Love it or hate it, running appears in much of our regular exercise regimes.
Be it short and sharp (in a WOD), fast and explosive (in sports) or even long and arduous (training for an endurance event) we can’t deny that being more efficient at running will not only improve performance and reduce the risk of injuries but also make it a hell of a lot more enjoyable.
We appreciate that the topic of running has certainly had its fair share of blog posts, articles and even videos posted online on how to be better at it…but here are some of our favourite running hacks:
1) Get your upper back on the foam roller!
This simple trick makes a world of difference to your running…especially if you sit hunched over a desk all day. The upper back forms the top part of your kinetic chain in which your limbs attach to. When tight, it will prevent your ability to keep an upright chest as you run and also restrict efficient arm swinging. Often, this leads to overcompensation by way of excessive rotation at the lower back and pelvis which ultimately means your legs do not have a good stable to work off leading to inefficient biomechanics and a lot of wasted energy.
2) Single leg work
We all know that strong legs make us better runners. We also know that at any one time in the running gait cycle, we are on one leg…so why not train to become stronger and more stable in that position?
Strength training in positions that mimic the action of running has several advantages:
a) It challenges proprioception and balance –this teaches the body to respond quickly to varied surfaces and conditions you may run in
b) It highlights any imbalances between your left and right sides to ensure you specifically address any weaknesses you may have.
c) It also strengthens the stabilisers as you practice and reinforce good pelvic and knee alignment while performing these exercises. This will carryover into good running form and reduce any uneven loading through joints because of poor leg alignment.
Try Russian Step ups, Reverse lunges, Single leg squats
Ok so it’s nothing new but definitely worth reiterating. To be a good runner, you need a good core. To be a great runner, you need a great core! Ever heard the saying that you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe? This little analogy basically tells us that we can’t have strength without stability. You might put in some quality time into strengthening your legs but without a good platform to push/pull from, your legs are basically just coming along for the ride. They won’t be functioning optimally and you will miss out on the potential speed and power that the legs can offer. Again, strengthening the core with specific exercises that mimic the actions of running will have better carryover. Core exercises such as the Dead Bug teaches the body to keep a stable trunk while the arms and legs move…exactly what you need when you run!
4) Mobilising with Movement
Balls, foam rollers and the sceptre are all great little must-haves in your mobility kit. We use these to iron out tight muscles or knots and generally feel better after enduring the pain of lying on these gadgets. But what if we tell you that you can make this even more effective?
Lets take the classic “ITB Rolling” to free up the knee. We have traditionally rolled up and down to release this band of fascia on the side of the thigh, sometimes even stacking both legs on to get maximal effect. Some of you might not even find it hurts anymore. Let try this little modification instead:
From your ITB rolling position, roll ever so slightly towards the front so that you are on your vastus lateralis (outside quad muscle), start rolling….when you find a tight or tender spot, hold pressure on this as you bend and straighten you knee. Yes that’s right. Move the knee....because afterall, this is what you leg is doing as you run! It has been researched that the vastus lateralis, when tight, can compress on the fatpad at the side of the knee where there are little nerve endings. This can cause pain everytime you contract you quads!
Other areas you can try that are specific to running:
a) The calves- just pump your ankles up and down while you have a foam roller or ball over any tight spots.
b) The TFL - flex and extend your hip as you maintain pressure over the muscle using the sceptre or a ball
5) Adjusting your stride
We logically think that if we take bigger steps or stride out that we will go faster. This in fact does the opposite as landing with our feet out in from of our centre of mass actually acts as a “brake” with every step…thus reducing our efficiency. Landing with the foot directly under our body ensures that we absorb shock safely without jarring our joints and also begin the push off phase of the running gait cycle as soon as we have landed. There are many drills that help with developing this technique and spending some time practicing these help the brain develop good movement patters that have effective carryover into the running action itself.
A good drill to practice this technique is to run with a skipping rope. It is very difficult to overstride!
If you have any niggles or issues with your running or you simply want to run better, faster or for longer, why not book in for an initial assessment with one of our physiotherapists. We can certainly go through a thorough biomechanical assessment to see if there are any areas that are lacking or letting down the kinetic chain.
Jac comes from an experienced background in Physio over many years working in London and Melbourne through private practice. She has a wicked eye for Analyzing Movement and Biomechanics. Jac Currently works out of our South Yarra clinic at GW Performance on Mondays and Thursday, Kew Tuesday. Bookings with Jac can be made here