Does running cause injuries? Will running more or running faster always make you a better runner? Certified Chi Running instructor and UKA leader in Running Fitness, Balavan Thomas, debunks some running technique myths.
Secrets of a Running Technique Coach
I have been a runner for over 35 years. About 10 years ago I got interested in Chi Running as a way to improve my technique. In August 2012 I qualified as Chi Running instructor after training with European master instructor Marion Meesters. Since then I have worked with hundreds of runners, helping them to improve their running technique, avoid injury and run faster with less effort. So what are the seven main things that I have learnt in the last seven years of coaching?
MYTH #1: RUNNING CAUSES INJURIES
Actually, it's not running that causes so many runners to get injured, so much as bad running technique.
So many runners I see over stride and heel strike. This is high impact and inefficient.
When runners over stride and land on the heel with a straight leg, the impact usually causes injuries to the knees and/or hips and lower back.If the runner increases their cadence (steps per minute) and shortens their stride so that they land on a bent leg with a whole foot landing (midfoot strike) it is much better. Then the quad muscles take the impact rather than the knee or hip etc. When the runner first changes to landing on a bent leg they will feel it in the quad muscles for a couple of days. But then the muscles adapt and get stronger and the pain goes away.
When a runner over strides it also has a braking effect and slows the runner down. If the runner lands on a bent leg with a whole foot landing, running becomes easier and more efficient.
MYTH #2: FASTER IS ALWAYS BETTER
Actually, most runners train too fast.
When you are on a training run you should be able to talk to a training partner in complete sentences. If you are unable to do that then you are training too fast for your aerobic capacity. So slow down and enjoy your running. You will also surprisingly improve your fitness (and state of health) long term with this approach.
MYTH #3: IT'S BEST TO RUN UPRIGHT
Actually, many runners are too upright or even in some cases they lean back slightly when they run.
You will notice that the top distance runners have a whole body forward lean. This is the ideal, as you get a forward push from gravity when you run in this way. If you are upright then you have to push off a lot more to move forward, which takes a lot of energy. It also means that you have more vertical movement, making you land more heavily.
So work on having a whole body forward lean from the ankles (no bending at the waist). It's around a 2" forward lean for training and 3" for racing.
MYTH #4: CHILDREN WON'T KNOW HOW TO RUN PROPERLY
Actually, most children run well.
If you look at a group of 10-year-old children running they usually have good technique. Often when I'm coaching in a park, a group of children will run by, doing a school cross-country run. Usually they all have good whole body forward lean, a circular leg action, a good arm action and are all landing on a bent leg: all the things I teach my adult runners.
Running is a natural movement, which most people do well as children. But most adults seem to lose their natural ability. This is usually put down to a sedentary lifestyle, as most adults in the western world spend hours sitting down every day and lose their range of motion etc.
MYTH #5: ONLY RUNNING WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER RUNNER
Actually, it's important to build your running body.
Many runners sit at a computer all day, which is not a good preparation for running. Sitting all day usually results in shortening the hip flexors and an overall loss of range of motion. Muscles become weak and dysfunctional and the result is a weak body and poor posture. So I recommend that runners also do Yoga, Pilates or some kind of stretching and strengthening routine to increase their strength and flexibility.
MYTH #6: RUNNING TECHNIQUE CAN CHANGE OVERNIGHT
Actually, think gradual progression.
It usually takes most runners about three months to transform their running. If you try to change too quickly there is the potential for injury. So work on your running technique drills and think of improving slowly and steadily. Also as I mentioned before, it is important to work on strengthening and aligning the whole body to increase mobility and flexibility.
MYTH #7: RUNNING MAKES YOU STRONGER
Yes and no.
Remember that the body actually gets stronger on your rest days, when it gets chance to recover and rebuild itself stronger than before. So build recovery days into your training and once a month have an easy week to allow the body to recover. The golden rule is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% – that's your daily and overall weekly mileage.
So that's 7 running technique myths debunked! Of course there are many other things to bear in mind, but these are the points I think every runner should consider.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why do I get injured so easily?
There are four main reasons why runners often get injured:
- They have a bad running technique which puts a strain on the body.
- They suddenly increase their mileage by more than 10%.
- They start doing speed work without enough preparation and with bad technique.
- They don't prepare the body for running by doing mobility work and strengthening exercises. Often runners sit at a desk all day at work, so their bodies become weak and inflexible. It's recommended to do a mobility and strengthening class for runners. A good Yoga or Pilates class can also help.
How fast should I run?
When a runner is on a training run they should be able to hold a conversation and talk in complete sentences. Otherwise they are running too fast for their aerobic capacity. If they want a more scientific approach they can try the low heart rate method. Although challenging at first, over a period of time training with this method means that runners can run at close to their race pace comfortably while maintaining a low heart rate.
What are the benefits of running technique coaching?
Running technique coaching enables the runner to run in a more efficient and low-impact way. This helps to make running more enjoyable and makes it possible to run faster with less effort and to avoid injury.
I hope your running goes well and do contact me for an online running technique coaching session if you want to improve your technique.