To quote one of my favourite films “Maybe you're not doing it right, Roach”.
Modern life has left us with poor movement patterns, no one is excused the degenerative disorders that the first world brings. Now, running is not the movement pattern that they were referring to in Point Break but hopefully you get my gist.
Without trying to get bogged down in the doom and gloom of “first-world problems” we are going to assume that running, although a complex movement pattern, is a fundamental movement pattern that has kept us safely away from sabre tooth’s and angry parents for a long time. So why are we so bad at it and why does it hurt (between 65-79% of recreational runners getting injured depending on sources)?
Sweeping statements aside, have a think about each of the three pillars of running described here and try to highlight which area you could improve on, hand on heart I have not worked with a runner that cannot identify at least one area that they could improve on.
Runners run and lifters lift. We are a breed that loves a label and where a scientist focuses in on one aspect in extreme detail well that won’t work for our health, we are versatile machines designed for a variety of tasks. Get strong, you will be a much more robust runner able to handle what the road (or trail) throws at you. Now, we can be clever about what we start throwing around (and how) to build a strong runner, simply put we want exercises that build good structure and strength. Barbell front squats is my favourite because it forces good form, an upright posture and done right will improve your mobility (double the benefit). Any variation is also good, like goblet squat with kettle bell or a dumbbell. Add in some quality core work like quality planks of any flavour and you are on your way to a stronger more athletic run.
Mobility, I feel this pillar is one we all know about as runners, but we just don’t do it! Oh, no I’m not counting the one and half minute stretch you did after that 10K last week. We need a daily ‘floss’ something that is going to help maintain and build our suppleness. Maybe if I phrase it differently we can see why it will directly influence your run. Tight hamstrings, tight hips or tight calves? All these will limit the range of movement we have and over time that will have compound effect, imbalances will appear, and injuries will follow. This is one I neglected for years and now as I see the big 4-0 on the horizon am working hard to stay on top of because it only gets tougher. What to do? Hip openers, groin-ers, yoga, it all works but it needs to be a regular event.
Without good posture your nervous system is not able to fire the muscles in good order and that classic forward lean we see means the posterior chain is out of action and not engaged. Stand up lead with the navel, don’t reach forward and allow you legs to cycle underneath the body. No need to bust a gut and reach for that next stride, stretching out and over reaching will expel precious kinetic energy that you want to maintain in your leg cycle.
If the pro’s cross train to be the best, then we should follow suit and think about other aspects of health and movement that support good running form. Nail these three pillars and you will be on the path to a new agile and stronger runner.
Stay tuned for more posts from me, as we try and unpick what elastic energy is and how we can improve muscle elasticity to maintain our bounce and stay ‘child-like’ in our movements.