Growing up as a kid, I was given lessons on pretty much everything. Swimming was essential, biking was fun, Baseball was a pastime and soccer was a must. I loved every sport and couldn’t ever decide what I wanted to do. I was naturally athletic and felt like I could pretty much do anything I put my mind to. Then came Nordic combined, well actually it was in the mix with all the lessons but for us it was just called training. Nordic combined was awesome and what I loved about it is we could really do anything as a young athlete, and it would be a benefit to our sport. You would train to jump and ski which involved every activity possible. What came to mind the past couple years was the fact that no one ever gets running lessons. You learn how to ride a bike, kick a ball, throw a ball and so much more, but running is never really included in those activities. Is it because it is a naturally occurring events as you get older?
While working at Athletic Republic as a sports performance trainer I realized I knew how to run, but at the same time I was not running with proper form for how I like to run. It has reached the point where every time I am running, I am trying to critique my form to be more in line with proper distance mechanics. Did I always think I was a bad runner? No, but did I just think I always had the engine and said I just never run as an excuse? Yes, absolutely. While working part time the last couple years, I have really studied how to become an efficient runner for all the different sports. Running can be separated into two different mechanics, Front-end mechanics vs. back-end mechanics. In Layman’s Terms you can describe these as sprint mechanics and distance mechanics. Every sport that is on foot will be one of these two different styles and training the correct way will greatly benefit your sport.
While the core properties in each type of running are the same: Shank angle, stride, arm carriage, and posture, sprinting is totally different from a marathon and how you run will make a difference. One of the biggest aspects that is important is avoiding overstriding. Overstriding is when you heal comes too far in front of your foot and causes you to brake. This happens most often when you are running downhill. Arm Carriage is one of the most overlooked properties as it can lead to more issues than people realize. Hip to chin or ear is the desired motion when running at a faster pace but should be as much as possible regardless of speed. Any cross over of the body from the arms can lead to issues with hip rotation, valgus knee and knee flexion. It is important to keep the arms in the direction you are going so your upper body follows.
Sprinting is all about power, when watching the top sprinters in the world the force that is produced into the ground is significant. They do this by creating great knee drive and having that leg come straight down under the hip. The important aspect of that is having a high heel return by nearly touching their butt. This causing the motion from toe off to high knee much quicker and more effortless. Their posture is upright as having too much of a forward lean can cause the knee drive to be limited. This is where front end mechanics comes in the play as much of the mechanics is focused on the front side of the body.
Back-end mechanics is more distance focused. When you think about an average runner who is running their first marathon compared to an elite marathon runner, the number of strides they take are going to be very different. A big part of that comes from vertical oscillation. A shorter stride is going to cause you to travel higher in the air (1-2inches). Runners who have good form in a distance event limited their vertical oscillation to centimeters. While knee drive is important, as it is driving the direction forward, the extension is very critical. Distance runners do a very good job of keeping that back foot on the ground for as long as possible while driving the opposite knee. This keeps them from bobbing up and down and help create a longer stride. From there that power comes straight down into the ground while the trailing heel comes high toward the butt. Their upper bodies are also relaxed with their arms flowing in a smooth effortless motion from hip to chin minimizing any external rotation from the upper body.
For almost every endurance athlete, you will train a decent amount running. It is never too late to get some work done with your mechanics just like skiing. Having proper running mechanics will greatly help as your body will be able to withstand the time on the trails or road but will also reduce the risk of injury meaning more time outside or if you are brave enough on the treadmill.
If you have any questions about your mechanics, please feel free to reach out to me and I can help you with any questions you have. Athletic Republic specializes in running mechanics/gait analysis and we have centers across the country. Head to http://athleticrepublic.com and locate a training center near