At the end of the day we were all born to run. Despite this, I’m sure you’ve heard people say “You are going to ruin your knees from running” or “Humans aren’t designed to run long distance.”
In actual fact, if you look back scientifically, humans evolved from the ape-like ancestors where food did not come from the pantry, from the supermarket or from take away. Early humans had to hunt, gather and scavenge their food to survive. In order to live in this world, being able to run (and sometimes run fast, for that matter) was what enabled humans to to gain many evolutionary advantages.
Fast forward to how we live today and you will find that most people live a comparatively sedentary lifestyle. We no longer have to hunt, gather or scavenge our food (which would require us to run long distances). These days, everything is quite literally at our fingertips. Because of this, when we are required to run, it can feel unnatural or difficult. We often feel out of breath, like our lungs are burning. Our joints hurt and over time many of us develop injuries.
My aim is to help you avoid the feeling that you are “not a runner”.
At times I am even guilty of saying it myself. It wasn’t until I really started reading about running and taking part in run workshops with video analysis, that I’ve really started to understand how I can be more efficient. Once I understood how to run, rather than just running, it began to feel almost effortless.
I am going to share with you my top 5 tips for becoming a more efficient runner. I will explain each example and offer some reasons why you should include it in your running session.
TIP #1 – Activation & Stimulation
What? Activation and stimulation prior to running helps prepare the body for the run. It gives the joints, muscles and tendons a chance to loosen up, while increasing the blood flow and heart rate. The purpose is to replicate the movements you want to preform during the run.
Why? Activation prior to exercise, especially running, is key to injury prevention. Spending 5-10 minutes activating the correct muscle groups will help you become more efficient. These muscles will already be firing and you wont be overloading those groups which often contribute to injury.
Glute Bridge: 2×10
Hip Hinge: 2×10 each side
Calf Raise: 2×10 each side
TIP #2 – Cadence
What? Cadence is the number of steps a runner takes per minute (SPM). It is the most common metric used to measure running form.
Why? The shorter the stride length and the quicker your stride rate, the faster and better you will run. If you have a low cadence, you will likely have a long stride. This is commonly known as ‘over striding’. Runners who over stride tend to lock their knees and slam their heels in to the ground on every step. This slows you down as it creates a bouncy gait, while also putting extra pressure through the joints and muscles.
How? By increasing your cadence you will move your feet faster and change the position where your foot lands. It promotes landing your foot underneath you, and under your centre of gravity. This naturally increases your turnover, which means less energy wasted moving up and down from the bounding.
Ideally you want to be aiming for at last 180 steps per minute. Set a timer for 1 minute and without changing your running pace count every step with that minute. From there you can adjust your cadence.
TIP #3 – Body Positioning
What? Body positioning can often be overlooked, as many people believe that we all have our own unique running style. While this is correct, there are many ways to become more efficient by slightly altering the way we position our body.
Why? Running with good body positioning will help eliminate injury and also improve your efficiency over time.
How? Running tall: by keeping your spine long with your shoulders back/relaxed and leaning forward from the ankles rather than breaking from the hips.
Torso facing forwards and stable: this will help eliminate wasted energy from the hips/head/arms bouncing from side to side. Try and keep all your limbs relatively parallel to each other.
Stay relaxed throughout the body: keep the muscle groups which are not directly involved in running relaxed. This includes the hands, shoulders, neck, jaw and facial muscles.
TIP #4 – Strength Training
What? Also known as cross-training, this uses weighted or body weight exercises to help strengthen the joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Why? Unfortunately, it is common for runners to avoid strength training as they’ve been taught they just need to run more in order to get faster or improve their endurance. Many have also heard that strength training will bulk them up and eventually slow them down. However, the main benefit of strength training for runners is actually in injury prevention. It helps improve structural weaknesses in the body and can actually eliminate the chance of overuse injuries.
How? Choosing a program with compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once such as squats, deadlifts, chin ups, overhead press and bench press are a good start.
TIP #5 – Recovery & Maintenance
What? Just like a car, it’s important to keep up regular maintenance on your body in order to help it run smoothly. Recovery from running can be achieved in a number of different modes so it is important not to just stick with one method. Recovery begins from the moment the run is finished and lasts until the next session. It can play a huge role in your performance in the next session.
Why? Keeping up with recovery and maintenance will enhance our performance as the body will be well rested and refuelled. It keeps our joints and muscles mobile, reducing the chance of injury.
How? Stretching, foam rolling, trigger point therapy, compression, good nutrition, sleep, flexibility and mobility are some of the many modes I use and would recommend for recovery from running.
In conclusion, there is a real beauty and art to running. It can be done anywhere and all you really need is a pair of sneakers. There are so many truly amazing places to run and the sights you see on foot can be pretty spectacular.
Being persistent with your running technique will be the key to improving efficiency. This takes time, but making small changes can make a big difference over the long term.
I hope this blog has given you good ideas to take away and hopefully helps you to become a more efficient runner, just like it has helped me.
Remember: we were all born to run.
Author: Jaimie Lee | Revolution Personal Training