Finding Your Stride |
One of the most common mistakes new runners make is overstriding. When you extend your lead foot too far out in front of the body, it lands in front of your center of gravity creating a breaking effect. This can lead to injury issues such as runner's knee and shin splints. Also, make sure your strides are not too short and choppy so that you appear to bounce; this is just as inefficient as overstriding. It is far better to understride than to overstride, however, but you should find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.
Over time, your leg turnover or "cadence" will get faster. You may also find your stride lengthening, but this is not due to overstretching the lead leg as many new runners do, but rather from increasing the forward motion of the rear leg.
Be careful not to lift the knees too high as doing so can lead to fatigue in the quadriceps (front of the thighs).
Footstrike refers to how, where, and when the foot hits the ground. There has been a lot of debate in the running community as to whether heel striking or mid-foot striking is a better approach to endurance running; however, the reality is that most average runners are heel strikers. In other words, they land with their heel first and roll to the ball of the foot. This comes naturally to most people, but striking with your heel can increase your risk of injury—especially to the knees—and may set you up for shin splint or hamstring injuries. Over time, it isn't uncommon for a runner to change her footstrike as she develops greater muscle strength in addition to developing stronger connective tissues in his legs and feet. A mid-foot strike, in contrast to a heel strike, provides greater shock absorption, decreases strain on the calves and Achilles tendon, and may help prevent shin splints. As long as your foot strikes the ground directly below your center of gravity—not too far ahead (as explained in the Finding Your Stride section above)—the best technique for you is the one that allows you the best running efficiency while preventing injury.
As you develop greater muscle strength and the connective tissues supporting the legs, eventually you may find your footstrike evolving into a more advanced technique known at the ball-heel-toe strike. This occurs when you land lightly on the outside ball of the foot then quickly roll to the heel only to push off with your big toe.
Run to the Hills
Hills can bring anxiety and dread to runners of all levels. It is usually a runner's biggest concern when scoping out races or courses to run. Nevertheless, the more you practice, the better you can cope with the terrain changes you encounter.
Runners should practice both uphill and downhill running, which both demand different running techniques. Uphill running requires greater power from the hamstrings (back thigh muscles), glutes and calf muscles, while downhill running requires greater use of the quadriceps.
Before you begin training on hills, it is best to have run on a flat surface for several months first. Even though many people believe uphill running poses a greater injury threat, it is actually downhill training that can pose a bigger risk, especially if you do not have a solid running foundation.
Once you start hill work, remember to keep these training runs to no more than 1-2 days a week, while allowing for adequate recovery before trying them again. Continued ›