7 Ways To Improve Your Running Performance (Part 1)
You’re excited to take up running. You’ve got a snazzy new pair of running shoes and your iTunes playlist all set to go. Congrats to you for beginning a great form of exercise that will certainly reduce stress, improve your overall health, and elevate your mood. But not so fast…Before you take your first step–from your mental state to your running form–certain running techniques can lead you to success while others can lead you down the wrong path. Let’s take a look at 7 of the most common mistakes that beginner runners make (and also some veteran runners as well).
1) Your shoes are not the right size
A common mistake among novice runners is that they forget to size up. You generally need a little more room than you think. If you start running and your feet hurt due to the fact that your shoes don’t fit properly, then you’re going to tend to not stick with the program that you’re literally just starting. When in doubt, check with a Physical Therapist or go to a running store for a properly fitted shoe to prevent injuries from occurring.
2) You try to run too far on Day 1
Start off slowly–no need to try and run 5 miles right from the get-go! If you’ve never tried running before, you probably won’t make it 3 miles on your first run. A good strategy is to alternate running and walking…say, 2-3 minutes of running followed by 2-3 minutes of walking. Remember…even when you’re walking you’re reaping the benefits of reducing your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, and quite possibly heart disease. In addition, if you shoot for smaller, more attainable goals you will be much more motivated to continue, rather than shooting for a longer distance and getting discouraged early on.
3) Your stride is too long
If your foot strikes the ground too far in front of your hips, then you’re over-striding, which is a fairly common tendency for beginner runners. The problem here is that with each step you add significant force up the leg. In the novice runner’s mind the thinking tends to be that they need to launch their feet as far forward as they can to maintain a steady pace. In actuality you get your power from your glutes/hip extensors, which means that taking shorter steps and landing under your center of mass will resolve the issue of over-striding. One specific research study determined that ideally you should be aiming for 85 strides per minute.
4) You look down at your feet
Many beginner runners have a tendency to stare at their feet because there is uncertainty with what their feet are doing. Ideally you want to set your sights on the horizon directly in front of you. Not only will this instill confidence and trust in your coordination, but it will also save excessive wear-and-tear on your neck muscles which can contribute to faulty postural habits.
5) You raise your knees up too high
This is a common occurrence when cyclists take up running. They are so used to their quadriceps being the dominant muscles that they tend to lift their knees up too far. As mentioned in 3) above, your power in running should be coming from your strong glutes and hip extensors. You should always aim to keep your knees at less than a 45 degree angle for optimal running form.
6) Your arms cross your midline of your body
This is most notably due to poor trunk stability. If this is the case, your trunk will be rotating more right-to-left which will, in turn, cause your arms to rotate more right-to-left as well. A strong trunk (and core, for that matter) brings balance and stability to your entire body. It also serves to protect your vital organs.
7) You are not breathing properly
There are two basic functions in our lives that we really take for granted, and don’t ever give them a second thought unless we need to be retrained due to, most notably, a tragic, catastrophic event (such as an accident or a stroke, for example)–and those two basic functions are walking and breathing. Both are extremely complex activities when you break down the individual sums of each part (meaning for walking, you have to focus individually on what the foot does, then the ankle, then the knee, then the hip, then the trunk, then the shoulders…and then you need to coordinate all of those functions together–not so easy!). Now with running, we know that breathing is extremely important, yet we usually pay little attention to doing it correctly. According to a particular research study, it was determined that coupled breathing (breathing in a certain rhythm as you run) helped to build running efficiency. In this study, participants took a breath every 2 steps…so it was 2 steps, inhale, 2 steps, exhale. The findings indicated that this particular type of breathing pattern enhanced airflow, and runners actually felt less tired than those runners who did not pay attention to their breathing.
So some considerations to think about when you’re getting ready to start a running program. And as always, if you or someone you know is having pain with running, don’t wait to take action. Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!