the likelihood of injury increases the longer your stride is. So, shorten things up, build more strength if you can’t YET move your legs and feet quicker, and work towards it.
Stretching & Strengthening
a. What counts?
i. Yoga, Tai-Chi, and static, slow, holding of “stretching” positions
ii. Fast and Bouncing – a NO-NO
b. When: POST stretching – keeps muscles, tendons, ligaments from shortening
up like an elastic band!
c. Legs, hips, Glutes, and more: lower back (child’s pose +), chest (Ladies
– a supportive sports bra!)
d. Not just with activity – daily, consistency
i. Yoga, Pilates – yes, they count
a. Even/Uneven surfaces – Repetitive ANGLED running (driveways,
street/curb angles, older roads/sidewalks) will stress your knee(s), IT
Bands, ankles or more – CHANGE IT UP
b. Arches/Shoes – Get fit for the right shoe, test it, and retest at future
pairs; YOUR FOOT CAN CHANGE OVER TIME.
Shoe Category, Drop Height – for an adaptive person (anyone under 50-60yrs old), the lighter and flatter the better – MAKE A GRADUAL SHIFT TO AVOID MUSCLE STRAIN – your running form and foot strike can modify, but not overnight.
i. Orthotics, if you are in a Blue/Red Room category – dynamic vs. firm are my personal preference; Superfeet/SOLE might be indicated if a “motion control” is too much, and a “Cushioning” is not enough; SAME for a Stability vs. Motion Control
c. Gait (toe point)/foot strike (light)
i. Unequal toe point (i.e. one forward, one angle outward) – can
stem from pelvic/hip imbalances
ii. Strike LIGHT – float from foot to foot, don’t pound (less shock
absorption into the body)