As ever, the pavements will be packed with runners this January as everybody renews their efforts to become healthier following the New Year. This then seems like a good time to go through some running technique.
I myself am a huge fan of barefoot running. The logic of allowing the foot to do its job by flexing and moving as it comes into contact with the ground is irrefutable. But there is more to running than footwear, and the topic of barefoot running requires its own post, so we shall leave that to one side for the moment.
Starting at the top, head position is a major determinant of good running posture and technique. The fact that the head weighs the best part of a stone and is attached to your body by a relatively long lever (your neck!) only serves to emphasise this point.
Looking down at the floor whilst you run will impair breathing, increase wear on spinal discs, and cause your shoulder muscles to tighten.
In addition to risking injury, poor head position also makes your running far less efficient. The instability created by poor posture makes your head move around more, which means you use more energy to keep your body upright and to move forward.
Another common technical flaw amongst runners is lifting of the sternum. The breast bone tends to lift when abdominal muscles aren't properly engaged. Sitting down for long periods inhibits the abdominal muscles, allowing the sternum to lift. This places the middle back under strain, with compression of joints causing pain after long periods.
All of the above make also breathing less efficient. These postural changes prevent the diaphragm from working properly, limiting inhalation volume.
There are lots of articles and videos around at the moment telling runners to run on their toes. While this sounds very sensible as it avoids landing heavily on your heel, simply running on your toes will usually result in other injuries, particularly to the foot and lower leg.
A better way of improving your gait is just to pick your knees up slightly with each step. A very small lift of the knees will drastically alter the way your foot strikes the floor, as well as forcing you to push your hips forward, making use of the gluteal muscles for propulsion.
I have gone through some flaws which are almost universal amongst runners, right up to professional athletes, however there are many, many more factors than those above. If you are embarking on a new training regime, or are already running and seeking to improve your results, find out how we can help you!