Sunday, November 15, 2009

Running Form

"Correct running form to improve running mechanics, increase running economy. Correct running form reduces injuries and is not only for competitive athletes but also for recreational runners."

Practice has been going well. My weekly total is around 45K and this week I'll reduce that to half in preparation for Sunday's 10K race. Looking for some ways to improve my running I had previously mentioned that I started my routine with a Dynamic Warm-up. Last week I had some free time on my hand and used it to do some more research on improving my form. I found that many running/ marathon coaches and experienced runners had a very similar advice on running form. To improve running form one has to pay attention to one's stride length. According to many articles, top runners averaged between 90 and 100 full strides per minute. A full stride being that one foot pushes off and lands again. Combine this with a well-balanced upper body so that the center of gravity is directly under the body. When the center of gravity is under the body then feet also land under the body which will remove the breaking action of a foot landing in front of the body. Shorter ground time in long distance running increases the air-time and thus a continuous forward motion.
 I have tried shortening my stride length and increasing the amount of strides last week with good results. Running feels easier and with less effort. My time for long runs has improved a little and tiredness is less than before. One thing with short strides is that the ankles need to be flexed quicker to prepare for the next step. Keeping my toes up almost continuously has given some strain on my lower leg so my calves and shins feel a little sore. This new step will take about a month to get used to according to running experts. This form of running is often referred to as the Kenyan running form and has proven to improve speed and economic running.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dynamic stretching

I used to do a 5-minute easy jog and a static warm-up before running. But somehow old injuries (and new ones) kept surfacing. As my weekly average is rising and long-runs are becoming longer I felt the need to look into the warm-up routine a little deeper. I researched the net and came across "dynamic stretching routines" with all kinds of positive effects and feedback by users. It appealed to me so went to construct my own dynamic warm-up routine by putting together elements from various sites and users. Have a look at this...
 
1. Easy Jog 5 to 10 min.
2. Toe Walks Walk 2 x 10 metres on your tiptoes with toes pointing straight ahead.
3. Heel Walks Same as Toe walk, but as high on your heels, as possible.
4. Lunge walks 2 x 20 metres then 2 x 20m sideways lunge walk
5. Skip Relaxed, swing the arms as you skip, and don't hurry. 20 metres forward, 20 metres backward, then do both again.
6. Relaxed sideways shuffle Legs don't cross - to left 30 metres then to right 30 metres.
7. Carioca Runs 2 X 30 meters sideways runs to the right 2 x 30m sideways run (carioca) to left
8. Fast skips and straight legs 2 X fast skip 10 meters.  10meters 2 X butt kicks
9. Ankle bounces 20 with push all coming from ankles. Do not go for height, keep relaxed, pull your toes up as you bounce (no pointing toes to ground).
10. Arm drives & accelerations (concentrate on running form & a good ballance of core stiffness & relaxation). Few vigorous arm drives then:- (Sprint race) 3 x bounds into s/o into sprint (total of 50 metres composed of 3 or 4 bounds then 20 metres s/o then 20 meters 20 metres full speed. Walk back slowly and repeat. Practise Starts - a few, if you can fit them in. (Distance race) 4 x 40m metres s/o into 20 metres fast (60 metres total) all the time concentrating on running form and relaxation.

I have applied this routine for little over a month now and am very satisfied with it. Especially the "butt-kicks" really help to warm-up and lube my knees.

I vary the length and amount according to the distance of my run. Also I try do do a proper dynamic warm-up routine before a long run, a high-paced run, and after recovery days. When warming up for a race, consider that on cold days the full effects and benefits of a dynamic warm-up can be lost in a few minutes when waiting in bare clothing.