This post focuses on tips & tricks for correct running technique. A couple of weeks ago, on a blog trip (a.k.a ‘excuse for a mini-holiday’) to the perma-sunny Quinta Do Lago, in Portugal’s Algarve, I indulged in some long, peaceful runs along the gorgeous sweeping beaches. I’ve always loved long distance running, and without sounding like a total hippie…I enjoy the sense of freedom, escape and relaxation it gives me. I recognise that it’s not everyones cup of tea – it can feel monotonous, and you may prefer Hight Intensity training as seen in my previous posts, to get in and get out, maximising effort in a focussed time-frame.
Admittedly, with the changes in intensity, an added advantage of the HIIT run is not only the time efficiency, but the burning of more calories in less time; the thermogenic effect allows the body to continue to toast fat even after the workout has finished. Unfortunately, if you go for a steady, plodding pace there is little increased metabolic benefit, and the body will return to its normal metabolic state at which it was operating prior to starting.
Regardless whether you prefer HIIT-sprints, long distance marathons, if you’re new to running or have been doing it for decades, I think that correct running technique is enormously important, and often overlooked as people think running is like breathing – “humans can just do it” (sorry Nike, no pun intended). Now, you may well be thinking ‘Oh Faya, what nonsense, surely the most important thing is just to get off your lazy bum and do some exercise’ – YES, but as with any sport, you’ll want to pursue the correct technique to a) avoid injury (e.g. foot pain, pulled muscles, shin-splint, runner’s knee etc) and b) maximise the benefits to your body. Of course we’re not all created identical, so there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ ‘one-size-fits-all’ running technique; but there are a few guidelines that I have always thought are worth thinking about.
1) FOREFOOT STRIKING
In running, it is the received wisdom that we should avoid ‘heel striking’ (which means that the heel of your foot is the first part to contact with the ground upon landing). The reason for this is that if you heel-strike it creates a large impact that sends a shockwave up through the body via the skeleton. Repeat x 10,000-impacts on any given run, and that puts your poor body under a lot of unnecessary stress :(. Instead ideally you’d want the the forefront of your foot to land first, as if you are touching-down and springing-off from the balls of your feet. This is because the collision of the forefoot with the ground generates far less impact, and shortens the time for which the foot is on the ground, helping to quicken your pace! The aim is that your run should feel soft, gentle and comfortable, and it tends to give the calves more of a toning workout too, I think. To encourage a forefoot-strike, take some time to focus on your posture, coordinate your arms and legs to control the pace, stride and then foot-strike. Hold the elbows at an angle of less-than 90 degrees whilst swinging your arms as close to your body as possible. Keep your torso upright, knees slightly bent.
2) GENERAL TIPS WHEN STARTING TO RUN:
a) SET THE PROGRAM – by having a realistic, planned program, you’re more likely to stick to it and achieve your goals. Avoid simply downloading something off the internet as it wont be tailored to your level, time constraints, and route tastes.
b) TAKE A COACH – If you feel unsure of technique, or are suffering pain after your runs, it may be worth investing in a professional running coach for a set of sessions to brush up on technique.
c) LOG IT IN – in your log book, you can record the distance, time and pace of every run. The main benefit is to ‘run smarter’, and see how you’re improving, or whether there’s actually no improvement at all! I find Strava to be a great app for this, and you can compete against friends or randoms, which makes it a bit more fun!
d) EAT RIGHT – A balanced diet (including all the food groups) – proteins (repair & build muscles & produce hormones), complex low-GI carbohydrates (to help the body produce glycogen – energy to the muscles), good fats (omegas 3, 6, and 9), vitamins & minerals – will enable you to draw on extra reserves and go further when you least expect it.
e) ZZZZZ – sleep is critical. Read about why from my previous post, HERE.
f) RECOVER – if you’re feeling absolutely shattered after every run, with aches and pains, chances are you’re overdoing it! Finding you’re out of breath and progress has plateaued could be a sign that you’re pushing your body beyond the it’s capability to recover. Best case you’re not gaining anywhere near the max benefit of your run; worst case you’ll sustain easily-avoided injuries…
g) GRADUALLY BUILD UP – this goes hand in hand with the previous tip. You [probably] won’t beat Bolt overnight, it’ll take time and dedication, but if you start now in 6 months you’ll look back and thank yourself for it
h) STOPWATCH – it may seem obvious but find out your current pace. Obviously, if you go hi-tech, just use Strava.
i) ALWAYS STRETCH IT OUT – before and after a workout! Another key way to condition the muscles and avoid injury! See my previous post on this HERE.
j) SEEK MOTIVATION – keep it challenging! Get friends involved and make it a social event. Follow athletes on Facebook. Tweet sprinters on twitter, and maybe even stalk the cast of 300 on instagram?!
Wearing: ZAGGORA outfit
Pants: Dynamic Atomica HotPants. They’ve got a super-comfortable adjustable Lycra waistband that lets you highlight or hide you tummy, plus a ventilation panel between the legs to keep them feeling fresh and cool. The fabric has a functional, oxygenating effect as well, and I really like the little detailing too – especially the waistband’s energetic printed ‘atomica design’ – it all looks very nuclear and explosive!
Jacket: The Hooded Body Blazer supposedly helps you burn more calories. They’ve got a ‘ThermoFit Technology’ which keeps the bust cool, whilst emphasizing the burn elsewhere. I think that if you want to target your upper body but not your chest, this sports jacket is a great way to nuance that. The fabric technology targets the hips, tummy, and arms, while the bust is covered by special cooling jersey instead. It’s also perfect for outdoor exercise, with a waterproof, reflective hood, built-in key loops, and a see-through phone pocket so you can adjust your running tunes.
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