How to Improve Your Running Form


Avoid injury and run faster with these tips

Injuries while running will undoubtedly slow you down. If you are serious about running, you probably already take steps to prevent injury. After all, you do not want to become one of the 37 to 56 percent of runners who incur sport-related injuries annually. But did you know that concentrating on technicalities such as running form can help to not only avoid injury but good form can also make the difference between being a winner and a runner-up in a race! By practicing technique, you can be faster and more efficient. So in the spirit of helping you propel forward, here are some ways you can improve your form while avoiding common running mistakes.

Your Foot Strike

Numerous coaches suggest that heel-striking is the primary cause of running injuries, but landing on your heel is not the end of the world. The bigger issue is landing on a straight leg in front of your body, which means you are pushing into the force of the road which can slow impact on your forward motion.

Many amateurs tend to over-stride in order to take a longer stride, which can lead to serious injuries. This is the form of heel-smashing, aggressive foot strike that should be avoided because it sends impact shock through the leg.

In all actuality, it does not make so much of a difference where you land on your foot with each step – many professional runners are heel-strikers. Instead, it is more important where your foot lands in connection to the rest of your body rather than which part of your foot hits the ground first. So rather than focusing on whether you land on your forefoot or heel, allow your body to dictate which part of your foot is best to land on, based on your speed and genetics.

Keep Your Feet Underneath Your Body

Keep your feet directly under your center of mass rather than taking massive strides. Taking larger strides not only burns unnecessary energy but it also can lead to the aforementioned hard heel-striking, which can add extra pressure on your knees and hips.

Cadence

The number of steps you take in a minute, also called cadence, impacts your form. If you are doing too many, your stride may be short or if you run too few, you may be bounding. The rule of thumb was around 180 steps per minute for proper body economics, but this does not always apply. Rather adjust your cadence based on your level of running. If you are a slower runner, strive for 165 steps per minute and if you are faster, aim for 170 steps per minute.

Keep Your Back Tall

Many runners tend to lean forward from your waist. Although a slight forward lean is part of good running form, it should not come from the waist but instead the ankles. A subtle forward lean will happen naturally from the lower legs so do not deliberately try to lean forward. Instead concentrate on keeping your back tall with a straight posture.

Reduce Arm Sway

Arms move naturally with your legs in most cases.. Your arms should not be swinging back and forth at your midline, nor far out in front of your body.

Six Things You Should Do on Race Day

Remember these tips whether you are running a 5k, 10k, or a marathon.

There are a number of things you should do on race day, from what time you get up to taking other adequate measures to ensure that you finish the race. Here are some of the most important things you should do on the day of your next (or first) big race.

Wake Up Plenty of Time Before the Race Begins

Even if waking up at the crack of dawn pains you deeply, you should do what you can to avoid waking up too close to the starting time of a race. Rushing around the morning of race day is a surefire way to burn unnecessary energy that you could use for the race. Give yourself ample amounts of time to grab something to eat and drink and to get dressed before you have to jump in the car to drive to the start. You will also want to allow time for going to the bathroom, warming up and stretching while mentally preparing yourself before it is time to begin.

Fuel Up

As mentioned before, eating breakfast is an essential component of a good start to race day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day any day of the week but especially on race day. Chances are if you haven’t eaten for 9 to 12 hours, your blood glucose is probably low. Races challenge your fuel reserves (especially if they are longer) so fueling up before a race is important. Head to the starting line as full of carbohydrates and protein!

Don’t Wear New Shoes or Gear

Show up at the race with familiar shoes and gear. Those that you have put miles in are going to be the most comfortable. Never show up to race day in brand new shoes, even if they are the same kind of shoes you have been wearing for miles and miles. Race day is not the day to break those shoes in unless you want loads of blisters.

Also avoid wearing anything else new, such as spandex, underwear, sports bra, shirt, shorts, or socks. Wear clothes and gear that you have previously worn so you know you will be comfortable.

Pass on the Cotton

Don’t wear cotton clothes. Cotton is cheap but is also not very breathable, meaning it holds your sweat in rather than enabling it to evaporate. Opt for lightweight fabrics that do not stick to your skin.

Hydrate Frequently

Hydration is vital when running because water is involved in the chemical reactions necessary for your muscles to contract. Water also helps oxygen get to your muscles through blood. If your body weight drops over 2 to 3 percent during a race due to fluid loss, your pace will slow significantly. Drink early and often during the race, unless you are running a shorter race like a 5k.

Focus on Performance Rather than Time

Many runners head into a race thinking about a time they want to run. Surprisingly, many end up running slower than they want to. Rather than putting all your eggs in the time basket, focus more on your performance rather than the outcome. By focusing on your performance, you have a better chance of getting the outcome you desire.

Increase Your Speed with These Sprint Workouts

And how to increase your sprint speed, too!

If you want to be a fast runner, you have to run fast. If you want to improve your running speed for race day, incorporating spring workouts is an excellent way to accomplish just that.

According to John Honerkamp, running coach and former coach at New York Road Runners, “Any running that is faster than your current or easy conversational pace can be classified as speedwork.” This includes exercises including track repeats, striders, tempo runs, and running at goal race pace.

But sprint workouts are equally as important as they help you to improve your efficiency at all paces as well as your form. Sprints help to recruit and develop what is known as fast-twitch muscle fiber as well as increase the heart rate and calorie burn, all while building muscle. By drawing on these effects, you will see faster results over time that helps you to beat your own PR. Speed work also forces you to change your stride, effort, and breath, which causes your body to get better at supplying oxygen to your muscles more efficiently.

Strive to do one to two days a week of speed work and you will see massive benefits – especially if you are just getting started. Try one of these workouts to pick up the pace!

Beginner Workout

Start with striders or short bursts of speed. Speed work is a lot of stress and striders are little bits of it so your body doesn’t freak out. This is perfect for newbies because diving in too quickly and doing too much can increase your risk of injury.

Start out by running 30 to 45 minutes at a pace that is easy for you. It should be around a 4 or 5 of 10 on your own scale of perceived exertion. Wrap up with 4 to 6 20-second striders at max effort, mixing in 30-45-second interval jogs in between for recovery. This is best if done on a flat road or track.

Advanced Workout

This is a more intense workout with shorter recoveries. This workout amps up to faster paces toward the end.

Begin with a 1-mile warmup. Run eight 600 meters at 5k goal pace, squeezing in 200-meter recovery jogs in between. Then run four 200 meters at 1-mile pace, with 200-meter recovery jobs in between. Wrap up the workout with a 1-mile cooldown.

How to Increase Your Sprint Speed

Here are some tips to increase your sprint speed even further.

  1. Use proper posture. Try to keep from swinging your arms from side to side and do not slouch.
  2. Increase your stride length (the fewer steps you take, the faster you will be). Try to drive your legs back while running to lengthen your stride.
  3. Decreasing your body fat can also impact your ability to run faster. Eat right and fuel your body with healthy food.
  4. Strengthen your hip flexors by sprinting hills and working on weighted spread eagle sit-ups, mountain climbers with bands and leg raises with bands, for example.

 

6 Benefits Running Has on Your Body

Running helps more than just your physique.

Working out won’t get you ripped overnight and running will not cause your body to shed 30 pounds in a week. You may not see instant weight results but running makes other dramatic changes in your life too (it improves your health and can make an impact on how you live) – some of which you can experience within the first week! Here are some of the benefits of running you will notice after you get started on your running journey.

Instant Mood Boost

Running can improve your mood instantly! 15 to 20 minutes can lift your mood while boosting your energy. Running is a form of aerobic exercise and this form of exercise is known to produce endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain and stress fighting chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for that “runner’s high” you have probably heard of.

Encourage Positive Thinking

Negative thoughts and emotions plague many of our minds, leaving us feeling unmotivated and unproductive. Part of maintaining a positive mindset are factors including staying motivated and managing stress. Those post-run endorphins have a place in helping you to relieve stress. When you stick to your goals and make progress, it will also motivate you to keep going forward. All you need are 15 minutes of physical activity to encourage that surge of endorphins, improving your mindset.

Improve Confidence and Health

Aerobic exercise has many other benefits when it comes to your health, including managing blood sugar levels, maintaining healthy blood pressure and improving your metabolic rate. It can also improve your body image, self-esteem, and confidence as well as your physique and posture.

Improve Self-Discipline

Making time in your day for running and following through with it is the epitome of self-discipline. The self-discipline you instill by setting a regular running routine can spill over into the rest of your life! And you will be a majority! Less than 5 percent of adults spend 30 minutes of physical activity each day – the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Improve Your Cognitive Function

Running (and other forms of aerobic exercise) plays a role in your natural cortisol levels, which helps your brain to retain information! Running also boosts your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a key ingredient when it comes to memorization. One study suggests that running is the best activity to take part in after learning as it helps information to stick!

Sleep Better

Not only does running help you to have more energy, but it also can help you to sleep better. Running is proven to improve both the quality and quantity of sleep that you get. Some studies have also found that physical activity in the morning can impact your ability to fall asleep at night for the better, reducing instances of restlessness when you should be sawing logs.

These are only a few of the many benefits of running. After spending months or even years sticking to a regular running routine, you will undoubtedly unveil even more benefits of running.

 

7 Reasons You Should Love Summer Running

Summer is a great time to run. The harsh days of winter are passed as is the unpredictability of spring weather. Summer offers daylight to squeeze your runs in and you can wear fewer layers. Because summer running is such a blast, here are 10 things to love about working up a sweat on a hot, sunny day.

The Days are Longer

When summer comes around, you can squeeze in an early morning run with the early sunrise! Not only is dark o’clock tucked away until cooler temperatures return, but the early sunrise offers extra motivation to get out of bed.

The daylight does not just come early in the summer – it hangs out late too. During the summer, you have extra time to squeeze in a run after working a 9-to-5 while it is still light out.

Sweat Away the Pain

You read that right. Did you wake up with back pain? Are you aching from yesterday’s workout? One of the best ways to relive your aches and pains may be to work up a sweat. Increasing your heart rate and allowing your body to sweat is a great way to treat your pain (plus, sitting around will only make you more stiff and sore in most cases).

Shirtless Runs

This is a benefit that everyone can enjoy. If it is too hot to wear a shirt, you can simply ditch it! Hello sports bra or shirtless runs! Few things are as empowering, freeing, and comfortable as hitting the pavement in a pair of running shoes, shorts, and a sports bra.

Summer Running Tan Lines

Those racer-back tan lines will let others know that you might be a runner. If you also have a shorts tan, a sock tan, and a sports bra tan, you may be branded for life – or until they fade (or you even them out at the beach).

Added Vitamin D

Natural sunlight offers the best dose of the sunshine vitamin, also known as vitamin D, which is crucial for overall health. Vitamin D lowers high blood pressure, improves brain function, protects against inflammation and even protects against cancer. Running in the summer ensures you get plenty of this beneficial vitamin in your bod.

Run Easier

Summer weather makes runners feel sluggish. When you feel like you have concrete blocks for feet, work with it. Run your first mile slower than you normally would to extend the amount of time you can spend running without overheating. Try slowing your pace by a minute or two to prevent burnout and enjoy your easy runs!

That Post-Run Shower

Cold showers after hot runs – need we say more? There is nothing quite like a cool shower after a run in the sweltering heat. Grab an ice-cold glass of water to keep within reach to keep you extra cool.

7 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Race

You don’t have to opt out of racing if you don’t have enough cash!

Running is a fairly inexpensive form of exercise. Typically, the only expenses you incur are running gear, including shoes and workout clothes. But if you enjoy races, you know that the expenses can add up pretty quickly. Competing in races is an excellent way to stay motivated while keeping you on track with your exercise routine, but you may steer clear of races for financial reasons. If you love races, here are some tips on how you can save at your next event.

Register Early

Many races offer the proverbial worm to the early bird – in the form of a discount. Depending on how early you plan ahead, you can save a significant chunk off of registration fees as many races have several registration points on the calendar where the fee increases after specific dates.

Run as a Group

Some races offer group registration, which is often accompanied by a group discount. Grab some friends for your next race and have everyone divide the price. Running with friends is fun and nobody will turn their noses at a lower price.

If you can find a charity group to join, you can not only run at a discounted rate but your money will go toward helping people in need. You may even land some additional gear to boot.

Check with Your Company and Health Insurance

An added bonus of some health insurance plans is that a portion of gym membership and race fees is paid for. Some companies strive to promote good health and fitness so they help people live healthily by assisting in fees.

Skip the Gear

You don’t need another race t-shirt. You may want it but an official race tee is not always included in the registration price. Some races allow participants to choose whether they want to spend extra money on a shirt. To make your next race more budget-friendly, skip the tee.

Stay Local

Although traveling around to races is loads of fun, if you are trying to stick to a budget, only register for local races for a time. The cost of accommodation and transportation adds up quickly.

Volunteer

Putting on a race requires a lot of manpower, which is why volunteers are needed. Volunteers may hand out race packets, direct traffic or hand out water. Some races compensate volunteers by giving them a free entry for a future race. You can save money and give to a community by volunteering for a race.

Run Virtually

Virtual races are a fun way to save money on races. They are typically cheaper than location-specific races. You can still reach a goal or set a new PR while running at the same time as others, but in your own neighborhood rather than with a group of people at one location.

How to Fix Runner’s Knee

It’s all in your hip.

One of the most common ailments among runners is runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). This condition is characterized by pain located under, slightly above or slightly below the kneecap. Sometimes you may hear a popping sensation; sometimes you may not. The condition typically worsens when running uphill or downhill and in severe cases, the knee may swell.

Runner’s knee often occurs as a result of an increase in mileage. Some runners may experience occasional pain while others are plagued by it almost every time they add more miles. The condition may also be a result of poor running form or core strength.

Treating and Preventing Runner’s Knee

The best way to treat a case of runner’s knee is to track back to the initial root cause of the pain so you can focus your energy on correcting it. There is typically tension found in the hips, quads, lower back and/or abdominal muscles so focusing on stabilizing and strengthening these areas is a great place to start.

According to research, stabilizing the kinetic chain by way of strength work can do wonders when it comes to reducing pain associated with runner’s knee. According to one study, 19 participants who suffered from runner’s knee (PFPS) underwent an eight-week hip- and core-strengthening program, which resulted in a significant improvement in terms of pain as well as knee function. Another study from researchers at the University of Kentucky found that gait retraining is helpful in reducing symptoms of PFPS. In this study, runners with PFPS underwent eight gait retraining sessions, which focused on internal hip rotation, pelvic drops and other exercises that were done in hopes to reduce pain while improving hip mechanics. After the training, the athletes reported a significant decrease in pain. Improvements were also noted in running mechanics. This goes to show that strengthening and stabilizing through gait retraining can go a long way when it comes to reducing not only pain but the cause of runner’s knee.

If you have not ever experienced runner’s knee, strengthening and stabilizing your body through gait retraining may also help prevent the condition. By fortifying your hips and core, you are reducing your chances of injury.

Hip-Strengthening Exercises

Here are some of the most common exercises prescribed to help runners strengthen their hip and core regions, which are proven to be helpful in both treating and avoiding runner’s knee.

Bridge: Lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, lift your butt off the ground slowly. Keep your back straight while engaging your lower back and glutes, holding for 10 seconds. Slowly lower your body back down to the ground. Repeat this exercise seven to 10 times.

Clamshells: Lying on your right side while bending your knees at a 45-degree angle, keep your feet together while slowly lifting your left knee to “open up the clamshell” per se. Pause and lower your knees to then “shut the clamshell.” Repeat this movement 10 to 15 times on both your right and left side.

Bird Dog: While on all fours, lift your left knee and right hand off of the ground, bringing them toward each other under your body. Then stretch your left leg back behind your body and your right hand out in front. This completes one exercise. Repeat this 15 times and then do the same with the opposite sides.

What Causes Leg Fatigue when Running?

When your legs wear out before the rest of you does.

A good run is exhilarating, sending feel-good endorphins throughout your body while your lungs fill with air and your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through your veins. But not every run goes so well. Sometimes your runner’s high is offset by fatigued legs that feel painful, tired and/or weak. If you have experienced leg fatigue while hitting the pavement, it could be caused by pushing yourself too hard, wearing inappropriate footwear or other causes, such as underlying health conditions.

How to Improve Leg Fatigue While Running

If your legs are having a hard time keeping up with your cardio, a number of reasons may be the culprit. Here are some along with a few options for improving your condition.

Change Up Your Game

Run less often with higher quality. You may be wearing yourself down. Run by what your body is telling you and go with it along the way. Make your runs higher quality, at a higher speed or doing a speed workout or tempo run. This allows your body some time to recover before getting back out for the next run, which in turn enables you to run harder, stronger and faster than if you ran more frequently.

Check Your Posture

Leg fatigue may also present itself as a result of incorrect posture or technique while running. Running in a straight line and at a constant speed is more efficient in comparison to running at various speeds or in along an erratic path. Try lowering your center of gravity as well while running as this may increase your power and balance, which can make it easier to run without becoming fatigued.

Check Your Feet

If your running shoes do not have adequate tread or are slick, it can negatively impact your ability to efficiently strike the ground. This can lead to a loss of momentum which may heighten the risk for fatigue.

Fuel Yourself Wisely

Improper nutrition can wreak havoc on your performance. Look at your diet to ensure you are getting enough calories and in the right amounts. A diet in low calories or one that is nutrient-deficient can contribute to leg fatigue.

Genetics

Your endurance level is partly due to genetics. Some people are able to run longer distances than others because their lactate levels stay fairly stable during workouts. Lactate levels in your body relate to your body’s mitochondria, which can positively impact your respiration and endurance levels when mitochondria levels increase. If you do not have a genetic composition that is conducive to high-performance, fatigue may set in earlier, leading your legs to feel wiped out.

Other Complications

If your persistent leg fatigue is not associated with what you wear, how you train or what you eat, you could be dealing with something more serious. Circulation issues, spinal issues or muscular issues may be contributing to what ails you. For example, vein issues can cause a heavy feeling in your legs while a pain in your hip, thigh or buttock may point to a spinal issue. If you seem to have chronic leg fatigue while running, you may want to take it up with your doctor.

What You Should Know About Training on a Treadmill

Is there much difference between running on a treadmill vs. outdoors?

It is raining cats and dogs outside with flashes of lighting shooting down. You really don’t want to get drenched yet don’t want to miss your run either. So you opt for completing your training session indoors on a treadmill. A treadmill is a great training tool for runners when weather conditions are not favorable or running outdoors is simply not an option. Running on a treadmill has its benefits.

Reasons You May Choose to Run on a Treadmill

In some cases, treadmill running is a better option. When it is too dark outside or the weather is too icy or slick and potentially facilitating to a fall or injury, treadmill running is a better bet.

If the conditions outdoors are not conducive for you to run safely at a faster pace, you can hop on the treadmill to achieve the same level of exertion without risk.

Speaking of risk, the treadmill belt is more forgiving than hard pavement, offering less impact and making it easier on the body. As a result, the treadmill can be a great option for those coming back into running from injury.

The treadmill is also great for running hills and doing incline training if you do not have access to steep hills. You can create your own resistance using the grade on a treadmill.

Another reason you may opt for treadmill running rather than outdoors is if you have children. Leaving your kids unattended to go for a run may not be the best strategy for your family. Running on a treadmill enables you to get your workout in while keeping your kids safe and supervised.

Comparing Indoor and Outdoor Running

Although running on a treadmill has benefits, there are some differences you should be aware of.

The mechanics of your running stride differ on a treadmill than when you run outside because the machine powers the treadmill belt. When you are on the treadmill, you push off with your quads, unlike outdoor running where you rely more on your hamstrings for momentum. As a result, your hamstrings will not be worked as much on a treadmill.

The terrain also differs on a treadmill versus outdoors. If you are accustomed to running on a treadmill, you must be extra mindful of varying terrain when hitting the pavement or trails outdoors to avoid injury.

Running outdoors offers wind resistance, even in the most ideal outdoor conditions, which is something you do not get inside. Your pace is resultantly much easier on a treadmill. Keep your effort level the same on a treadmill as outside by upping your incline by 1.5 percent to account for the loss of wind resistance.

If you have done the majority of your training indoors, be cautious when moving your runs back outdoors. Transition your outdoor runs gradually to avoid injury and start with an easy, shorter run. Build from there.

6 Tips to Run a Faster Race

These smart strategies can help you to break your PR in no time.

Everybody knows that in order to run faster, you must work harder – but these changes don’t happen overnight. If you want to run a faster race, you can shave a few seconds (or maybe more) off of your finish time with a few strategies. If you want to finish your next race faster, try some of these tips.

Examine the Course

Take time before the course to determine all you can about it. Find out how many hills there are, what kind of terrain you will be on for approximately how long, and so on. This will give you a better idea of how to pace yourself adequately and will also help prepare you mentally for tougher spots. If the race course is nearby, take advantage of its close proximity by running the path or parts of the course while training.

How is Your Form?

Check your form periodically. Every mile or so, assess your running form of your whole body. You can easily waste energy with bad form, so keeping your form in check is a telltale way to keep your speed up. Your stride should be short (with your feet close to the ground). Look ahead, keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands only gently clenched to maintain proper form. Your arms should not be swinging side to side while you run but back and forth. Your hips should be aligned below your shoulders.

Run Those Tangents

The concept of running the tangents is to run the shortest possible distance by running straight lines from one curve to another. Although race courses are well-measured, many racers run a farther distance by following every curve in the path closely.

Don’t Lose Time at the Start

Line up properly at the start so you do not waste time and energy getting around slower walkers or runners.

Another way runners lose time starting out is by going out too quickly once a race has begun. If you push yourself forward too quickly, you will burn your energy stores faster, leading your muscles to fatigue more quickly. This will leave you feel worn down and depleted near the end of your race.

Run for Time

Do not stress about mileage. Relax your pace so your body can push through the entirety of the race. And although this may sound counterintuitive, when training, take your watch off and listen for your body’s feedback. Become more aware of how your own body responds to things like fatigue, breathing, tension, and form. You will be a better runner overall and this can help you to kill your time on race day.

Avoid Bathroom Stops

Try to get to the race start early so you have time to use the facilities before the race begins. Stopping at port-a-potties can slow you down significantly.

Whether you are doing a 5k or a marathon, these tips have the potential to serve you well and help you to finish your next race in better time.