5 Tips to Improve your running economy, speed and reduce your injury risk!
Put a stop to “heel striking”.
“Heeling striking” is a common technique error found in many novice and experienced runners. Heel striking is when your heel is the initial contact point with the ground. This means the heel is in front of your hips at ground contact point and the angle of your body is either upright or slighty backwards, rather than forwards.
Question: If you were to run 100 metres as fast as you could and then “put the breaks on”, what what you do? Lean back and “heel strike”? So heel striking throughout your entire run is like holding the breaks on. It also contributes to ‘over striding’ and a body position that puts greater pressure and loading through your spine, especially your lower back.
Get someone to video you running and watch it back in slow motion:
Aim for a mid to forefoot foot strike when running. This can be achieved by simply a greater forward lean. Lean forwards from your ankle rather than bending over at the hip. Another cue is to think about your chest being in line with your foot contact when you are running if you were to look from a side view.
2. Speed up your cadence
A slower cadence is often associated with over striding and heel striking as described above. For middle to long distance running a high cadence (feet turn over) of around 180 steps per minute is found to be optimal. Although there may be some small variations either side when considering the height of the runner. In contrast taking larger strides is more taxing and adds more loading on to the body.
3. Program your training into specific goals
For many runners, their goal is to run further and or faster. If every session is ran like a race, either running as fast or as long as you can, your performance gains will be limited and often over time hindered with injury. Don’t forget that adaptations (changes) occur during recovery. Exercise is the stress or “stimulus” that during recovery our body aims to “adapt” to the stress with numerous physiological mechanisms that allow us to run faster, longer. Break up your training to focus on goals e.g. speed, strength, speed endurance (tempo) and endurance. For example, Monday could have a ‘speed’ focus, Wednesday and ‘strength’ focus including hill repeats, Thursday a ‘tempo’ session where a pace around “race pace” is simulated (depends on running event/distance) and Sunday a ‘long easy’ run where it is not about running as far and as fast as you can but more about building your aerobic capacity, conditioning your whole body and focusing on ingraining good technique.
To find out more about Eating Fit’s Personalised Running Programs click here.
4. Strengthen your framework
Many runners neglect their strength training due to time constraints or a fear of feeling too heavy or sore and effecting their run.
If you want longevity in your running you cannot neglect your framework or scaffolding. You can only get so far with week framework. This means your performance is limited and risk of injury increases over time. Common weakness in runners are muscles of the hips and core. Strength training for runners doesn’t have to include multiple hour long sessions in the gym lifting heavy loads. A well periodised strength program built around your race season or “a race” could include a general strength, strength endurance, max strength, and then power and competition phase. Where each block or phase is focused on building upon each other to peak for your race.
As a start, great benefits can be found from simple glute and core activation exercises that may activate and isolate these stabilising muscles and then progress into a more compound and functional movements once these muscles are awake and firing. Strengthening these stabilising muscles supports the larger muscles, improves running technique, power, economy and reduces risk of pain and injury due to muscle imbalances. Is is far from a waste of time and if you want to be running for a long time should be a priority!
To find out more about Eating Fit’s Personalised Strength Training Programs click here.
5. Improve your mobility and open the gates to greater performance
Tight muscles or myofascial lines can limit your range of movement, inhibit the right muscles from working at their optimum and in turn limit your running stride, performance and increase risk of injury. For example, tight hip flexors or psoas, can inhibit the ability of the glutes and hamstrings to work optimally and also contribute to tight hamstrings and lower back muscles also increasing risk of pain and injury.
Dynamic stretches before training and racing, static stretches post and self myofascial release with foam rollers and other trigger point instruments such as ‘point of relief’ can be very effective activities when performed correctly and regularly. Not only can they help with improving range of movement and performance but also aid in recovery.