1. Hill Running Intervals #RunFormFriday

    June 21, 2014 by John Wood

    Some runners avoid hills because they can cause injury and they’re, well, difficult. It’s time to reconsider.

    Running uphill can become easier and more fun!

    Running uphill can become easier and more fun!

    In the course of a race or season, you are most likely to encounter a hill or two. Although some courses are completely flat, running hills in your training program will give you strength and boost power for better running performance on a flat or hilly course. It also gives you a perfect chance to work on your technique and ensure that you are as efficient, smooth and less injury prone.

    Firstly think about your run cadence – the speed your legs turn over at.

    We’ve most likely all felt it – as significant fatigue kicks in during a run, one of the first elements of form to slip is cadence (stride frequency, leg speed). If you’re running at 8min/mile for example, as your cadence decreases, you naturally increase your stride length to maintain the same 8min/mile pace, otherwise you slow down. Inevitably this leads to a runner over striding (stretching

    Find somewhere steep enough that you can do plenty of short repeats on

    Find somewhere steep enough that you can do plenty of short repeats on

    their legs out in front).

    Given that many runners over stride when ‘fresh’ this first break-down in running form that comes with fatigue is only going to exacerbate the problem.

    Cycling uphill in a high gear with a low cadence is much harder work (and less sustainable) than using a low gear at a high cadence… Try it! You will understand the importance of maintaining leg motion.

    When you run you can “shift gears” just like cycling, by shortening or lengthening your stride.

    More info on running cadence can be found here.

    Also, use your arms! Keep them parallel to the plane of motion instead of swinging them across the body. i.e. make sure that they drive backward and forward rather than rotating the body. Remember we want to keep the body’s momentum going in one direction.

    If the hill is steep, lean into it. Remember, hills are our friends! Keep your head up and core strong. Your glutes will be really key here, they won’t work if your backside is sticking out.

    The key to downhill running is to lean slightly into the downhill and allow gravity to assist you. Keep your head up. Keep your stride close to the ground. You don’t need to stride out in front, so think of flicking your heels up behind you to increase your cadence but without putting extra shock through your knees. The key is control! Try to stay as relaxed as possible, this will help with balance.

    A very important element of efficiently running uphill and downhill is the concept of even effort.

    Your goal when faced with a hill should be to expend only slightly more effort when running uphill than you would when running on a flat surface. Equally, you shouldn’t be expending very much less energy when running downhill.

    For most runners, this means learning to relax and take it easy when running uphill (rather than attacking). When running downhill, again go against the normal tendencies to hold back, and just let your self go.

    This approach allows you to reach the top of the hill feeling good, without excessive exertion. Then you can let the hill (gravity) work for you on the way downhill. This results in an even effort.

    See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

     

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  2. #RunFormFriday – Running Arm Swing: Efficient/Useful Technique

    May 30, 2014 by John Wood

    All too frequently, when focusing on running technique the main areas addressed are the biomechanics of the legs and feet, but what about the movements and use of the upper body and arms?

    In my coaching experience, there are huge gains to be made for an athlete when they learn to integrate correct arm and upper body mechanics into their technique.

    Its useful for individuals to strike a balance between:

    – Using the arms actively to maintain rhythm and to set a steady leg cadence
    – Generating power, balance and stability
    – Staying relaxed and smooth
    – Cutting out any excessive rotation through the torso by maintaining control of the arm swing
    – Being efficient in their movements for the given pace

    If you don’t believe how important your arm swing is, try this drill:

    1) Jog on the spot

    2) Keep your arms still by your side

    Notice how much harder it is to run/balance with your arms still.

    The added benefit of a stronger arm swing is that it adds elastic energy across your torso. With opposite arm moving with opposite leg, as they both come back you get a great store of elasticity in your muscles as your stretch from shoulder to hip. This helps give us free energy to “ping” them forward for the next stride.

    Your hands and fingers can still be nice and relaxed – no need to run like a track sprinter! They can just act as the pendulum weights on the ends of your forearms.

    See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

     

     

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  3. #RunFormFriday – Running Quietly

    May 16, 2014 by John Wood

    This isn’t about running with company and whether your running partner talks too much! Its all about putting less shock through your joints and legs.

    Why Do It:

    By putting less shock through your legs, you can run further, faster and easier. The main barrier to increasing volume or speed is soreness post training which can lead to more serious injury. If we can minimise the amount of force going through the legs, then we can work on moving faster.

    How To Do It:

    1. Land under your hips – if your feet land in front of your body (over stride) then you increase the amount of shock going through your joints. Not only do you incur the vertical impact (your weight pressing down) but you also add a horizontal component to the impact. It doesn’t matter if you are striking on your heel or your forefoot, you will still increase the shock going through your legs – and it will make the sound of your steps LOUDER! To work on this, concentrate on landing under your hips (doesn’t matter if heel/midfoot/toe strike) and pushing backwards.

    2. Keep your upper body smooth – the more that your body moves up and down, the more energy is being wasted and not travelling in a forward direction. There are two elements to this: push backward (rather than down) with your feet and take shorter, faster steps. By keeping your cadence higher (for the same speed), your torso won’t bounce up and down to the same degree, and the downward movement won’t encourage a higher impact on your feet (and therefore you will be quieter!)

    3. Maintain posture – the buzzword of the last few weeks within my blogs; and a key for life as a whole. By maintaining a series of straight lines through your body you are able to absorb shock more efficiently (rather than concentrating it in particular weak areas) and also use your strength more effectively. All this leads to being a quieter, smoother and more effective runner!

    Sound is wasted energy – those who remember anything from GCSE (or O-Level?!) physics will know that energy cannot be increased or lost, it is just changed from one form into another. As runners – as sports people full stop – we want to make sure that as much of the energy we expend becomes kinetic energy (driving us forward) rather than sound and heat which is a waste.

    See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

     

     

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  4. #RunFormFriday – Forward Lean

    May 9, 2014 by John Wood

    As with what we’ve done in the swimming, posture and core control is key to running efficiently, fast and importantly injury free. Most of us are aware of the need to work on our core – but very few know how to put it to any use.

    Why Do It:

    By keeping a straight back, from shoulders to hips – and on to your foot that is toeing off, you create a powerful kinetic chain that you can easily develop the strength in. By having a straight line running through your chain, everything works more effectively as well as being more balanced.

    How To Do It:

    1. Set your core. To do this, pull your belly button toward your spine, and squeeze your glutes – imagine you have that £50 note between your cheeks. This will help lengthen your spine, make you taller!

    2. Lean forward from your ankles.  A lot of people read about leaning forward and start to hinge at the waist.This then undoes all the work doing core strength.

    3. By leaning forwards from the ankle, your centre of gravity shifts forwards and give you that momentum. All that you need to do is lift your knees up then drive your feet down into the ground, you won’t require much energy to push yourself along.

    The Finer Points:

    Like any drill, this accentuates the form that we are after, so when you go to run “normally” afterward, you take the focus of it… So you won’t lean right forward when you run like they do in the video above, but you will gain the benefits of a stronger, straighter posture.

    In addition, by working well through your core and keeping your glutes, back and stomach muscles engaged, you will be more stable, minimising knee and hip movement and therefore lessening the chance of niggles.

    See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

     

     

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