Spring in only a few weeks away and the roads and trails are drawing runners out of winter hibernation and winter sports. Whether you are new to running, or have already signed yourself up for a dozen races, spring represents a season of new beginnings. Spring is a great time to assess your running form to maximize your running efficiency while minimizing your injury risk. As running mileage increases, it is important to maintain proper running form. Fatigue associated with less than ideal running efficiency increased overuse injury risk. While overall body fatigue is often obvious, individualmuscle fatigue (resulting in running gait asymmetries) is often undetectable until an injury occurs.
A comprehensive running form analysis should be conducted by a physical therapist experienced in running biomechanics and running injury treatment and prevention. There are a few simple steps, however, which every runner can implement to improve running efficiency in preparation for spring mileage increases.
1. Run Silently
Whether you are a forefoot, mid-foot, or heel striker, it is important to remain light on your feet as your mileage increases. Listen to your foot strike. A silent runner is an efficient runner.Landing quietly on your feet is possible only if your feet, lower legs, quads, hamstrings, hips, gluts, core, and upper body are strong. The less time you spend on each foot, the shorter the impact duration of each foot strike. Shortening each foot strike duration results in a lower impact force through the body over the distance of your run and a higher running efficiency. Work on running quietly on your shorter runs and gradually implement silent running into your long runs.
2. Shorten Your Stride
The longer your stride, the greater the leverage through your hips, knees, and back. Shorten your stride slightly and focus on increasing your turn-over or cadence. Relax your arms, maintain a neutral pelvis (hips beneath you) and drive your knees forward. Running silently is more readily achieved with a shortened stride.
3. Correct Your Posture
Most of us spend a great deal of time sitting each day. Prolonged sitting results in hip flexor tightness, hamstring tightness, abdominal weakness, gluteal weakness, forward shoulder posture, forward head posture, and protracted shoulder posture. Body adaptations secondary to sitting must be addressed to improve running posture. Whenever possible, get up from the sitting position and move your body/joints into positions opposite those found while sitting. Straighten your spine, extend your hips, find and strengthen your gluteal muscles, find your neutral pelvis position, lengthen your hamstrings, stretch your rounded shoulders, and hold your head up.
The experts at Sapphire Physical Therapy can evaluate your running gait, posture, detect underlying form or strength issues, and develop an individualized injury prevention and treatment program to meet your individual needs. Call Sapphire Physical Therapy or see learn more at www.sapphirept.com and let us help you successfully achieve your 2015 running goals.
John Fiore, PT
Sapphire Physical Therapy