Today we want to address a question that has been brought up via the Couch to 5k group, and that is “How do I run?”
Most importantly, let us start by saying there is not one specific running style that is going to fit every single runner, guarantee the best performance, or promise pain-free running. However, in our work at NSS we have found a few common threads that have seemed to work for a majority of our clients over the years.
Let’s take a look at a few of them…
It is pretty well accepted that a mid-foot strike is going to be one of the best ways for runners of all shapes, sizes, and abilities to be efficient with their stride. The mid-foot is the area of your foot, generally speaking, from the ball of your foot to where the heel begins (arch).
The illustration above gives a good visual of the different types of foot strikes and will allow you to start to grasp the concept of a mid-foot strike versus a fore-foot or heel strike.
Benefits of the mid-foot strike include:
a reduction in landing force on the body
a decreased “braking” component (you actually decelerate forward momentum if you are landing on your heels)
most likely an increased running cadence (amount of foot contacts in a specific distance), which can be a way to increase speed
With that being said, we would like to give you 2 simple drills that will help you start to hone your specific running skills – yes, running is a skill!
The first drill (the video above) is going to be focused further up the chain (because everything is connected), around your glute muscles in the hip. These are extremely important in control and coordination of everything from the hip down the leg while running. Strength and efficiency of this area will do nothing but help your ability and running skill.
Think of this area as your “muscular motor”, where the energy is created, and then transferred down through the knee, ankle, and foot (your "wheels"), and ultimately applied to the ground.
This single-leg balance drill will work on stability around the hip, which will help to control knee and ankle movement, allowing you to perform the mid-foot strike run stride with greater ease and effectiveness.
The second drill (above) is concerned specifically with the foot strike mentioned above. In this drill you will be working on balance and stability (components of strength), along with placement of your foot to the ground.
So give these two drills a try, either as part of your warm-up, as a piece of your other strength training, or simply around the house when you have a few free moments.
A way to incorporate this during your runs is to take small periods of time, or distance, and really start to create the “mind to muscle” connection from the brain to the legs.
During these periods of skill practice, begin to consider what the hip's role is in concern to running stride and skill, as well as how the foot is landing.
Since it will be more difficult initially, don’t expect yourself to practice these skills the entire duration of a training run. Rather, practice by choosing a landmark up the road or give yourself 10-30 seconds, and then let your brain drift off somewhere else for a while.
This way you allow yourself focused and precise amounts of practice on technique and form. The other time spent not focused on the skill development is time for you to build up muscular endurance and aerobic capacity.