If you're reading this blog you probably run, but is the way your body moves allowing you to make the most of your running potential?
We met runner Laura for a technique analysis session this week. She is on a quest to improve her speed. You don't need to live in London to receive feedback about your running technique.
Laura has been running since 2009 where she started in a social group of runners heading out for 3 to 4 miles a few times a week. When a friend’s place came up for the Philadelphia half Laura took it – and the extra-large t shirt to boot (which we can confirm has survived the years of running pretty well!). Laura has done 3 marathons and is currently training for Bournemouth in the Autumn, she is keen to get 3hrs 45min which will secure her a good for age place at London in 2018.
Laura is comfortable training to marathon distance but she knows her speed needs work. That’s where we come in with our technique session.
We started Laura off with a warm up including dynamic stretches to mobilise the major joints and enhance form. Laura demonstrated good fundamentals – the ABC’s of athletics – agility, balance and co-ordination. She was comfortable with various lunges and rotation exercises. We got Laura hopping and skipping to warm up and enhance her form; after all running is just a series of hops.
We wanted to observe and video Laura’s current technique at a few different speeds – roughly equating to her marathon, 10km and 5km pace – and different angles.
What we saw was good overall body position- Laura stood tall and was using her arms effectively. She landed quite close to her body and had a decent length of stride which was reaffirmed by a short cadence test. Shorter faster, strides are best (high cadence) as this prevents over striding; landing in front of the body and resulting in a loss of forward momentum and increased impact forces.
However Laura was rotating from the hips which is inefficient and her stride shape needed work in order to reduce her contact time and add dynamism.
In order to help Laura improve we packaged the changes needed into 4 areas
1) Contact with the ground should be short and light
2) Posture- Holding hips 'high' and leaning forward slightly, creating a straight line running from heel, hip to head
3) Controlling rotation at the hips by imagining headlights on hips pointing forward
4) Stride shape. Employing a pulling action, lifting quickly and pulling forward giving a high knee and heel lift.
These areas feed nicely into each other as a virtuous cycle, however isolating one and focusing on it for a few strides and seeing the video afterwards helped Laura to think about each in turn. What we saw immediately was an improvement in stride shape and speed.
It can feel daunting for an experienced runner like Laura to go away and make these changes, as such our best advice is to focus technique improvements initially over short distances such as speed work sessions or by adding in strides (6-8 x 150-200m 'relaxed' quality efforts) after an easy paced run. Check in sessions with your coach where you focus on quality can support this journey. Gradually improvements to technique will filter into longer distance runs and become the norm.