Running Form & Posture – Online

Introduction

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What if I told you that you could run more comfortably and more efficiently than ever before, be more injury free than ever before?

What if I told you that it was as simple as improving your running form and posture?

On one account I would be right, fixing form and posture can make you a more comfortable, efficient runner while lowering your risk of injury, but on the second account…. There is nothing simple about it.

My name is Clinton Hunter or Coach Clint and I am RacePace Endurance Coaching and in this new series, I am going to teach you how to improve your form and posture. To do that I will have to share with you the complexities of the running stride and the bodies position during each phase, there is absolutely nothing simple about and if done incorrectly or rushed in any way you may end up injured. I have taken all that built up knowledge and experience of my 30 years of coaching, the input from many experts and other well know coaches and put together this series on improving Running Form and Posture.

If you have been to one of my running form and posture talks then you know what is to be said about it, if you have never been to one of my talks on this subject then join me for some mind-blowing info that will change the way you approach your running goals in the future. Of course, for those who have attended before, please follow again, it’s a different experience and there may be new facts to be added and of course you may have missed something the last time.

How is this talk different from the others? I will be presenting each section of the presentation in the RacePace Academy for Runners on different days, this way you do not have to focus for a whole 1hr30min and try and take in all the info at once. Starting today with the introduction I will present each topic individually in much more detail than usual. Running form is a very in-depth topic and deserves much more time and investigation.

So…. Why is running form so important?

Improving running form and posture will add value to your current training plan in the following ways:

  1. It will lower your injury risk and help your body become more resistant to injury
  2. It will increase your efficiency in training and racing.

Think of your body as a car, if your wheel alignment is off or your wheels unbalanced, your car won’t drive optimally, your tyres will wear abnormally, and your fuel consumption will be more than is needed.

A lot of coaches put more emphasis on building an aerobic base during the foundation phase of training. While this is not wrong and building a strong foundation is important, I believe that improving form and posture first is more important, in fact improving form and building and aerobic base should be done hand in hand, like a horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other, but form must come first.

So now we agree that running efficiently and having fewer injuries is important, let’s go through the topics we will discuss in the series.

  • The Brain – The main driver of all movement and habits.
  • Stride Phases – The cycle of your running stride
  • The Upper Body – Its role in improving running form and posture
    • Strength Training – as a whole and its importance in Running Form and Posture – Presented by Elsabé Hunter from Silverfox Transformations
    • The Core – The influence of the core in form and posture is underrated – Presented by Elsabé Hunter from Silverfox Transformations
    • The Arms & Hands – Yes, these have vital functions
    • Trunk Lean – Just a little
    • Breathing – What everybody wants to know.
  • Injury Risk – There is always a risk, how to reduce it.

The second biggest message you will also receive during this series, besides of course why running form is important is that improving running form CANNOT be rushed, it takes weeks, months and sometimes years to improve form. Trying to drastically change anything will cause injury and not reduce the risk.

I look forward to working through these topics with you during this series.

The next episode will be on

The Brain

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Welcome to the first instalment on the running form series, this episode is one of the most important topics we will discuss, and that’s why it goes first because, without the brain, nothing happens.

The Brain is like the SABS of our bodies, the CPU of our bodies, nothing gets actioned if the brain does not approve first. Tim Noakes labelled the brain as the body’s central governor, if anything must be done then the brain decides how and when it is to be done.

Your brain has two main directives

  1. To keep you alive – Have you ever wondered why during a 10km race, you run your whole race as hard as possible but when you get to the last 500m you can suddenly pull a sprint out of the bag. Where did your body come up with that? When you started your race, your brain set the pace to what it felt you could achieve without killing yourself, because the brain’s ultimate job is to keep you alive. When you got to the last 500m it decided that you could run as fast as you want but you won’t die so it let off the brakes.
  2. To keep it simple stupid – Your brain will find any way to do something in an easier way. This is in an aim to save energy for itself and for the rest of your body. Way back in the olden days, and I mean very olden days, something around 3000BC someone decided that’s carrying stuff around was taking too much time and energy and decided that there must be a better way, they invented the wheel, then the wheelbarrow, then the bicycle, and then the car and so on, this is probably not the correct order of events but you get the picture. This someone’s brain found the way of the least resistance. To change the brain’s urge to do something in a more difficult way is a challenge, that’s why a beginner runners struggles to get out the door to do their first run because, why don’t you just drive.

We won’t go into Directive one in this series, teaching the brain to run harder when it’s decided you already are at maximum is a different story. I will put together a series on the brain and running to delve into that.

Today we will go into directive two, your brain is in charge of movements, patterns and habit building, amongst the huge amount of other functions it is in charge of performing, and when working on improving form there will be a fair amount of bad habits, patterns and movements that will be broken in an effort to help you run the right way, and not the easy way.

Running is a multitude of complex movements, each one of which could result in a pattern that will hamper your efficiency and/or cause injury. This pattern is repeated over and over and over with the incorrect form, the brain has adopted it as the norm, but it is not, so how do you fix it? By creating the correct movement and repeating it over and over and over until the brain adopts it as the new norm, you create a new habit.  Remember that this cannot be done overnight, it will take weeks, months and sometimes years to adopt the correct form.

Form has to be approached first from a brain level before a muscle level otherwise you will be rushing the process and will be more susceptible to injury.

So how do we start training the brain to adopt a better movement. 

Let’s use the arms movement as an example. Moving your arms in a rhythmic pendulum movement will improve stride efficiency enormously. Let’s demonstrate and give you a step by step tool on improving arm movement amongst other movements as well.

I have an exercise called beating the drums. If you would stand up for me now, pretend you have two bongo drums next to your hips on either side, and your hands are the drum sticks. Start with one arm first and beat the drum, now bring the other arm in, and swing your arms from the shoulders back and forth like a pendulum beating the drums. Don’t swing from the elbow, only from the shoulder. This the correct arms movement for running, and what you have now done is perform the first step to improving a movement pattern, this is the drill. So let go through the steps. #BeatTheDrums

Step 1: Perform a drill, this is the way to create a new neural pathway so that your brain can implement a new movement pattern. Just a quick knowledge bite, neural pathways are made up of neurons that are connected to dendrites that are created when building new habits and patterns.

Step 2: Run short 100m strides to embed the drill at the beginning and as your training progresses implement the drill into other parts of your training.

Step 3: Add queues to your regular training runs to help remind you to perform the movement correctly, at first you will probably get 50m before returning to bad form, but each time you remember and change to the correct form, the longer you will keep it.

Step 4: Speed up the movement. Your brain is also involved in muscle recruitment speed, the amount of time it takes for a signal to get from the brain to the motor unit attached to the muscle fibres, engaging the specific muscle directly influences the efficiency of the movement you are performing. When I do form training on Saturdays with my runners I usually add a running arms drill and at the end include a super-fast set. This way the speed of the signal that is travelling from the brain to the muscles involved is improved.

This is also just one of the reasons we do speed work and specific strength exercises, but these workouts should only come at a later stage once adequate general strength and speed are acquired.

Elsabé Hunter from SilverFox Transformations will, a little later in the series present the section on Strength and Core, and their importance in Form Training.

I also want to touch slightly on the autonomic nervous system which is obviously controlled by the brain. The autonomic nervous system controls things like blinking and digestion but the one I will touch on today is heart rate and breathing. This does not directly affect running form but indirectly, learning how to breathe correctly and more rhythmically will improve running efficiently and help with keeping good form.

Well, that’s that about the brain for today, but please know that books have been written on this subject and what I have told is actually quite brief. It is enough for you to know though. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section or you can also send an email to clint@racepace.run or WhatsApp me on 0824482879

Again remember, there is no overnight fix so be patient take all the time that is necessary. The next episode in the series is on Running Stride Phases and efficiency.

The next episode will be on

The Running Stride

This section is about several aspects of the running stride. I will talk about the different stride phases, stride length and efficiency, foot strike and foot care. In fact, the whole lower body will be dealt with today. Improving your running stride will improve your running efficiency and reduce your injury risk

Lets talk about the running stride phases to start off with.

There are two phases to your running stride
1) Stance Phase (on the ground)
2) Swing Phase (in the air)
there is a time when both feet are in the air, this is referred to as the float phase.

Usually, when I do this talk I keep the section on stride concise since going into detail would take more time than we had on any one of the form evenings.

In this presentation I will add more detail since we have more time.

The running stride is one holistic movement, the only reason I am dissecting it is to highlight where there could be issues but really the running stride is one fluid movement.

You may assume correctly that your stride phases and the form you maintain through the entire cycle are of great importance as most injury and inefficiency issues come from bad form in this area.

So let’s get into it, but before remember the running stride is one movement, so while talking about the stance phase I will go into the swing phase and vice versa.

The stance Phase

The stance phase consists of 4 parts, Contact, Absorption, Midstance and Toe Off/Propulsion and the main movement involved is hip extension.

Ground Contact Phase

Let’s see what we would expect to see in a great ground contact phase. When the foot touches down it should have come out of what is termed the clawback which is the last part of the swing phase, we will discuss this later on, If the clawback is absent or insufficient, you would have most certainly touched down too far ahead of your centre of gravity which would result in an overstride.

As you can see the foot touches down on the outer side first, it does not matter whether you first touch the ground with the heel or the midfoot, only that and the heel does ultimately kiss the ground. Your foot will roll inward toward your midline. At this point, your foot is getting ready to move into the absorption section. The foot will touch down just slightly ahead of your centre of gravity.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video

From here we move into the absorption section.

Absorption

Your body will absorb 2 -3 times its weight in ground reaction forces so proper absorption is vital.

Proper absorption starts at the foot, as your foot moves along your sagittal plane your toes will splay and your arch will spread to start with the absorption process, the knee will be flex slightly providing a bounce action, finally the last of the forces (which should be minimal will be dissipated at the hip. From here we into the Midstance portion of the stance phase.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video

Midstance

The midstance is when both legs are next to each other and the foot that is on the ground is directly under your centre of gravity and hips and your body weight are directly over it. It is at this point at which there may a hip dip. If there is instability in the pelvic region your hip may dip, the main reason for this is a weak Medial Gluteus and a weak Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). Iliotibial Band Syndrome is just one injury the comes out of hip instability and the most common.

Propulsion

The last section of the stance phase is propulsion

The foot that is directly under the hips and anchors itself as the body moves over it, the hip extends all the while storing elastic energy for eventual rebound and toe-off. The heel begins to lift just after it has passed under the hips. The plantar of the foot should stretch out while the big toe extends, and the foot pushes off.

Your stride now moves into the next phase, the swing phase.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video

So let’s look at the issues that you may find throughout the stance phase. Let’s start with overstriding, Your foot touching the ground will have 2 – 3 times your body weight in ground reaction forces being sent up through your ankles, knees and hips. When over striding, none of these forces are dissipated. Imagine running a marathon and having these ground reaction forces moving unchecked and without absorption through your joints with every step.  I would also check for other issues such as abduction (Duck toed), adduction (Pigeon toed) supination, overpronation

and ankle instability.

Exercises and drills that will help improve foot structure are balance exercises, fast feet drills and resistance exercises. Running barefoot once or twice a week on grass will also improve foot strength. Exercises like Squats, lunges and deadlifts will strengthen muscles to better cope with the ground contact phase.

The Swing Phase

The swing phase is just one movement but I like to split into two parts, the slingshot and the clawback. It is, in fact, one pendulum movement and involves hip flexion.

The Slingshot

From the toe-off and with the elastic energy created during the propulsion part of the stance phase by the hip flexor, a slingshot movement is generated flicking the lower leg up and flexing at the knee. The leg is carried forward passing under your centre of gravity as the knee angle starts to open and the foot starts to come down to the ground.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video

The Claw Back

Just before the foot touches down on the ground there is what is termed a clawback. In mere milliseconds before touching down the foot seems to reverse backwards preventing the knee from extending completely and allowing the foot to land closer to the centre of gravity so as to absorb the majority of reaction forces, it is essential for the reduction of horizontal and vertical brake forces. The foot does not in fact reverse, it just slows done in the air as the body continues to moves forward.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video
Just a note about braking forces.

Vertical loading rate comes from the ground reaction forces created the downward motion as foot contacts the ground.

Horizontal peak loading rates are the forces on the body generated by the foot braking as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints strain to keep the foot from sliding forward.

Studies have been done and shown that horizontal braking forces have a higher injury risk than vertical braking forces. The strains put on the foot during the contact phase are enormous since the body is not only moving downward but forward as well.

As you can see the running stride is one flowing movement strung together by a lot of concentric and eccentric muscle contractions.

Here’s a fun fact: 50% of your stride is essentially prepaid. How do you mean you may ask? If your running stride is following good form practices you will find that because of rebound elastic energy your legs sometimes only have to so some of the work, I will explain in detail at the end of this episode.

We have finished with swing phase. I thought I would mention a short and mostly inconsequential phase. It starts just after toe-off and ends just before ground contact where both feet are in the air, this is termed the Float phase and really, that’s all it is, you are in mid-air and floating, the only one metric that has anything to do with the float phase is Vertical Oscillation and we will discuss that as part of the next section on Stride length.

Watch complete episode for this demonstration video

Stride Length & Efficiency

One of the biggest questions about stride length that runners want to be answered, Which is better, longer strides or shorter strides.

From a brain perspective? The brain thinks that if you are striding longer that you are running faster and you are covering more distance, which may be true, but the real truth is that a longer stride often comes at the expense of an efficient stride.  

Shorter strides have the following benefits: A more efficient claw back and better knee flexion causing a more effective shock absorption, therefor excess ground reaction forces are largely dissipated before they reach the hips or spine. Vertical Oscillation is another great metric for running stride, it measures how much the torso moves vertically with each step, how much you bob while you run. A shorter stride means less of a bob, less vertical oscillation, less time in the air which means lower ground reaction forces which equals a lower injury risk.

Learning to run with a shorter stride takes a bit of getting used to and some improved fitness as your will have to increase your cadence (another stride metric measuring leg turnover or steps per minute) to keep the same pace. You will, however, notice that the faster you go the longer your stride becomes, this is the natural progression.

My suggestion for uphill or downhill running is to keep your strides short on both, but shorter on up than on down.

Foot Strike & the Process of Toe Off

We spoke at the beginning about foot strike, so let’s revise. The ideal foot strike should start from the outer part of the midfoot, roll inward (Pronate) and then the heel should kiss the ground before moving to toe-off. There is however no problem with the heel touching down first as long as there is no overstride and that the rest of the foot’s movements are adequate.

An excessive heel strike will come with a notable over stride.

The injury predictor for the foot strike is the foot’s angle as it touches down, the smaller angle the less knee flexion and the less the shock absorption.

Once the foot is fully anchored on the ground, it should be directly under your hips, your arch will take the load and your toes will splay as your body moves over the foot.

With full extension achieved in the hip, your foot will move into the toe-off position with big toe fully extended along with the others and creating a strong push-off and slingshot movement.

The foot is now free and clear of the ground, just for a moment though.

Foot Care

Since we are talking about the foot’s job in the gait cycle I thought it would be prudent to talk about the importance of caring for the feet.

Your feet take a hammering, lets say you run a 10km in 60min with an average cadence of 160spm. You are essentially touching down +-9600 times, now imagine a marathon.

Your feet need to be cared for, so care for them and don’t leave it to late.

Best practices for foot care

Do Barefoot balance exercises to improve balance and proprioception and increase foot strength.

Run twice per week on grass, barefoot. (No more than 3km to start off)

Do toe yoga to strengthen the toes. Here is a toe yoga video for you.

Foot Yoga

After your runs (especially the long ones) soak your feet in a hot water Epsom salts bath.

Ladies, don’t rasp your feet, your feet create hard pieces to protect themselves, leave them to do that.

Rebound Energy

Remember the fun fact from earlier, 50% of your running stride is paid for upfront. Let me demonstrate.

Let’s say you are in the propulsion section of the running stride and ready to toe-off, your quad is fully stretched out and loaded because the hip has been extending right from after your foot touched down. All that stored rebound energy is stored and is released as your foot propels your leg forward, 50% rebound energy, 50% muscle contraction. The same happens in the calf. The calf is stretched out just before toe-off and boom, rebound energy and calf contraction. Now think about after that toe-off as your leg moves forward and your hip flexes your gluteus and hamstring begin to stretch out, storing all that energy, as your foot touches down, your gluteus and hamstring release all that rebound energy and begin with hip extension.

Your running body is really a collection of springs all working together to use energy in the most efficient way, that is if your form is correct.

So that’s that with the running stride episode. If you feel I have missed something or if you would like to know more or just have a question please put your request in the comments section or you see my contact details at the end. If you would like a form assessment then please contact me so we can schedule one.

If you would like to schedule a form assessment, call or Whatsapp Clint on 082 448-2879 or via email on clint@racepace.run

Look forward to the next episode in this series and that will be on all aspects of

The Upper Body

In this episode, we are speaking about the upper body and its roll in improving running form and posture, and by we, I mean the RacePace Strength and Conditioning Coach Elsabe Hunter from SilverFox Transformations and of course myself.

This episode will have the following sections.

Strength Training as a whole and its importance in Running Form and Posture – Elsabé 
The Core – Its role is underestimated – Elsabé
The Arms and Hands – Clint
The Trunk Lean – Clint
Breathing – Clint

Strength Training

by Elsabé Hunter

As runners, we spend a lot of time training to get fit in order to run further or faster. Most runners do not spend the same amount of time training to be more efficient at running or to be less at risk of sustaining an injury. This is where running-specific strength conditioning can play a significant role.

When conditioning runners, I focus on 4 key strength aspects which should always be a progression in the following order:

  1. Posture / Core
  2. Pelvic Stabilisation
  3. Strength
  4. Plyometric Power

Imagine you had visible springs at the bottom of your legs. If one leg is tilted further forward, backward, or longer or shorter than the other, you would not be able to bound forward in a straight line, will you? Because your bounding would lean too much to one particular side, you would put your joints at risk for injury. This is why posture and pelvic stabilization has to be done first, to ensure you are properly balanced and a straight as possible before you can bound forward on your “springs”.

Once we have established a balanced and stable core and pelvis, we can now make the springs bigger. This would be the strength work you would do to make your large muscles stronger and bigger. To do this on an unbalanced core and pelvis, would simply increase your risk of injury, as you would be able to perform the unbalanced movement with increased force, so take your time to build that balanced and stable core and pelvis first.

Once you are properly stable, balanced and have strong large muscles, we can make your springs longer, so you can bound further. This is done through plyometric exercises that increase how powerfully you can bound. Can you imagine bounding powerfully on unbalanced springs? It would almost guarantee an injury! This is why plyometrics are left until the last level. While these exercises can really add to your performance as an athlete, the potential for injury is quite high.

The Core

by Elsabé Hunter

As I mentioned, the first step is to work on improving posture and this is done through training the core. Many of the every-day actions we perform, such as; sitting for many hours, carrying a handbag or laptop bag on one shoulder, picking up our child or grocery bags mainly with our strongest side and even many hours driving a vehicle, can adversely affect the first two aspects of runner’s conditioning, namely Posture and Pelvic Stabilisation. These everyday activities can create instabilities in the pelvis/trunk area over time, as we are likely to spend more time repetitively performing these actions than we spend training our bodies to run efficiently.

What is “Posture” and how do we strengthen this? Correct running posture involves:

  • Keeping the spine straight and the shoulders back while maintaining a slight forward lean from the core. Clint will tell you more about the forward lean later on.
  • Keeping the torso stable and avoiding counter-productive movements, such as head-bobbing, body swaying, arms crossing in front of the body, etc.
  • The runner should be able to control their posture while staying relaxed in all muscle groups that are not involved in running, such as the jaw, neck, shoulders, and hands

This sounds like a tall order but don’t worry about thinking of each of these things individually while running. The good news is that if the muscles required to hold the spine and core stable are strong enough, all of this happens correctly and automatically while you run.

So, which muscles do we need to work on to ensure that you have the core strength to maintain correct running posture?

  • Transverse Abdominis
  • Internal Obliques
  • External Obliques
  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Multifidus
  • Erector Spinae
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus Minimus

In addition to core strength, we also need to work on stabilizing the pelvis. Excessive hip movement during running represents a major injury risk factor for runners. Numerous research findings verify the link between hip muscle strength and pelvic stability and the onset of running injuries. Lower back, hip, knee and ankle problems can be affected by inefficient pelvic and/or hip stabilization. Additionally, it is very difficult to reach your pace potential without the ability to perform true hip flexion and extension. The body will find a way to make the movement happen using another muscle or joint in a way that was not intended, and that is why it is crucial to ensure sufficient pelvic stability exists to support your body during running.

What exactly do we mean when we speak of pelvic stabilization? Let’s explore what happens in the pelvis while we run. Pelvic movement happens in three ways, namely pelvic tilt, pelvic dip and pelvic rotation. The movements can be described as follows:

Tilt: This is the forward and backward movement of your pelvis and is most effectively seen from the side of the runner. Remembering the discussion about posture, you should have a slight forward tilt to maintain good running posture. Excessive tilt can result in discomfort in the hamstrings, glutes and lower abdominal muscles coupled with weak quadriceps, psoas and lower back muscles.

Dip: This is the up and down movement of your hip and can be seen from the front (or back) of the runner. If the medial glute and adductor muscles are not strong enough to stabilize the hip through the running stride, there may be an excessive hip dip on one or both sides. This is a weakness that is often associated with ITB syndrome and Patellofemoral pain syndrome (Runner’s knee) in runners.

Rotation: This is the left and right movement of your pelvis and is best seen from a birds-eye point of view of the runner. This movement is required to enable hip extension. If a runner lacks the strength to perform true hip extension, they won’t be able to increase stride length enough to realise their true potential pace while remaining efficient. If such a runner tries to increase pace without sufficient hip flexion and extension, the body will “cheat” by achieving flexion by overloading the rectus femoris and will further achieve extension through arching of the lumbar spine. This could lead to the runner experiencing quadriceps tightness and lower back pain.

In addition to the muscles we will work on to produce core strength, we need to include the following muscles for pelvic stabilization:

  • Iliopsoas (Psoas Major and Iliacus)
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
  • Adductors (Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus and Gracilis)
  • Piriformis
  • Pectineus
  • Quadratus Lumborum

I hope that you understand the importance of targeting your strength training to produce the correct outcome for your goal. Just doing a few sit-ups and planks in the gym does not constitute a proper core and pelvic stabilization regime and is unlikely to yield the results you want. It is worth it to invest in strength conditioning to ensure you stay as injury-free as possible and you are conditioned correctly for the challenges your body needs to overcome to achieve your goal.

Clint will now take you through the upper body movements.

The Arms & Hands

Now that Elsabé has gone through the importance of strength and core, let’s talk about in my opinion the main “protagonist” of the running stride, the main moving parts of your upper body while running, the arms. Why are the arms so important to running?

Here’s another Fun fact, the arms actually drive your legs. Remember in the 1st episode on the brain when I demonstrated the beat the drums exercise? Let me demonstrate again, but First I will run around without moving the arms, besides the fact that my legs would tire after a while there are no other marked differences.

Now let’s beat the drums without moving the legs, as you can see my hips want to get going which demonstrates that the legs are driven by the arms, so it stands to reason that it would be better if your arms, shoulders, upper back and chest (All the muscles involved in this movement) need to be strengthened.

Ok now that we have clarified that the arms must move while we are running let’s talk about how they should move. This back and forth movement, the beat the drums movement is the most efficient movement for your arms, any other movements will impair efficiency. The effects could be an unnecessary trunk rotation, sagging shoulders and a closed-off chest. Elsabé has called the former playing the piano and I call the latter playing the flute. Let’s just say that the correct arm movements are instrumental in helping to improve running efficiency.

Ok, now let’s talk about The Hands, they are often forgotten, I mean they are just there at the end of my arms, what difference could they make? If you find that your shoulders are hunched and your arms are tensed, it could be the result your hands been held in tight fists. This happens most of the time when we get tired at the end of a run. An easy fix is to just relax and open the hands causing the arms and shoulders to relax at the same time.

The next moving part in the upper body which is also often overlooked is the rib cage. The intercostals are important to breathing which I will address a little later in this section.

The Trunk Lean

This is not a big section, there is also not a huge amount of research that has been done with regard to trunk lean, but what we do know from the research that has been done does show that about a 2-4 degree trunk lean reduces pressures on the knee joint. Too much or too little both increase pressures in the knee joint.

An excessive lean is an indication of weak glutes and tight hip flexors and on the opposite side, an upright or back lean is a sign of weak hip flexors and tight glutes.

Breathing

Breathing is incredibly important to keep good form while you are running.

So let’s go over some tips that might improve your breathing during running.

Let’s start with how we should breathe in. To quote  New Zealand Coach Arthur Lydiard, when asked how runners should breathe,

“Breathe through your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Suck the air in through your ears, if you can.”

I agree, especially at high velocities but when running slower and during rest, you should give nose breathing a go…. If you can.

Nose breathing: Now this is not, as must as there are some of us that cannot breathe through the nose for a variety of reasons but breathing through the nose is beneficial for the following reasons.

  1. Breathing through the nose warms the air before it gets to the lungs, this is especially beneficial during colder seasons.
  2. Nitric Oxide is present in the nasal passages and is combined with the oxygen intake during inhalation. The effect of nitric oxide during breathing is that it is a vasodilator, it relaxes the smooth muscle of blood vessels and causes them to expand which improves blood flow. This lowers blood pressure and indirectly would lower heart rate.

Tummy Breathing: From a young age most of us have accustomed to breathing into our chests. The correct way to breath is to breathe into our tummies. Allowing the tummy to expand out when inhaling allows the diaphragm to expand unhindered. Stitches are often caused because the diaphragm is trapped while expanding the chest. To practice, tummy breathing, get a heavy book, lie down, put the book on your tummy and watch it left up as you breath. Becoming more adept at tummy breathing will improve your running enormously.

Breathing rhythm: Each individual runner has to find his/her own breathing rhythm, its something you as a runner have to be comfortable with but there are some recommendations.

  1. When running at easier efforts 2in 2out model, when running harder a 2in 1out model might be better.
  2. You can also try a slower rhythm of 3 in 1out.

Like I say, it really depends on what you are comfortable with.

I would also like to emphasize is that a strong core has a marked effect on improving breathing patterns. There are a lot of muscles in the trunk and core area involved in breathing so get into strengthening that core, it will also help you improve your breathing.

Stay tuned for the next episode which will be on running injuries where we will talk about some to the common injuries you may pick from bad form and posture.

If you would like a free consultation with Elsabé to find out more on how to get your strength training on track, call or Whatsapp her on 082 656-2711 or via email on elsabe@fitstrongsa.com

If you would like to schedule a form assessment, call or Whatsapp Clint on 082 448-2879 or via email on clint@racepace.run

Look forward to the next episode in this series on Running Injuries

Running Injuries

There is a lot to be said about running injuries, the types, the grades, and the different ways to fix treat them. What I am going to talk about today are injuries related to overuse and how the risk can be decreased by improving running form

Overuse injuries are caused by an inadequate repetitive motion, you will see how this explanation will be apparent as we discuss the injuries.

It is said that there are two certainties in life, and those are death and taxes, I would argue that there is a third, and that would be running injuries. What we do know about running injuries is that they will occur, sometime through your running career, there will be an injury to deal with because, there will always be an injury risk, our main aim is to reduce that injury risk.

My first port of call as a coach is to look into my crystal ball and “predict” what injuries could occur in any of my runners. I am just kidding, no crystal ball but most definitely there will be a prediction, but it will be based on knowledge, experience, and past research. These “predictions” will be based on an assessment that will be done using slo-mo video.

The second port of call is to take that assessment and prescribe form drills and strength training to aid in reducing the injury risk.

So now, let’s talk about each part of the running stride and what injuries could arise for bad form and posture.

Lets start with the stance phase

  • The beginning of the stance phase is the foot strike. What are the risk factors associated with foot strike? Excessive force has been sent through the ankles, knees and hips, the main cause of this is over striding. Ankles that are not stable will collapse inwardly. The continuous unabated force can cause injuries such as stress fractures and tendinopathies.
    • Exercises or drills that will help improve these form issues are fast feet drills, straight leg shuffles and balancing exercises.
  • The next part of the stance phase is just after foot strike, the absorption phase, this is the part where the foot anchors itself to the ground. What risk factors could are associated with absorption? The foot may not flatten on the ground and supinate. The Heel may not kiss the and remain just short of ground contact through the entire stance phase. Injuries that could arise from these issues can be plantar Fasciitis, shin Splints, Calf Strains.
    • Exercises or drills that will help improve these form issues are fast feet drills, balance exercises, eccentric calf dips and tibialis exercises.
  • Midstance, your hips are directly over the feet. The risk factor here is weak medial glutes and TFLs. These weak muscles cause the opposite hip to dip causing strain on the midstance foot’s ITB. The main injury that occurs from a strained ITB is ITBS, Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
    • Exercises that will help with treating this issue is High Knee Drills, side leg lifts and Clams.
  • Propulsion, your foot is moving from a dorsiflexed position to a plantarflexed position and ready to propel off the ground. Issues here may be that the foot over-pronated and is pushing off the ground off the side of the big toe. This could cause plantar fasciitis.
    • Exercises that will help with treating this issue are balance exercise and fast feet drill plus frequent bouts of toe yoga.

The next phase to investigate is the swing phase. There are not normally issues that could come from the swing phase as the foot is off the ground but there could be issues which cause the leg to not rotate inwardly or outwardly rotate. The injuries that would come from this would come only from how the foot strikes the ground and if the knees and hips are misaligned at that point.

These are only a few ways that an injury could be picked up from having bad form, the body is a magnificent machine and with all the thousands of intricate movements that occur as you move through your stride there are countless more ways that injuries can occur. This is the reason that I assess my runners, to try my best to make each of them more injury resistant.

So, in conclusion of this series, I would like to highlight the enormous complexity of the subject we have been dealing with. Running form and posture and its effect on the brain and the body is an incredibly deep subject but really, I have only scratched the surface.

Improving form is a huge job and should not be undertaken lightly. It takes patience, understanding and planning and should only be started once all the facts have been collected. So have an assessment done, get all the facts and make sure you understand that it is a long process and then get started.

How do my form and posture assessments work? To start off you will run a 12-minute Cooper Fitness Test. While you are running, I will take a few videos which I will load up, slow down and analyse. I will then give you a report which will have your fitness test results, your analysis and prescribed exercises.

Schedule an assessment with me if you want to find out where you could improve your running form and posture.

Well, that is that for the form and posture series, thank you for listening. If you have any questions about any part of this series please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Contact Clint on clint@racepace.run or 0824482879 for a free consultation and I will also tell you more about myself and about RacePace and what I can offer you.

Contact Elsabé on elsabe@fitstrongsa.com or 0826562711 to chat to her about strength training for runners.

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