Tips for comfortable running…

By Neil Price, registered osteopath.

The leaves are turning and some of you may be taking advantage of the cooler weather to take to the parks and trails again. Here are some tips for you if you are looking to improve your running technique:


Head, neck and shoulders

The position of the head and shoulders dictates how the rest of the body is carried.  Hunched shoulders and a forward head position will drag you down and make you feel heavy. Try relaxing  your tongue and jaw, followed by your neck and shoulders. Allow your arms to drop away from your shoulders slightly. Your head should be evenly balanced on top of your neck.


Arms

The arms play an important role in counteracting the rotation forces coming up from below and they also help you drive more economically with each toe-off. They also control the speed of your legs so if you pump the arms faster you will naturally stride more quickly. If you keep getting out of breath, slow your arms and your legs should follow.

Elbows should be held at about 90 degrees, hands and wrists relaxed with palms roughly facing each other. As you run, your hands should come forward to about shoulder height (still with elbows at 90 degrees) and should not cross the midline. Try it – if your body twists too much you will lose power.


Hips and legs

Imagine bringing your hips high and forward as you run (like you are stepping over a small log) and do not try to take too long a stride. Landing with your foot too far in front of you acts like a brake (and also means higher forces travelling through your legs).

As your foot lands, try to grip the ground with the sole of your foot and pull it past you by using the backs of your legs. Think lighter, faster strides like you are running on eggshells rather than big heavy bounds.


Running Style

There is currently a very healthy (and sometimes heated) debate over the merits of landing on your heels versus landing on your forefoot or midfoot. Each side has it’s own advocates and can cite experienced and educated professionals to back up their view. The reality is that there is simply not yet enough data to make strong judgements either way.

The consistent advice from nearly everybody, however, is to be very careful about suddenly changing your running style. You cannot easily change from years of walking and running in heavily cushioned shoes into super-lightweight racing flats without a very gradual and incremental training regime. Some authors have suggested that it takes 9 or 12 months to safely achieve such a change. Even then you may not manage it.


Finally …

If in doubt, start slow, remember the 10% rule (increase any training stimulus by a maximum of 10% per week) and seek advice from your friendly local osteopath.