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4 Learn to Run
Although we are “born to run”, this doesn’t mean that we can lace-up and run a sub 2:04 marathon. Attempting this without any training or expertise will likely result in injury. Running, although natural, is in fact a skill. And like any other skill, it needs to be learned and practiced. The fact of the matter is that up to 80% of runners suffer a running related injury during any given year. This is due to two faults; the first will be dealt with in the next point, while the second is poor running technique.
There are many different styles of running and each one suits different a type of runner. Once you have a good understanding of the biomechanics of running, you can start to improve your own running technique. A style that has gained popularity, and one that I advocate, is the POSE technique. The goal is to utilize gravity to drive you forward instead of holding you down. This allows you to become a more efficient runner as less energy is needed to propel yourself forward. The reason I prefer the POSE technique is because is grasps the idea of the kinetic chain. The kinetic chain is a term used to describe the inter-segmental relationship between all parts of our body, no matter how unrelated they may seem. As a result, by changing the position of one body part, you ultimately affect the dynamics of all other body parts. Below are the two main cues that promote a POSE running technique:
1. Raise your center of gravity
In order to achieve this, you need to move your pelvis forward and raise it. An effective way to visualize this is to imagine you are wearing a travel pouch/bag on the front of your hips while you are running. The aim is to try and push your pelvis into the position of the bag. By doing this, you will raise your pelvis and promote a forward lean. This allows gravity to pull you forward.
2. Shorten your stride length
By shortening your stride length, you will inevitably increase your cadence. This will allow you to maintain a more fluent stride, and decrease your vertical oscillation (up and down movements). By doing this, you will save a lot of energy and thus achieve a more efficient running technique.
Since these cues have several consequences on other parts of the body, due to the workings of the kinetic chain, you will naturally adopt other beneficial biomechanical adaptations such as a more anterior foot strike pattern (which reduces the impact forces while running), and natural forward lean (which promotes efficient running).
5 Follow a Program
The number one cause of running injury is “doing too much too soon”. The body needs time to learn the skill of running and to adapt to the associated forces and impacts. By ramping up the mileage too quickly (which is very easy to do if not monitored), you run the risk of maladaptation.
The human body is incredible in the way that it can adapt to stresses such as the impacts associated with running, but not all the structures within the body adapt at the same rate. Muscles are very good at absorbing shock and can adapt to increased forces quite quickly. On the other hand, bones, tendons and ligaments have a much slower turnover rate meaning that they need a lot more time to become accustomed to the increased forces.
The general rule of thumb is to start off running for short periods of time at a slow to moderate pace. From there, you can start to increase your mileage by no more that 10% per week. This means that if you start off by running three miles a week, after two months of running you should not be running more than 6.5 miles a week. Another general rule to follow when starting out is to not run more than three times per week. This just allows your body time to adapt and recover from the sudden increase in forces experienced while running.
Although these “rules of thumb” give general guidelines, your body is the ultimate tool to measure what you should be doing. If you are following the guidelines when starting out, and you feel slight body aches or ‘niggles’, this is your body telling you to ease off. The body is incredibly sensitive to load and will therefore be a good indicator to determine whether you are doing too much too soon.
Another powerful tool to use in order to start running is the use of run-walk splits. Many novice runners try to get into the sport by attempting to run for 3 miles in one stretch. This is very unpleasant for someone who is not fit, or is not used to the forces involved in running. This ultimately leads to discomfort and reverting back to the comfort of the couch. The best strategy to adopt when starting out is to alternate running with walking. For example, you can set a goal of running for three minutes, followed by a two minute walk. You can then repeat this as many times as you need to in order to complete the run. From there, you can start to increase the time of running and decrease the time of walking. Before you realize, you will be running five miles with absolute ease and enjoyment.