Continuing from last week’s post, we’ll talk about arm movement, foot placement and stride length
The degree of arm movement depends on the speed you go at.
Efficient arm movement will give you additional momentum. Actively push your elbow back, as running is a contralateral activity the other arm will naturally move forward. This movement should come through the shoulders. The backwards push creates forward momentum.
Make sure that your elbows are close to your body and at about a 90 degrees angle. Try and stay relaxed and keep your hands in a lose fist.
You may have heard that forefoot or midfoot running may be more efficient than heel striking and that heel striking may cause more injuries and therefore everyone should stop heel striking.
Firstly, the faster you’re running the closer you may be to striking the ground with your forefoot first, hence the slower you run the more likely you are to heel strike. So to a degree your foot placement depends on your running pace.
One safe rule to go by is that if you don’t suffer from regular hip, knee or low back problems and run fairly painfree, yet you heelstrike there is no real need to change the way you run.
In fact switching to a mid/forefoot strike may create more problems, like tight calves and Achilles issues.
If it is deemed necessary for you to change the way your foot strikes the ground, this should be done very gradually, you have to retrain movement patterns and strengthen the foot and calf musculature gradually, literally a couple of minutes at a time.
More importantly which part of your foot strikes the ground is where your foot lands in relation to your body/centre of gravity.
The further forward from your body that you strike the ground, the more forces and stress is translated through your ankle/knee and hip joints etc. Furthermore you are actually running with the breaks on, every step you take, you slow yourself down.
To improve pace: longer stride or more strides?
There are two ways to improve your pace and run faster. What is the more efficient and least stressful way for your body to get faster?
You will most likely increase your stride length by lifting your legs higher and travelling off the ground for longer. However a longer stride should not lead to overstriding as this will add a lot more stress to your joints.
An ideal cadence (time both feet strike the ground in a minute) is between 170-180. By increasing your stride rate you will run faster without the risk of adding more pressure on your joints.
Foot movement when striking the ground
As part of the foots natural movement on the ground, you should hit the ground with more pressure on the outside of the foot, as you move the foot forward on the ground to push off, you ankle will naturally turn inwards, this is also called pronation.
Pronation is NORMAL, it allows the ankle to act like a spring. Overpronantion means that your ankle is turning inwards too far and you lose the advantage of the spring and the movement will put strain on other structures above it in the chain—knee and hip.
As you push off the ground from the front of your foot, if you’re in neutral pronantion (neither too much or too little) you will push off all toes with an emphasis on your big toe and the 2nd toe.
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