Posture – It’s Not Just For Running #RunFormFriday

The main thing I look to assist with when I look at athletes running styles is their posture while running. Good posture will help keep you injury free (apart from over training…!). It will also provide you with more power.

 

However running is only a small part of your week. On the assumption that you might run 3 times a week, and that your runs take a total of around 2-3 hours, that still leaves you with 165 hours in the week. 165 hours where your posture might not be quite so strong!

Good posture stems from not just having a strong core – the muscles from your torso and glutes, front and back of your body – but actually using it as well. One of the things many of us do when we relax and aren’t thinking so much is we have our pelvis in “anterior tilt”. This means that the top of your pelvis/hip structure is tilted forward. If you imagine your pelvis like a bowl of water it might help you visualise this.

 

pelvic tilt bowl of water

To level off that bowl of water that is your pelvis, while standing squeeze your glutes slightly. At the same time draw your belly button toward your spine. You might feel your spine lengthen when you do this!

Good posture standing

If you find feeling this difficult you can try standing against a wall or even lying flat on your back. Either way, the aim is to eliminate space between your lower (lumbar) spine and the surface.

Once you can feel that “core” engage, try walking with it. The main key here is to keep that belly button drawn in slightly. Every now and again just let everything switch off and see how different that feels.

Good posture walking

You can take all of this in to your running as well, and by keeping your pelvis tilted correctly under your spine you should stay more stable as well as limiting chances of injury.

Because we as humans spend a lot of time sitting, it’s worth occasionally thinking about good posture while sat at a desk too

Good posture sitting

Of course no-one is going to remember to keep good posture all of the time. And things like heels on shoes – even small heel raise – can affect how you stand. But a couple of seconds thought a few times a day can have a big impact on your body. It can also influence your well being and even your confidence.

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

How Good Is Your Balance #RunFormFriday

How Good Is Your Balance #RunFormFriday

How good is your balance. Does it matter when it comes to running? The definition of running is to have a suspended phase where you have both feet off the ground – and by association, most of your running is only done with one foot in contact with the floor.

When you run, you only have one foot on the ground at any one time.

Good balance and stability on one leg is the key to injury free running Click To Tweet

A simplified way of looking at running then, is that it is a series of single leg hops from one leg to the other. This then, is why being able to balance and be stable is a really useful skill to master.

Can you stand on one leg? Can you do it without wobbling?! You might not be injury prone (fingers crossed) but if you can’t hold a rock solid single leg balance – without putting your arms out for support – then you may be losing a reasonable amount of power.

Balance on one leg

Being able to keep your hips level while standing still on one leg is a skill to master!

Improving Your Balance

Try this: stand on one leg as in the image above. Concentrate on maintaining good posture – lengthen your neck and stand tall, and squeeze your buttocks to help control your pelvis. If you are balancing on your right leg, try pressing a finger into the side of your glutes to help focus on switching those muscles on. It’s your glutes that will help keep you upright, stop you wobbling and keep your hips level and not dropping down.

If you find this is easy – or you progress to the point where this is, try closing your eyes while you balance or adding in a small knee bend. You only have to introduce a small amount of movement to make balance a challenge again.

As an exercise for helping to strengthen and improve your running, this is a really easy one to fit into your day; you don’t even need to make special time for it. You can try balancing on one foot while you brush your teeth, cook/wash up, or if you are stood waiting in a queue (maybe make sure you are reasonably stable for this last one!). I like to do 2-3 lots of 30 seconds a day on each leg, just maintaining that proprioception and stability. I’ll do one eyes open, one with my eyes closed, and the third just doing slight knee bends.

Finally, if you want something a little more advanced, there are a multitude of different single leg exercises. Here is one of my favourites!

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Loading...

Running Relaxed #RunFormFriday

Sometimes wanting to run faster, push harder and over-thinking often ends up putting on the brakes. Staying relaxed when you’re tired/stressed and your body feels like lead weight is not easy. To maintain efficiency, fluidity and actually run faster with more power however, you have to be able to stay relaxed and not “force” your pace.

Whenever you get tense and uptight, you waste energy and put your body in a position that doesn’t help it function at it’s best. When you get tense, it changes the way you run, so you end up running a way that your body isn’t used to, different muscles and patterns get used. This adds a second level of fatigue.

The bottom line is you’re slowing yourself down.

Running Relaxed

Tension Reset – Run Relaxed

The first challenge in getting relaxed and removing all of that tension is to catch yourself in the act. A coach or outside observer can help you figure out where your tense spots are so that you make the right adjustments in order to provide relief. Eventually you’ll be able to sense those tight fists, tense shoulders or clenched jaw and take actions to reset your form. Shift the focus of your hard workouts from hitting splits to fixing how you’re running.

It’s important to practice running tired. So, in practice, it’s paramount to learn how to prevent the tensing up. Even if it means running a repeat slightly slower at first, do it. The key is to get it so embedded that you don’t press when it’s time to go. Stay relaxed. It’s easy to say but harder to do.

 

Top Tension Spots

Shoulders: As your arms and shoulders start rise up around your ears, one of the best things you can do is to just drop the arms, open up the hands, and shake them out for a second. Try wiggling your fingers. This also helps on the bike!

Fists: The same sort of trick applies to the clenched fists, which often go hand in hand with the high shoulders. Sometimes if you go to the other extreme, it might get your body to realize how tense you are. So, if your fists are clenched, squeeze them even harder for a second and then relax. Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist used to keep half a squash ball in his batting gloves to stop hip gripping the bat so tightly – working almost like a miniature stress ball.

Jaw: Clenching your jaw isn’t only expending unnecessary energy, it’s also inhibiting your oxygen intake. Tricks here are opening and closing your mouth, making an exaggerated yawn, or taking a longer, slow breath and exhaling.

Neck: The neck is a big one you see. People start tightening up or straining forward with it. Try rolling the neck forward for a second.

[Tweet “Relaxation is about having a calm, clear mind – try it out!”]

Don’t Force It

It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes runners can just try too hard. The stress of wanting to run faster and over-thinking can end up slowing you down and getting in your own way. This tends to happen when runners start to focus more on hitting splits rather than the act of running.

 

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about technique in the comments section. If you’ve got any relaxation tips of your own leave them too! See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

How to run faster – Triple Flexion #RunFormFriday

This is the most common question I hear. If I had to give only a one-phrase answer, then it is summed up to “optimizing triple flexion-triple extension”. Now what does that mean? Triple flexion-triple extension is the position of the legs during running. This position allows for optimal force production.

Triple Extension – Back power leg, Hip Extension, Knee Extension, Plantar Flexed Foot

Triple Flexion – Front Deceleration leg, Hip Flexion, Knee Flexion, Dorsiflexed foot

Triple flexion run faster

Many runners tend to run with reduced hip flexion (think ‘knee lift’) for a given pace. With insufficient hip flexion, in order for them to achieve the required stride length for a desired pace, they end up extending (straightening) the knee excessively just prior to foot contact. This puts them in a position where all they are able to do is over-stride, landing the foot out ahead of relatively more extended knee than is optimal. Usually at this point the athlete will be heel striking heavily, but some may still display a plantar flexed ankle and forefoot strike, especially if they’ve been consciously trying to work on ‘not heel striking’!

Regardless of pace or foot strike type, we look to enable a runner to land their foot under a flexing knee to promote improved running form.

From an adequate swing recovery position of triple flexion (hip flexion, knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion) for a given running pace, the runner should be able to comfortably land the foot under a flexing knee, without conscious thought about contact position.

How To Work On This

1. Hip Flexor Stretching and Soft Tissue Massage (or Foam Rolling) – flexibility is important through the hip area, sitting lots reduces this.
2. Hip Mobility Routines (see here)
3. Glute Medius Activated
4. Core Activated (More specifically is the Transverse Abdominis needs to be fully activated) – exercises like dead bugs and moving planks
6. Resistance Training optimizing triple flexion and triple extension
7. Explosive training optimizing triple flexion and triple extension
8. Strength training to strengthen muscles needed to increase running leg power

Run faster Triple Flexion

Sprint starts are a great way of building explosive power – this is an extreme position, something you’d never get running a 5 or a 10k – but it will make getting to a fraction of that position “easy”

Something Important To Consider

Once I get runners familiar with the movement of combined hip and knee flexion bringing them into the recovery (foot under butt) position of swing phase, and they begin running in this way, the feedback is often that not only do they feel a lighter contact through not over-striding, but they can ALSO often feel an increase in Glute activity.

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

The Simplest Way To Improve Your Running #RunFormFriday

If a new runner wants to get faster, what’s the best way to improve on their race times? Surprisingly, beginners should not focus on difficult workouts or faster paces during easy runs. These training strategies have their place, but new runners are most limited by two factors:

1. Endurance is low since they haven’t been running for long.
2. Injury risks are high.

Shoe-Tie

So to improve, beginners must maximise their endurance while limiting their risk of injury – two goals that are often at odds with one another. After all, the best way to increase endurance is to run more mileage. But mileage increases are the most common time period for injuries. Therefore, it’s critical to build endurance in a safer, less risky manner.

Two strategies can be used by beginners to both boost endurance and limit injury risk so they can continue improving.

 

Train the Heart Without Damaging the Legs

Running is a contact sport—there’s no doubt about it. It’s your legs versus the ground and those impact forces are what damage muscles and connective tissues. A little damage is a good thing because this is what prompts your body to adapt and get stronger. But too much damage without enough recovery can cause injuries.

This risk can be virtually eliminated by alternative aerobic exercise—also known more simply as cross-training. There are two types of exercise that give runners many of the same aerobic benefits of running but with none of the damaging impact forces: aqua jogging and cycling.

 

Aqua running and cycling are the preferred types of aerobic cross-training for runners because they’re more specific to running itself—they challenge your body in similar ways and most of the fitness gains are transferrable to running. While you should never expect cross-training to replace running, it can greatly enhance your training efforts and increase endurance with very little injury risk.

 

Run Consistently by Reducing the Risk of Injury

Even though higher and higher mileage weeks often cause injuries for new runners, there are ways to mitigate this risk to ensure you’re still getting in great shape while staying healthy. First, make sure you’re increasing mileage at a conservative rate. You may have heard of the 10 Percent Rule, but new runners should limit their mileage increases to about 2-4 miles every other week. That means some weeks your mileage won’t increase at all—and that’s ok! Your body takes time to adjust and adapt to new training stresses.

Learning how to increase mileage is one of the best skills a runner can develop, after all. Even with slow, gradual jumps in distance, runners can often succumb to injuries if they run those miles too quickly or lack strength. It’s critical to build “armour” that helps protect you from overuse injuries—and you do that with a strong dose of strength workouts. Running fast too often puts an unnecessary burden on the muscles, bones and joints and doesn’t allow the body to recover sufficiently – and this fatigue along with a lack of strength means that injury is more likely.

 

These exercises are classics—and for good reason! They’re compound, multi-joint exercises that train movements, not muscles. They’ll help beginner runners move more efficiently and develop the strength necessary to handle the rigours of running more and more mileage.

Most new runners simply don’t do enough strength training and the results are often injury or chronic aches and pains that derail consistent training over a long time period. It’s this consistency—what I call the “secret sauce” to successful running—that builds monster endurance over the long-term. By injecting a healthy amount of aerobic cross-training and strength training, runners will not only dramatically increase their endurance in the short-term, but will gradually build stamina over the long-term by consistent, injury-free training.

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Why Track Sessions Make You Run Faster #RunFormFriday

Track Sessions Make You Faster!

If done correctly! As most experienced runners will tell you, the best way to learn how to run faster times is to get used to running fast. A one-paced strategy just won’t nibble away at that PB, whatever distance you like to run; so the best thing to do is practice. This means speed interval training and the track is the best place to execute these specific speed-enhancing sessions. For new runners, getting immediate and consistent feedback is critical to improving your ability to execute a specific skill. On the track, you can easily and accurately measure your pace every 100, 200, 300 or 400 meters. Once you start to develop a sense for the effort needed to run a certain pace, there is nothing to distract you.

Track sessions

Overall benefits of speed training

A lot of runners like to incorporate track sessions  into their programme to focus on speed. Although it might not be everyone’s favourite session in terms of location and content, it is the perfect environment in which to focus on structured high intensity intervals to really hone your speed, fitness and running economy. The science behind the benefits of speed sessions include improved aerobic fitness and an enhanced ability to distribute oxygen-rich blood around the body to key muscle groups.  Getting used to the bio-mechanical demands of running at speed will allow your body to adapt and improve your running economy and stride power, particularly over shorter distances. Plus the fact it will make those slower longer distance runs seem easy by comparison and over time, as you hone your sprinting skills, that natural speed will start to show up in your longer runs.

There are several ways you can work on speed at the track. You can either choose short, middle or long distance intervals, depending on your target race and current ability. The length and duration of those intervals depend entirely on your fitness, running level and requirements. And please don’t forget to warm up properly, especially before sprint sessions, or your hamstrings might not thank you for it.

Short speed intervals and why they work

Typically short intervals involve sprints of 100m, 200m or 400m with a suitable recovery in between. The idea is to boost your power and economy over a burst of short distance sprinting, which will ultimately help you maintain your marathon or longer distance race pace for longer. Over time you can extend the intervals and increase the number of repetitions, which will certainly improve your 5k speed. The key to success here is to make sure that you leave sufficient recovery time between intervals because each interval has to be run at the same flat out speed and intensity. If you don’t leave enough time to recover your speed will decrease and your ability to build power will be diminished. How you choose to recover between each sprint is up to you. You can either walk or jog as you prepare for your next sprint.

Beginner Short Interval Workouts
6 x 100 meters

6 x 200 meters

6 x 300 meters

6 x 400 meters

 

Middle distance speed intervals

Middle distance sessions are generally anything from 400m to around 1200m and these intervals should be run at something close to your 5k race pace. These sessions are all about improving your lactic acid recycling capability and your ability to resist the effects of fatigue. Muscles that are tired just don’t perform as efficiently, so the longer you can maintain a certain pace without getting tired, the greater the likelihood of achieving a PB. As a general rule after each of these intervals, give yourself a recovery period of around 3 minutes to allow the body to recover sufficiently and then repeat the interval with the same intensity as the first. But again, the duration of your intervals and recovery periods will be dictated by your level and ability.

Beginner Middle-Distance Interval Workouts
5 x 600 meters

4 x 800 meters

3 x 1000 meters

2 x 1200 meters

Track sessions

Long distance intervals

Long distance sessions tend to be anything from 1600m upwards and they should be run at something approaching your 10k race pace. This is primarily an exercise in lactate threshold running, which means running at such a challenging pace that lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood. It’s not like an eye-bulging sprint, but a sustained pace that makes conversation difficult and feels hard. If you can maintain that pace over a sustained period, the body’s ability to recycle lactic acid increases. Over time this will enable you to be able to run further, faster and for longer.   Just as with all of the other intervals though, it’s important to incorporate a suitable recovery period before going again.

Beginner Middle-Distance Interval Workouts
4 x 1600 meters

3 x 2000 meters

3 x 2400 meters

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!