The Athletes Guide: Running Technique (1/4)

When you’ve finally made the decision to do an Ironman you can get started with training. If you’re just like me you know that an Ironman consist of a swim, bike and a run, at that point your information stops and you have no clue how to actually swim,  bike and run.

Don’t worry, in the next episodes of The Athletes Guide I will explain the proper technique for all of the 3 sports. Starting today with the run. Since it’s spring and lots of people blow the dust of their running schoes to get started with their first run of the year, i figured that starting with the proper running technique would be the most helpful for all of you, especially since I see a lot of people running their way to injury! This will be the first part of the 5 articles (Upperbody,  Lower Body/Foot Landing, Rhythm and Handling Hills) that I will write about running technique, starting today with:

The Upperbody

When it comes down to running, most people assume that it just involves your legs and feet to move to get you from one place to the other. Ofcourse it’s true in some way that the lower body does most of the effort, however if you do not know how to handle your upperbody then you will eventually go slower, while delivering much more effort. Underneath I will explain the most common running errors that runners make and explain what is wrong and how to fix it.

Swinging your arms from side-to-side
Some runners move their arms from side-to-side when running. If you do this then you’re making running way harder then it needs to be. The objective of running is to have you move forward, in order to do that in the most energy efficient way your total body has to make movements that consist out of forward-backward movements. When you move your arms from side-to-side you are wasting energy that your body needs to move forward, therefore making it harder then it  needs to be.
Fix: Imagine a Nordic walker, you know, those people who have two sticks in their hands when they walk, like they are skiing. Now imagine that you have the same 2 sticks in your hands while you’re running, you’re not going to let those sticks go from side to side are you? that would be way impractical and you would trip! Nordic Walkers use those sticks to have a good technique, you can use your imaginary walking sticks to improve your technique as well.

 Leaning forward from the waist
Another common mistake made is that runners lean from the waist instead of leaning the whole body slightly forward in a straight line, from their ankle to their shoulders. When you lean forward from the waist it looks like you are going to fall, this position not only causes for a very tight lower back and difficulty with breathing but because you’re moving your centre of gravity forward you get pulled to the ground, making it that much harder to run. There is one proper way of running: a slighty forward position from the ankles to the shoulders .
Fix: Imagine that you have 2 strings attached to your body: 1 on your head which pulls you up like a puppet and another one on your chest which pulls you forward, now start running and keep those strings in mind. These imaginary string will have you hold a more upright position stopping you from leaning from your waist.

Tightening their muscles
With this I mean: squeezing your hands and tightening their face/shoulder muscles. When you run the mucles in your upperbody shouldn’t be tightened anymore then needed, when you start running they will tighten as much as needed and that will be it, don’t force your muscles to tighten even further, this means don’t make weird faces and don’t pull your shoulders up to the point where your neck has dissapeared, it’s just unnecessary . This will result in all kinds of muscle pains which will leave you in pain during and after running, which is not something you are looking to achieve.
Fix: When it comes down to making your hands into a fist and squeezing them at hard as you can, try this: imagine you are holding a piece of paper between your thumb and your indexfinger, hold it very loosely and don’t squeeze it. When we look at the shoulder and face muscles there is really only one solution: RELAX! What I sometimes do when I feel that my shoulder/neck muscles are tightened: I jump around and imagine that I do  not have any bones in my arms/shoulders/neck and just let my arms jump around, this instantly makes those muscles more relaxed and it always works for me. This is an on-the-spot solution for a little amount of tension, if you’re having serious troubles you can either do stretches, have a massage or get physiotherapy if things aren’t getting any better.

Tilting their head
Some runners tilt their head forward, backward or from side to side while running, this is not proper running form and, again, causes your body to waste energy that it needs for running.
Fix: Just like “Leaning from the waist”, imagine there is a string at the top of your head pulling your head up, this will force you to lift your head up. Try to look 20 metres in front of you instead of looking down at your feet, that will also cause you to lift your head up and avoid it from tilting.

Upper Body Allignment

Overall you head, shoulder, hips and ankles should all be ligned up. Basically there has to be an imaginary straight line from you ankles to you head, which does not bend at your hips, shoulders or head. This imaginary line should be slightly leaned forward, causing your total body to lean forward, so still not bending from the waist! Take a look at this guys upper body allignment to see what I mean.

Running form


Overall it is important to swing your arms from the front to the back, lean your total body forward instead of bending at the waist causing you to look like you’re about to fall, relax the muscles in you upper body and hold you head in line with you shoulders, hips and ankles, not causing it to swing or tilt in any direction. If you do all this then there won’t be anything wrong with you upper body running technique which should cause you to have a more relaxed, easier and more enjoyable run.
Next time I will discuss the motor of the running movement: The Lower Body!

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