LMUR Tip: Try intervals

If you don’t like the idea of continuous running, or have not been as successful as you’d like, try interval running. Begin by alternating between running for 1 minute, then walk for 45 seconds, and repeat. You’ll be surprised how much ground you can cover doing intervals, and you may also find that you can maintain your running form better with this approach.

Play with the ratio of running:walking to see what works best for you.

Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not ‘real’ running. 🙂

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Relax your abdominal muscles when you run. Yes, that’s right, relax them.

As I was running with a friend this morning, she shared that she was concerned about how her feet were landing and her lack of a forward lean, both important aspects of running form. However, after watching her run for a bit, I asked her if her if she was contracting her abdominal muscles. She replied that she was.

The reason I asked her about her abs rather than directly answering her concerns was that if your spine and torso can’t move properly it will not help to make modifications elsewhere. First the spine, then the torso (including the abs), the pelvic and shoulder girdle, and then the arms and legs.

If your spine and torso aren’t able to move naturally, as is the case when you run with tight abdominals, any changes you make in your form will have to be counteracted somewhere else in your body. For example, if your abdominals are contracted when you run, this pulls the pelvis upward (tilts it back, or retroverts, to be specific), pulls the rib cage downward, and creates a center of tension in your body. Your spine will not be able to move freely, nor will your hips. All of this then impacts the forward lean and, to a lesser extent, footfall.

This is why I’m often reluctant to giving running ‘tips’, but would rather help someone to rebuild their form. You can’t separate the legs from the body (nor would you want to, I suspect), and as western humans, most of us have been out of balance, posturally speaking, for so long that we essentially need to relearn how to run.

For a great example of beautiful running form, head out to the soccer fields one Saturday morning and watch the younger children run. They don’t have to think about their running form because it hasn’t gotten out of balance yet. For adults, we have to relearn the form we were born with.

But first, we have to relax our abdominals.

Do I have to go barefoot?

The barefoot/minimal running movement has been going strong for the last couple of years. But do you have to go barefoot to have good form, and does going barefoot guarantee good form?

The answer to both questions is a definitive “No”.

You can learn good running form in whatever shoes you wear, and many people continue to run with poor form when barefoot.The key is not the footwear, but learning how to rebuild your running form, plus learning the non-running mechanics that reinforce good form.
Then, pick whatever footwear you like.

Running with ease

No pain, no gain.

Motivational? Maybe. Sound mechanical running theory? No.

This whole 80’s approach of ‘no pain, no gain’ has led us down a path to injury, overtraining, and, well, pain. And, given the choice between running with ease, as the body is designed, with ‘flow’, and running with force, against human dynamics, pushing through pain, who among us would choose the latter?

It’s simply inaccurate to believe that running must be painful to be beneficial. In fact, when we run as our bodies are designed, with ease and in keeping with the flow of our natural mechanics, and with sensible training, we can enjoy running and even perform at a higher – and faster! – level.

Take, for example, the spine. Many of us were taught to believe that we should keep our shoulders and hips squared when we run. We’re told that movement of our arms and pelvis is unnecessary movement that requires extra energy. What actually happens when we run in this manner is that by counteracting the natural rotation of the spine during running, we have to exert extra effort to work against our natural mechanics.

There are many benefits of running with ease, including:

  • more enjoyable running
  • the feeling of ‘flow’ as you run
  • lower injury rate due to proper mechanics
  • faster running times with less effort
  • a longer running career

So, the next time you go out for a run, focus on running with ease, with flow. Take deep breaths using your diaphragm muscles instead of pulling and pushing air in and out. Allow your spine to take the lead, the shoulder and pelvic girdles following along, the arms and legs along for the ride.

Enjoy your run. Run like a child. Run with ease.

Runners: Use your legs as shock absorbers.

Running Tip of the Week: Think of your legs as shock absorbers. As you land, use each body segment to dampen the impact of your body reconnecting with the earth. First the forefoot, then the heel, then the legs, with knees and hips bent and relaxed, all contribute to a ‘soft landing’.

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