Sunday, May 16, 2010


After completing my 3rd race this Spring, I feel compelled to write about an observation noted throughout each race. There is some seriously ugly runners out there! Now wait wait wait, I'm not that rude- most runners are svelt, toned, and have faces fine enough to grace websites and newspapers. We're talking running form, people. It ain't pretty.
At this point in my life, my racing experience could probably go from "novice" to "intermediate". This experience gives my opinion a bit more weight than before, right? Well let me tell ya, in all my people watching experiences, I'm not sure if I have worn a more "ouch, how can that not give you horrible foot and back pain" look on my face than I have during my most recent jaunts.
So here it is, misguided people. Pay attention to your running form! It may be the simplest fix to chronic pain, lack of speed, and an overall goofy look. You can thank me later for this free advice.
1. Inventory your body parts
Sounds silly, huh? Did you think running was all about lower body? Think again, my friend.
- Shoulders & Arms: Keep them comfy and relaxed. They move according to your stride. Let them. They aid in balance and assist your body from over-rotating. Make sure your shoulders are over your hips in order to maxmize your center of gravity. No hunching or over-arching allowed.
- Hands: No tight fists here. My strategy is to keep the tip of my thumb and my index finger touching. This way, I ensure that my circulation isn't constricted and that there is no stress held in my hands.
- Head: Just as I explained in the shoulders and hips, keep the head directly over this imaginary line in your spine.
- Feet: Where your toes are pointing is where your body will follow. Keep them straight. No pigeon toes or duck feet, it'll throw off your alignment and land you at the chiropractor or worse.
- Ankle: Work on ankle flexibility by flexing and extending the joint while stretching out. This way, the heel won't feel stress when striking the ground during a run.
- Knee: Now here's the trick. If you're running a sprint, work on running with "high knees". If you're running long distances, work on running with lower knees in order to divert motion forward.
- Hips: Believe it or not, this is where all the action's at. The hips hold the major muscle group in the lower body together. Your pelvis is what decides your stride, knee height, joint flexibility, etc. So make sure to keep your hips straight forward and level while running. No awkward thrusting forward or tucking under becuase this could cause painful tightening of the TFL (hip flexor muscles). Not good.
2. Stride
Your stride includes the length at which your feet extend from your body and the frequency of your step. By paying close attention to how your foot is striking and leaving the ground, you'll gain a better understanding of how to utilize what you have.
- Stride length: If your stride length is short, your energy is diverted to more of a bouncing action rather than a forward motion. Push forward more and you'll find it doesn't take much more energy to do so.
- Frequency: Normally, around 92 footsteps per minute is what most runners aim for. Go for a run and start counting. Adjust accordingly and you'll find a much happier balance of foot strike and stride length. You may even improve your time!
3. Loosen Up!! (geez!)
Ever watched professional marathon runners? Do they appear to be completing calculous in their heads without a calculator? No!! And neither should you! Acheiving the right amount of looseness in your form will leave you with less soreness in your muscles as well as those nasty frown lines on your forehead.
Think of your body like a spring. Springs work because they have just the right amount of tension to keep a mechanism from collapsing but just enough flexibility to get the job done. By keeping your head, shoulders, and hips in a straight line, you're maximizing the efficiency of this spring to propel you forward. (Technically, springs transform "potential" energy into "kinetic" energy. If you'd like the full meal deal on this, click here.)

So there you have it. Keep your head held high (eyes forward), feet in line, and form good and loose. But not too loose! This way I won't feel sympathy pain for your horrible form when I pass you in my next race.

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