Proper running technique adds efficiency, prevents injury
Fit to be Tried
Editorand#8217;s note: This is the fourth installment in a series about training for the upcoming XTERRA Nevada triathlon, switching focus from cycling to running.
XTERRA Nevada is right around the corner, and trail running is next on our training agenda. The simple secret to running success is injury prevention and efficiency.
The cornerstones of injury prevention are proper technique, a gradual increase in training volume, soft running surfaces and running supportive extra-curriculums, such as challenging core workouts and regular yoga and Pilates practices.
Running technique is enjoying a rebirth. The once in-front-of-the-body, heal-toe technique is giving way to a midstrike under the body, and a push-with-purpose-and-pop, through-the ball-of-the-foot technique.
The new technique replaces a pull with the relatively weak hip flexor with a strong push with the powerful glute to create the stride. The old style created significant impact on the body and#8212; and it forced the runner to overcome a breaking motion (foot in front of the body) and work to get the body back on top of foot and then propel forward. In viewing from the side, the runner was wasting energy with an up and down, rather than strictly forward, movement.
The new technique relies on a forward shin angle, using gravity as free energy to place the runner in one forward motion to the next forward motion. The new running style also advocates a quicker cadence of 90 strikes per foot per minute and#8212; less time in the air, less time on the ground. Think of your running as a game of efficiency and make every movement count forward.
Regularly incorporating running-specific, movement-preparation exercises and dynamic stretches into the running routine will improve propioception and#8212; and specifically the ability to fire and train the gluteus to be the prime mover. Running drills will train and reinforce proper posture, form, rhythm and timing.
A gradual increase in running volume is another key to injury prevention and progression. Initially, build an endurance base, and work on solid posture and proper technique. During this time, build volume over three-week blocks, adding 10 percent training time to each successive week, with the fourth week dedicated to recovery and a volume reduction. This gradual systematic increase continues as the runner moves into the preparatory and peak training periods with the inclusion of intensity in the form of speed skills, specific strength and intervals.
Running on soft surfaces, such as dirt trails, grass fields and tracks, will also safeguard against injuries, and provide additional benefits. The demands of uneven surfaces that accompany trail running will improve body awareness, agility, balance and core strength. Using grass fields to gradually incorporate barefoot running into your routine is an excellent way to learn and reinforce the new running technique. Tracks are fantastic venues to perform running-specific drills and speed work.
Finally, rounding out your weekly routine with workouts that improve strength, flexibility and body awareness will also act as a safety net against the pitfalls of injuries. For example, perform a core workout three times per week, in a circuit of three sets of 10 to 25 reps that includes one abdominal, oblique, hip, shoulder and back exercise. Continue to build core strength by challenging yourself and changing the exercises, adding sets and/or reps, or resistance. Practicing yoga and Pilates twice a week, ideally on rest days, will complement your running.
Whether you are an XTERRA 5K racer or ultra 50-miler, a structured, diversified, quality workout plan equals improvement. Each workout must be tackled with purpose, understanding and intention in order to maximize training time. Stay tuned for next weekand#8217;s column, which outlines a sample weekly training schedule.
and#8212; Julie Young is a Truckee resident and owner of o2fitness. She is a former U.S. National Team member and pro cyclist who currently competes in triathlons and trail runs. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.