Archive for the ‘long may you run’ Tag

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.

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Running is a spinal activity

One of the most important yet misunderstood concepts in running form is that running is a SPINAL activity. This misconception leads to running against, rather than with, natural biomechanics, locking the hips and shoulders, and moving forward like a brick with legs and arms. Unfortunately, this approach not only works against the body’s natural mechanics, it can set the stage for frustrating runs, pain and, ultimately, injury.

A great way to observe natural running form is to visit a soccer field on a Saturday morning and watch the 4- and 5-year-olds play. They run with ease, effortlessly, intensely focused on the ball, not thinking about their form or how hard it is to run. Watch their shoulder girdle and their pelvic girdle – do they move like a brick with legs? Of course not, they flow, practically glide across the field, using their entire bodies, with movement initiated from their spines, unimpeded by the rest of their body. Continue reading

The Four Essential Components of Running

Like most people, my first attempts at being ‘a runner’ were largely unsuccessful. “How hard could running be?” I thought. It took many years of trial and error to understand that to be a successful runner in the long run (bad pun, sorry), I have to be solid in four fundamental areas in order to enjoy sustained, quality runs.

1. Form first. Running is a repetitive motion activity, so form must come first. If your form is not good and you continue to run anyway, you are surely on the road to eventual pain and injury. Continue reading

Back in the saddle again…

After a few weeks off of running, I got up early this morning to run again, and I’m happy to say that all went very well. It was very satisfying to learn that I didn’t have to start over again, as I’d feared, but instead had a very pleasant run.

I remember a golf game years ago. Everyone else approached the game very competitively, but I hadn’t played in a very long time, and was in my years of having “a bad back”. So, my expectations were low and my swing quite non-aggressive. And I played one of the best games of my life. It is interesting to notice how trying too hard can sometimes interfere with performance. Continue reading

Runners: Don’t hurt the ground!

I’ve been fine-tuning my running form lately. As a yankee who lives in the deep south, summer is my off-season, a time to cut mileage, build strength and fine-tune my form. Each time I go out for a run, I’m focusing on one particular aspect of form. It’s not a well-planned thing, it just seems to come to me when I step out the door.

I’ve recently been working on my landing (I’d noticed that my left foot was landing too flat) and lifting my legs with both my hip flexors and my heel (I’ll describe this better in another post) and have been pleased with my progress. But I like to get to the point where I have some general image in my mind rather than a strictly mechanical, this-body-part-does-this approach. Continue reading

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