If you’re a frequent runner, then you’re among the nearly 7 million Brits who spend time outdoors engaging in this activity. In fact, running, jogging and trail running are some of the most popular outdoor activities in the UK. This number has seen a significant increase over the lockdown period, when a number of us dusted off those old running shoes and pounded the pavements and parks of our local areas.
Running is the go-to activity for so many people, quite simply because of the ease of involvement and the numerous health benefits associated with running. It will strengthen your lower body muscles, helps maintain strong bones, boost cardiovascular fitness, and assists with weight loss, but probably more than all of these is the known benefits for enhancing mental health.
It has been said that most athletes literally run away from their problems and in pursuit of an endorphin rush or experiencing the “runner’s high” people are able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in just 15 minutes per day.
So with all of these incredible benefits it’s vital that runners ensure that their bodies don’t suffer wear and tear or debilitating injuries that will prevent them from running for long periods. This is where understanding correct running technique can become a game changer for many.
What is your foot strike pattern?
Have you ever thought about how you run? Or perhaps you’ve seen someone run past you, legs and knees flailing everywhere and thought, that can’t be good for them! Understanding how your body moves and in particular, your foot-strike pattern has implications for your athletic performance and the stress sustained by your body.
We can break foot strike down into three categories: Forefoot runners, mid-foot runners and heel strikers. In forefoot running, the ball of your foot is the first point of contact with the ground. If you’re a heel striker, then you’re making initial contact with the ground using your rearfoot/heel and midfoot strikers run with the center of their foot landing on the ground. This is not a permanent state as a runner’s stride pattern can change depending on the terrain, running speed or even their running shoes.
There’s a lot of debate around which stride pattern is the best for running performance and injury prevention. Some hold the belief that a rearfoot strike increases the risk of running-related injuries as the heel is not designed to take on the level of force associated with running, which is about two to three times the body weight. Studies have shown that while changing to a midfoot or forefoot strike reduces the number of knee-related injuries, it may increase the risk of calf-related problems.
Forefoot striking has been extolled as being the most efficient and performance-enhancing, but many believe that it doesn’t necessarily improve running economy and there are many elite runners who adopt a heel strike, so there isn’t any best technique so to speak. A comprehensive gait analysis, along with your general conditioning and training, will help you make informed decisions on how to run for optimal performance.
That’s where we come in!
At The Pro Sport Lab we’re able to offer great insights into your running style, technique and break down your movement to pinpoint your strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement.
By doing this we highlight any potential issues before injuries occur and use the information gained as a guideline to determine our exercise programming. Your running style allows us to see over-active and weak muscles, it highlights postural issues as well as short and tight muscles and joints that are preventing poor technique.
Whilst most runners see weight training as a waste of time and something that can hinder, rather than help their performance, a bespoke running based strength training programme can bring about incredible changes to posture, strength, movement and ultimately improved running technique.
Simple tips for greater running efficiency and lesser impact
To avoid putting too much stress on your muscles, joints and tissues, we suggest that you practice these simple running techniques:
- Don’t over-stride as this can increase the load on your knees and hips.
- Combat this with a slightly shorter stride and higher running cadence.
- Check your foot position. They should be pointing in the direction you intend to travel rather than out to the side as this has a twisting effect on the ankles.
- Maintain an upright posture, so many runners develop a hunched position which increases ground reaction forces and poor muscle recruitment.
- Wear the right running shoes. Whilst a great pair of trainers may not instantly turn you into an athlete, an old or inappropriate pair will certainly slow you down and increase the risk of injury.
The process of improving your running technique starts with assessment, as the saying goes, if you’re not assessing, then you’re only guessing. We take all of the guess work out this process for you and provide you with a detailed analysis and training protocols that will prevent injury and drastically enhance running performance enabling you to run faster and further with significantly less effort.