Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Importance of Running Well

Is it more important to run well or run more?  When you show up to a half or full marathons there are many recreational runners out there who have trained to just finish. They will sludge through the event, shuffling their feet so they can cross the finish line.  The achievement of finishing an endurance event can be exhilarating but the damages it can have on a body can be debilitating.  66% of runners get injured. Why is this stat so high?  My opinion is that many people rush into running more and cause overuse problems that can hinder their overall performance.  

Notice the different techniques of these recreational runners.
As volume is an important component to the endurance world, we should not rush into more mileage. I say, get better at running.  Be smart with your training and don’t let volume be the only aspect you are focusing on.  Running well is the way to go. Focusing on improving your form, efficiency and economy are going to keep you running longer.  Look at these big marathons; you get thousands of people out there. You can see some horrific running technique.  Sloppy reps performed over and over creates bad behaviors, which in running will eventually cause injury.  That is why dialing in your technique is critical; it might be the most important component to an injury free program.  Here are simple tips that are very important to add to your training to create a more intellectual approach: 

Elite runners with efficient form and very similar styles.

Recreational runners shuffling their feet.

1.     Running drills: Take a 7-year-old soccer team.  Would it be smart to just put them on the playing field and say, “Play”?  Drills will be the main aspect these young kids ingrain in their skill set to become better at soccer.  It goes for running as well.  It’s poor thinking to just go out and run without attention to proper technique.  Running with sloppy form will eventually put you on the sideline because injury is destined to happen.  Running specific drills are needed (see video).  Performed consistently throughout the week, these drills will aid in improving your overall running performance.     

2.     Learn to run well first: don’t rush into running long.  This is a mistake I see many endurance athletes make.  They want to rush into a marathon training program without running a handful of 5k’s and 10k’s.  And in all actuality, this is a problem.  As I am all for setting ambitious goals, it’s imperative to be smart with the build up.  Get better at running shorter distances with good form first.  Go see if you can run with perfect technique for 10 seconds, walk for a bit and then repeat. Add some speed to the 10 second intervals to promote good running form and get good at this first before moving to longer durations.  Progress to 20 seconds, 30 seconds and so on.  Before you know it you will be running with great technique over longer durations. 

3.     Build your kinetic chain.  This might be my first priority when setting up a program for an endurance athlete.  If the kinetic chain has leaks and movement dysfunctions, running will just cause more harm than good.  But yet, many endurance athletes skip this component in their program.  Building the “chain” does not mean going to the gym and performing bicep curls and leg presses.  Implementing the “inside-out” approach is imperative to strengthening the body in a systematic way.  We need strong stabilizers in our hips, ankles and shoulders, adequate range of motion to move efficiently, a stable inner core to protect our spine and durable connective tissue to enable us to accept the demands of training loads.  For more details on a proper strength program, check out my article I wrote for here:   

Our body is connected from head to toe.  We are not isolated muscles, we are one chain.  This is how we should train.  

4.     Be patient.  Endurance for any sport takes time.  Years, in fact, to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance.  So don’t expect to be running marathons your first year in the sport.  If you are patient and allow ample time to build technique, endurance, speed and strength, you will become a better runner.  Running is a lifestyle so allow yourself to be progressive and you will increase your longevity in the sport. 

5.     It’s ok to run fast.  You must know your level of course but running fast promotes good running technique.  Slow, methodical jogging forces bad patterns.  Running uphill or at a faster speed will force good form and will utilize the correct muscles.  Here is a simple way to periodize intervals into your training program:
                        (Remember to always go at your own level and modify the sets and                                                 repetitions accordingly.)
                        Week 1
                        5x200's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 2
                        7x200's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 3
                        9x200's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 4
                        No intervals, light running for recovery
                        Week 5
                        4x400's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 6
                        6x400's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 7
                        7x400's at 5k goal race pace, jog 200 for recovery
                        Week 8
                        No intervals, light running for recovery

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