Summary: Poor running technique can lead to unnecessary injury risks if it is not picked up early. Many recreational runners are placing undue strain on their bodies, as well as compromising their speed, by using the wrong technique. So to help you understand your technique and gauge whether you are compromising your form through bad habits, this article, first published on BBC Sport Health and Fitness site online, will help you to identify any weaknesses you may have and how you might be able to correct them.
By Mike Antoniades. Speed, conditioning and rehabilitation coach
Whether you run to keep fit, compete at the Olympics or participate at any level in a multidirectional ball sport, you can always improve your running and sprinting technique.
Running well and running fast is a skill, not something you were born with. And just like any other skill it can be taught. This article talks about the facts/methods behind running and talks about teaching the body and the mind the correct motor patterns.
Are you running efficiently?
Some of the most obvious weaknesses I see in runners and joggers are:
1. Bouncing up and down too much 2. Over striding 3. Not using their hamstrings enough 4. Landing on feet too heavily 5. Breaking action on landing 6. Not using arms 7. Twist midriff side to side while running 8. The head and upper body are bent forward 9. Jogging slower than you could walk
Most joggers and runners are biomechanically inefficient because their running technique is poor.
They don't use the necessary body parts efficiently so when they are supposed to be enjoying themselves, they are instead suffering pain.
So how can you run faster, more efficiently and avoid injury?
The nervous, muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular systems of our body are all involved when we run.
They all combine to create the neuromuscular and neuromechanical systems.
We can improve the biomechanical movements for runners by teaching the body and the mind the correct motor patterns.
When you want to change a movement in your body, it needs to be stored in your muscle memory so you can repeat without thinking, particularly when you are tired.
When you perform a motion, the body sends messages to the brain in a certain sequence.
To create a permanent map in your brain and nervous system, you need to repeat this motion many times until it is ingrained in your muscles and your brain.
1. The primary objective of motor learning is to train the Movement rather than the Muscle.
2. Once we have taught the movement, then improving the athletic performance of a runner is imperative in the pursuit of excellence and in injury prevention.
3. The neuromuscular system then has to be stimulated to recruit and contract motor units simultaneously and to increase the strength of the contraction.
CORRECTING YOUR TECHNIQUE
Although this may be hard to pick-up off the written page, I will explain what changes you may need to make to your current running style.
All accomplished and elite runners run on the balls of their feet.
The foot should strike the surface with the ball of the foot, in a dorsiflexed position (with toes pointing forward not downwards) as otherwise this creates a" breaking" motion.
The heel doesn't touch the ground.
The foot on landing on the surface should be "light" not heavy, it then "grips and scrapes" the surface.
The knee is slightly bent on contact with the surface, and the foot lands below the centre of gravity - just below the hips.
Think of your legs working in a circular motion from the hip joint.
This brings the heel of the foot behind the body. The hamstrings and gluteus maximus (backside muscles) play a very big part in this movement.
The thigh moves forward with the action of the quads and hip-flexors, the leg is extended and the foot drops again, landing on the ball of the foot as above.
We call this cycling the leg.
The hips and waist should be steady without a lot of side to side movement.
The back should be straight and relaxed, not bent at the waist.
The shoulders should be relaxed, The arms should be bent at approximately 90 degrees, and the motion should be from the shoulder not the forearms.
As the arm moves back, it should continue to stay in 90 degree flexion.
The hands should be held with the palm facing inwards not down. If you prefer to hold your hands in a fist, the thumb should rest on the forefinger.
The head should be up with your eyes looking ahead not down.
Try not to think about the movement too much. Instead try to feel the cycling motion, and visualise it in your mind while you're running. You will know when you have got it right, you will be able you feel it.
Do you jog or run?
Mike's definition of jogging is simple: If you are "moving" slower than 6 miles per hour you are jogging, and quite frankly you would be better off walking.
Walking at 4 mph or faster is biomechanically more efficient and far more beneficial to you than "jogging" slowly.
When we walk fast, we tend to use our legs and our arms together and this burns more calories, plus jogging or running puts far more potentially damaging forces through our hip, knee and ankle joints.
A little bit about Mike Antoniades: Conditioning coach Mike Antoniades has developed a unique methodology for teaching the correct and most efficient running technique to athletes and recreational users of all levels.
The application of Biomechanical, Gait and Movement Analysis and video documentation helps him to identify any weaknesses and the underlying causes for abnormalities in running, walking, sprinting and motor control.