Before we get practical, we need to understand a few key concepts about running form.
Understanding the gait cycle is essential when you want to work on specific details of your running form.
Fig 1 Midstance, Fig 2 Propulsion Fig 3 + Fig 4 Swing phase Fig 5 Initial contact
The gait cycle can be divided into two main phases, the stance phase (left foot in this example) and the swing phase (right foot). The stance phase begins with the initial contact (fig 5) and starts as soon as the left foot touches the ground and begins absorbing impact from the foot through to the knee. The runner then moves into the midstance (fig 1), further absorbing shock by bending the left knee and bringing the right leg forward to prepare for the next phase, propulsion (fig 2). During propulsion the runner stiffens the left foot (with help from the Windlass Mechanism) in order to generate enough force to help propel the body forwards, ready for the next step. This drives us into the swing phase (fig 3+4) which starts when the toe from the hind leg leaves the ground, the runner is airborne and finally lands with the other foot, initiating a new gait cycle.
Many running aches, such as knee pain, come from heel striking. When a runner strikes the ground with the heel first they are effectively striking the ground with a straight leg! This is called 'over striding' and this action removes the shock absorption mechanism created by our bodies when we land with a bent knee.
A midfoot strike takes advantage of the natural shock absorption mechanism created by our bodies when we run. If you actively try to strike the ground with your midfoot you may notice that your foot lands closer to your center of mass (under your hips). This takes full advantage of all the joints in your lower body, creating a spring like effect. I saw a beautiful example of great running technique in which you can easily visualize the foot strike - I even made a quick video about it for our Running and Race Training Facebook group. Click here to check it out.
Changing the way your foot strikes the ground is a complicated task but it can be done with a couple of minutes of daily running drills. We'll discuss running drills later on in this article.
Cadence is magical. Cadence is simply the number of steps a runner takes in one minute. This technique can greatly reduce the risk of over-striding by increasing the number of steps taken in one minute and reducing the ground contact time. Most recreational runners are between the 140-160 steps per minute range, however, most elite athletes run within the 180 steps p/min range (some go as high as 200)!
Cadence is usually measured with a 'beeping' stopwatch but technology can also help us with this! There are apps where you can input your desired beats per minute and the app simply beeps at the set speed - which in this case is 180. That's the general guideline all runners should follow, 180 steps per minute.
A high cadence is beneficial because it cuts down ground contact time, as mentioned above. This is beneficial because it forces you to land closer to your center of mass (during the initial contact phase) and push off as fast as possible (propulsion phase) in order to keep up with the 180 steps per minute pace. Landing closer to your center of mass is the best way to reduce heel-striking.
A lot of runners get confused when asked to run at a higher cadence because they think they have to run faster... wrong! Running with a higher cadence simply means taking more steps in one minute. The strides don't have to be long and in fact they will most likely be shorter than your usual strides and that's a great thing! Shorter strides mean that you will be forced to land your foot closer to your center of mass (below the hips) because you don't have time to reach the leg forward!
Remember, running is a highly repetitive sport and reducing ground contact time by a few micro-seconds will help you reach the finish line faster...
Here's the link to the app I use: iOS and Android
Posture will make or break you - literally. Bad posture leads to injury-riddled joints, collapsed chests, decreased oxygen intake and the 'slouching' running style. Take the following check-list on a piece of paper with you on your next run and go through it during your run to check if you're doing the following:
The following prescription is to be taken daily! The cure for bad running form is doing running technique drills and mindful running daily for at least 30 days. Our goal here is to repeat these movements as much as possible in order to wire them into our subconscious and performing them naturally as we run. Mindful running means no music, no podcast, nothing, just you and the road. Focus on what you're doing, what your posture is like and how you're landing. This will feel weird at first but it'll become second nature as time moves on.
Running technique drills don't require much time and are fairly easy to do! There are lots of different movements (consult video below) but the main thing to focus on is to squeeze in at least 4 or 5 drills before each run. Note: Always do drills BEFORE the actual workout. If you leave them until the end of your run you'll be fatigued and your posture might be off - which would be counterproductive. The following movements can be used as a quick warm-up, for example.
Having an efficient running form means you'll be able to run faster and longer with less fatigue! If you put in the required work you'll be blazing through your past PR's and looking like a real pro in the race photos! When you've finished your race, make sure to head on over to RunPage and create your own RunPage to commemorate! Click here to find out more about RunPage.
Changing your running form is not easy but it is worth it. You may get frustrated when you don't see progress but keep repeating the running drills and focus on your form when running. Try mindful running for at least 30 days and you'll see a huge improvement - I guarantee it!
And to our follower and active member on our Facebook group, Claudia Ortiz, this should help you change your "granny shuffle" into a looser running style!
Let me know how you did in the comments below or on our Running and Race Training Facebook group (link below).
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