2) Once you have developed optimal, or at least close to optimal, range of motion and stability you need to then focus on exercises specific to running skill… Drills (otherwise known as “functional patterns”) developed to work on specific movements of the gate cycle and to rid yourself of bad habits such as; over striding, over reaching, “pushing” the foot back too far and for too long (more later) as well as exercises developing “reactivity” (more on that later) and foot speed. Once on www.Prehab.TV head to the “Programs” section and click on the “Learn to Run- Beginner” and get to work!
3) Once you have worked thoroughly on #1 and #2 one can then begin to incorporate longer runs. However, when I say “longer” I am referring to only 5 minutes of running at a time with 2-3minutes walking for 20-30minutes total and NOT 60 minutes of straight running. I know, this is tough for many runners to back off and not run for long periods… Instead, implement that skill learned slowly and for short periods of time and THEN work into running more and more. We cannot expect to make changes globally if we think short term. Our bodies need thousands, if not tens of thousands of repetitions performed OPTIMALLY in order to make the changes that we need to move as efficiently as possible.
4) Through frequent SHORT runs a runner develops durability… Durability of the joint structures and the interaction of the muscles and other soft tissues that support them. Increasing frequency of one’s running is the key to developing this. Many runners that I see have this strange addiction to beating the snot out of themselves two or three times a week with one long run (12+miles) and two moderately long runs (8+miles) all run at the same pace… whatever pace their friends end up running that is!
Instead I would actually suggest that any runner, when making changes to how they are moving work specifically on the drills and skills and gain their fitness through alternative sources such as cycling, elliptical trainer use, cross country skiing etc. Once drills have been performed consistently for several weeks to months (yes, months!) any runner should think about running five or six days each week but not the in the typical manner… 5-6 runs of even 20minutes can greatly improve a runners durability and efficiency. Once the athlete is accustomed to this they may increase one or two runs by 10minutes etc etc.
5) “Reactivity:” The elastic properties of the soft tissues of the foot, leg and thigh need to be utilized in order to improve running efficiency. Think of a pogo-stick… Now think of that pogo-stick on a slight incline. What happens when that pogo-stick strikes the ground on that incline? It bounces not only slightly upward but also horizontally. Now, picture your foot, ankle, leg, knee, thigh and hip… These regions are encompassed, are supported and are held together by non-contractile (not muscle) tissue that we can call “fascia” that actually help any runner run faster with less energy expenditure. By engaging these non-contractile structures we can actually utilize what is called “elastic strain energy” to propel us forward. Now comes the hard part; developing reactivity is all about creating tension at the right time… right as your knee drive (otherwise known as the end of the “swing phase”) has reached its peak a runner must create “tension” at the hip to engage the hamstring and glutes as well as gastrocnemius muscle (upper calf) to develop “drive” of the foot back into the ground. As soon as the foot strikes the ground and as a result of developing the “tension” we then create “reactivity” of the elastic tissues described above. Once the foot strikes the ground, AS CLOSE TO UNDER THE BODY AS POSSIBLE I must add, the “pushing” is finished. This is where many runners go awry… they continue to push the foot back, extending the hip beyond what is effectively possible and this creates a myriad of compensations that I will not go into at this time.
6) Drills to create Reactivity- coming soon ;). I have purposely withheld some of the drills to develop reactivity because many will skip directly to them before implementing the aforementioned. Patience is a virtue! We’ll get there I assure you.
Hopefully this gives you ideas of how implementing drills and an alternative way of thinking can and will positively affect your running style and performance. Nothing worth getting is easy to attain!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series… Running Mechanics and Injury Prevention
Yours in health,