Running is such a natural human movement, but for so many of us it's not as natural as it should be. Truth is, 8 out of 10 runners have some issues (some big, some small) in their running stride, that are ultimately impacting the effectiveness of their running endeavours.
Why does this matter? Well if you fit into this statistic, and it's good odds you do, the first problem you're facing is an efficiency gap. Improper running form has a direct impact on how much effort it takes you to cover ground. The more ground you're covering, the more effort you're spending. Space this out over a marathon, and you my friend are working way harder than the guy beside you that has a more efficient stride.........oh, and just to add a bit of salt to the wound, he's probably not running beside you, he's likely in front of you.......just sayin'
The concept of "efficiency" is basically working smarter, not harder. For some people that have less than awesome form, they've consciously, or perhaps unconsciously figured out how to work around a known or unknown issue. But in reality, it's masking a problem that if corrected could have a major benefit.
The other challenge that comes up when your running posture is off, is the likelihood of injury skyrockets. Even the slightest imbalance can manifest into a recurring issue, nagging pain, or a running injury that can take you to the sidelines and crush your goals.
You can blame your parents for bad genetics, and you can also blame your couch and chair at the office for forcing you into a horrible posture. While we're at it, blame your iPhone as well, for all time it's hunched you over and sucked your attention into Candy Crush. A dramatic point, but we spend a lot of time every day with poor posture. In fact, how's your posture right now? Enough said. So why would we think that as soon as we lace up our runners we become biomechanically perfect? Odds are slim.
The good news is that if you can focus on even a few key components of your stride, you can make some dramatic improvements. If I had to pick 3 things for you to work on TALL, FALL, & TUCK would be where I would steer your efforts. Let me explain:
How tall are you? Say the number out loud. Now add 6 inches and say it again. Congratulations you're now a tall, lean running machine. Lock this visual into your mind and run like it's reality. It's a simple way to get your running form off to a good start.
Most of us slouch a lot, and when you take this lazy posture into your run it's a bad combination. You want to be tall, chest out and confident in how you carry yourself when running. It's common to see people sitting low and almost hunched over when running, which puts added stress on your quads and hip flexors.
I'm a visual teacher, and two things I tell my athletes to visualize with being tall is, first to imagine that you're at the beach and your running past a bunch of attractive girls or guys.......(pick your poison). How would you run? Tall, chest out, and confident?.......yes you would. Think about this everytime you run and it will help. The second visual I often suggest is that you're a general in the army inspecting your troops. You have your hands clasped behind your back and you're walking the line, tall, confident and even a bit on the cocky side..........replicate this in your run and you will feel the difference.
Last tip here is to practice this beyond just your run. Remind yourself throughout the day to stand up tall, get your chest out and quit slouching. I try and sit on the edge of my seat when I'm in the office and avoid flopping into the back rest like a limp noodle.
Try sitting on a stool the next time you watch your favourite TV show and see how long you can sit up straight. It will surprise you how quickly your posture goes out the window. Bet you can't make the first commercial.
The second component to an effective running stride is the concept of falling forward. You want to lean at your ankles when you run and create a sensation that you're falling. Try to imagine that if time was to stand still and you would be forced to stop running mid-stride, you would fall flat on your face. You want to get gravity working for you, which ultimately boosts your efficiency. If you're doing it right, you will feel like you have to keep moving forward in order to stay upright.
It sounds easy, but for a lot of people, the tendency is to stand too straight up and down, which forces you to work harder and typically promotes a heel strike, which is the last thing you want happening as it's a major source of injury and also creates a breaking effect with every step.
A good way to get this sensation is to have your coach or training partner hold you up with a strap around your chest. Lean into it and start to run from this position. It will feel foreign at first if you're not used to it, but it will help you to understand the feeling you're going for.
The last component to a great stride is the "tuck". We want to keep our pelvis in neutral alignment when running, however, it's very common to run as if your "sitting in the bucket". Also referred to as sitting on the hips. This happens when the pelvis tilts forward and the hips push back. This posture reduces the power of the hip extensors, stresses the lower back, and shortens your stride. This posture is responsible for a lot of runners’ back and hip problems and is very common.
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time is a huge contributor to the problem, so try your best to stand up as often as you can at work. Focus on building both hip and core strength and you will see the benefits transfer over to your run in no time.
Not sure if your stride is as effective as it should be? Check out this video stride assessment service, which could have a major impact on your run! https://www.legacyendurance.com/video-stride-analysis
Have you got your copy of Soul Runner? If you need an impactful story and some running motivation I would love it if you picked up a copy of my my book.