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App_logoUpdated by Rosie Edwards

“Just put one foot in front of the other! “  Seems easy enough, but how does your stride really work?  Understanding how you run can help you to understand what stresses and strengths your body has as it covers ground day after day.

 

Running is differentiated by the instant where both feet are concurrently airborne, as opposed to walking, which always includes one foot on the ground.  Some describe the running stride in two phases, support and swing, while others divide the stride into three stages[i] four stages[ii], two stages with multiple stages within these larger divisions[iii], five stages[iv], and more.

 

Regardless of how the stride is divided, many of the ways in which the stride is discussed cover similar ground.  Like the chicken and the egg, as the first one ends, the next one starts, although some have strong feelings regarding whether or not the stride should technically begin at toe-off or while the foot is in the air[v].  For our purposes, we’ll begin with the lead foot about to return to the ground, the hamstring and gluteus contracting and preparing to absorb the coming contact with the ground.  Watching an athlete running on a treadmill helps to more clearly visualize this aspect of the stride.  The leg anticipates pulling the body past the ground underneath and the large muscle groups on the back of the leg in particular help to initiate this pulling motion as the lead foot heads toward the ground.

 

Once the foot hits the ground, the body absorbs the initial contact (whether heel, midfoot, or forefoot), with a bending leg and a collapsing foot (pronation), as the muscles contract to control the joints and effect of the shock caused by gravitational forces[vi].  If bouncing on a trampoline, the trampoline can provide the absorption and return forces needed to propel oneself up again.  In other words, one can bounce on a trampoline with straight legs as the leg muscles aren’t required to contract and extend to return the body to the air.  On the solid ground, the legs must provide the absorption and propulsion.  This requires them to bend and give.

 

Next, the weight of the body travels forward in preparation for the toe-off from the forefoot.  This response is not unlike a rubber band or a spring.  The joints and ligaments of the foot flex and contract to allow transition from the initial landing point on the foot, to a point where the foot is absorbing maximum downward stress, to the toe-off where the hip flexor is extended and the opposite knee is flowing forward and up.

 

When the foot leaves the ground, it cycles underneath the body, and follows the knee forward and downward to ideally land underneath the body to efficiently recreate the cycle again.  As speed increases, the amount of time spent during this portion of the stride increases and the reciprocal percentage of the time during the stride spent on the ground decreases.  The dynamics of this portion of the stride vary widely, depending on hip flexor flexibility and strength, naturally occurring angles of the body, length of our legs relative to our overall height, and current speed.

 

As with all parts of the stride, each runner brings their own physiological idiosyncrasies to the table.  However, each of our strides, rather than a forgettable, automatic process not worth a second thought, is rather an amazing series of actions and reactions that we demand from our bodies thousands of times in a row in even one run.  There is debate about how much we can change our strides to resemble those of the Olympians on TV, or even the winner of last weekend’s 5K.  Each of us, however, have the opportunity to increase the chances we can continue to stride as our best version of ourselves, by being mindful to strengthening and balance exercises in our legs from foot to hip, and by seeking to increase flexibility and avoid prolonged muscle tightness.  Even if your stride isn’t perfect, these steps can help you resist and postpone fatigue, and stay healthy enough to continue training your legs to move you to the finish line as best they know how.



[i] Dugan, S. and Bhat, K. (2011). “Biomechanics and Analysis of Running Gait” Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America http://demotu.org/pralados60/files/2011/05/DuganPMRCNA05running.pdf : p 612 Retrieved August 6, 2013

[ii] Parker, Ron. “ The Running Stride” http://www.trackandfieldcoach.ca/the%20running%20stride%20with%20photos.pdf Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iii] Phillips, Matt. “Introduction to Running Biomechanics”  http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/running-biomechanics/ Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iv] Barreau, Matthew. “The Five P’s of Running Form” http://www.brianmac.co.uk/runform.htm

 

[v] Novachek, Tom. (1997) “The Biomechanics of Running”  Gait and Posture, Vol. 7. http://www.elitetrack.com/article_files/biomechanicsofrunning.pdf p79-80 Retrieved August 7, 2013

[vi] Dugan and Bhat: p. 609



Updated by Rosie Edwards.

This month, we touch on a question that comes up over and over with brand new and experienced runners alike.

Form Tip:  Arms

Q:  What should I do with my arms when I run?



Updated by Rosie Edwards

While not everyone can be the running equivalent of a Tour de France champion, dancing on your pedals as you climb the Alps and the Pyrenees with the ease of a mountain goat, we all will encounter hills in our running, and probably all could use a periodic refresher on how to get the most out of our efforts on the ascents.

With the climb or descent looming ahead, how should you prepare to for the challenge ahead? Read on for a few simple cues....

1.  The basics of general good running form almost all still apply.  Keep your arms at 90 degrees (click here to review our column on What To Do With Your Arms) and keep your shoulders low (not hunched) and square to the direction you are heading.  Keep your hands relaxed and swinging through your "pockets", and maintain tall posture.

2.  Don't lean too far into the hill on the ups or too far back on the downs.  Try to maintain a slight lean forward (long lean from the ankle, not the waist) both up and down, just as you would on the flats.  Leaning too far forward on the uphill restricts the ability of your knees to drive and can compromise your ability to maximize your inhales if you are hunched over.  Stay tall, open up your chest, and give your legs and lungs room to work.  On the downhills, braking yourself by leaning backward puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and joints, and often squanders a chance to make up ground in a race.  A little forward lean, when not on an area with dangerous footing, can help get you a couple seconds closer to that PR, and leave you a bit less sore the day after.

3. Concentrate on cadence.  Resist the urge to overstride on the downhills, and do your best just to maintain your rhythm on the uphills. Yes, you will be going faster than the flats on the downhills and slower than the flats on the uphills if you maintain a similar rhythm and effort level, but you will also most likely arrive at the top of the hill without wasting a bunch of energy for little advancement, and keeping your stride landing underneath your body on the downhills instead of in front will minimize excess pounding.

4.  Don't spend a lot of time on the ground.  Keep your feet pushing off of the ground quickly, just as you would on the flat. For those used to heelstriking on the flats, hills can be a valuable tool to build foot and calf strength as you land more on your midfoot than you might normally.  On the uphills, it should almost feel like your feet are striking the ground behind you.  On the downhills try (as we have discussed), to let your feet land underneath you so you do not have to wait to let your body travel over the top before pushing off again.

5.  Look ahead.  Sure, it is tempting to look at your feet and make sure your legs are doing what we have just been talking about, but looking several steps ahead will help you anticipate any undulations in the hill ahead, any poor footing areas requiring caution, and will keep your posture tall (more air in the lungs!)  and your arms at the right angles.  

This fall, may you approach every hill with anticipation and crest the top with satisfaction! 

Have a suggestion for next month's Personal Best?  Email it to us at info@runcoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



RunnerUpdated by Rosie Edwards

While we have many athletes who have been training with runcoach for years, we also love the constant influx of beginning runners or runners now tackling their first challenging goal race. 

On the blog, we talk about all sorts of topics, but we also have an extensive archive of short pieces detailing some of the most fundamental aspects of running.  So, whether you could use a quick refresher, or have been anxious to ask these questions but too shy to reach out, here is a sample of some tips we believe can help you reach your full potential!

 






Tips for running hills

 

What to do with your arms while running

 

How to breathe while running

 

How to choose the right shoe

 

What is a taper and how do I do it well

 

The art of hydration

 

Avoiding the post-run bonk

 

The mechanics of the running stride

 

Beyond these few topics, there are dozens of articles on our blog covering everything under the sun.  We have Q&As about almost every imaginable ache and pain with experienced practitioners, interviews with professional and world class athletes, and even a few profile of fellow runcoach athletes like yourself.  Check it out!



Have active friends at your company or know coworkers who want to move more? Invite them to join the Movecoach Challenge.   Here's how:

On your mobile device:

1. Tap the Me icon (on the bottom-left corner of your phone screen).
2. Select "More."
3. Select "Invite Coworkers."
4. Send your coworkers an invitation to join Movecoach.

From the web, on a computer:

1. Login.
2. Click on the arrow next to your profile photo on the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
3. Select "Invite Coworkers" from the drop-down menu. 

Click here for tips on how to help a coworker start exercising regularly and stick with it. 

Any questions? Contact us.



What would happen if you ran the same pace over the same distance every day you went out to run?  Many people do it, and you may have even been that person yourself at one time.

You may have also wondered why your Runcoach plan has workouts at various paces and distances on your way to your goal race. We wanted to take a few moments to explain a few objectives to changing pace within workouts and/or running intervals.



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Written by Runcoach Marketing Expert Kristin Martin.

You wanna know how my race schedule was in 2020? Nada. Zip. Zero.

I originally planned on Fall 2020  "post-baby 70.3 vacation in Mexico" and perhaps even chase a PR half marathon. But like many of you, the conditions – cancellations, pool closures, personal COVID protocols, etc – led me to decide in June that I wouldn’t be able to formally in-person race till 2021. So, did I do a virtual half marathon to prove myself? ...I’d like to say that I did (I wish I had!) but with the poor air quality in Denver last fall and some lingering calf issues, I bailed on that too.


2021 is a new year, and with the continued slow start to events (or the deferment of many races), it’s easy to keep the calendar free of racing commitments till later this year. However, by following the simple steps below, you, like me, can stop with the excuses and be successful at a virtual race this Spring.


  1. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR (and commit!) - Looking back, this was probably my number one  mistake. When I decided to not participate in the triathlon, I mentally changed my goal to general fitness and cleared my calendar of running obligations. My running became more haphazard. While it's fun to run when the spirit moved me, my runs weren’t focused or structured in a way that built up to feeling comfortable in completing a race of that distance. By putting it a goal on the calendar and telling your partner, friend, or Coach, you increase your commitment to your race goal. This doesn’t mean that if you wake up and it’s a downpour or an extreme heatwave you can’t tweak your race date, but it helps to make sure you stay accountable and schedule or reschedule it for the best date.


  1. PICK A (safe) COURSE YOU LOVE - We can all picture races we love for their scenery, elevation profile (up or down!), or running surface. You have the power to plot out the course that fits you best. You can also stock your course with your favorite fueling gels or drinks. Will you run along a nearby stream? Around that favorite park in a loop? The possibilities are endless to construct your new favorite race map.


Safety tip: Check out your race course or train on it to know how crowded it will be (wear your mask) and make sure to follow appropriate traffic signals and other signage. Give your map to your family or friends so they know where you’ll be -- and can even cheer for you!


  1. TALK TO YOUR COACH - Even your trusted is experiencing the same adversities as you. Having to work thrrough similiar things mean first hand experience and great tips on how to adjust an outlook when you might not be feeling it or your schedule if your plans change. Maybe you want to switch to a 5K instead of a 10K, or you want to run/walk your first half. Take advantage of the flexibility that virtual racing offers with the expertise of coaches who can get you there safely.


  1. HAVE FUN - Ultimately, we run and participate in races to enjoy ourselves and a virtual experience is no different. I’m never the first one to cross the official finish line, but you better believe that I’ll be the first one to cross the streamer finish line held up by my husband and toddlers! Many years from now, we’ll look back at this pandemic time and "have all the feels" when it comes to thinking about quarantining, zoom meetings, and virtual learning. Let's make sure to have a bright spot when we think about our virtual race career. 



What To Do When Your Goal Race Gets Delayed?
Don’t Give Up.

amanda_2As the global pandemic nears year one, the mass participation road racing scene is still far from normal. The optimist in you hoped 2021 would finally be the year in which live road race returned to its full glory. Still, races are getting postponed (with valid reason) to the second half of the year. How long should you hold out hope?  What to do with extra time?


First and foremost, absolutely hold on to that optimism! Your favorite road race, standing among strangers, butterflies in your stomach, and the minty muscle cream scent in the air will return. But I empathize with you, as my own race opportunities dwindle away each month. You’re allowed to feel disappointed. Allow yourself the time to go through the stages of coping using the techniques below.


1) Work On Weaknesses

Life is all about perspective. In any circumstance, the way you frame it allows you to move forward. I encourage you to see the delay as extra time to prepare (different from extra time to wait to start).

We all have areas of opportunities to develop and refine. Whether it’s physical (shin splints, weak glutes, runner’s knee, tendonitis), a target weight-loss goal, or mental (anxiety, mental strength to dig deep when it feels hard) the additional months can be invaluable to prepare your body and mind to have an exceptional race when it’s “go time”.


2) Scale Back

A common topic I discuss with my athletes is over-training. It’s the quickest way to kill your joy for running. If your goal race is a half marathon or longer, and the race is postponed, there is no additional benefit to keep loading up on miles. Instead, shift your focus to maintain fitness and find smaller goals to excite you.


3) Setup Time Trials

If this is a new word for you, think of a “Time Trial” as a practice race. Having a goal that you can chase on your own terms can be a big win (especially given the uncertainty  in today’s world). Time trials can help to gauge your fitness, practice pace, try out race tactics, go through race day logistics like type of breakfast, and hone in on the mental side of racing.

Jeff_brune_boston_2Runcoach athlete Jeff is in a similar situation to many BQ athletes. He was hopeful Boston 2021 would go on in April. Most of his preparation in 2020 was done with hope of running a memorable 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. With the recent news of Boston getting pushed back to the Fall, he’s once again reassessing his training.

Jeff wrote, “I want to chase a half marathon PR, even at altitude I think my old PR is vulnerable”.  That’s all a coach needs to hear, a spark of motivation. We decided on a half marathon time trial about a month out from the initial discussion, with training specifically focused on crushing his current personal best.


4) Explore Off-Road

Without a tight timeline to get ready for “race day” you have a free pass to run on trails, grass, packed snow (stay upright though!). Simply do something different to shake up your usual routes.

Doing so will not only help you see some different scenery, but it will challenge your body to activate muscle groups you don’t normally use while running on a flat road.



In short, when things change... don’t quit. Instead adapt and move forward with your running shoes ON!



Single Leg Squat Video

Written by Coach Hiruni W January 26, 2021
Use this powerful and effective exercise to activate your glutes. 

When you lower  the body on one leg it requires serious control and stability. This act allows you to build lower body strength.
The movement also fires up smaller muscles challenging the core and hip.

Coach Tom demonstrates two variations to include in your injury prevention or pre-run routine. 

Variation 1 = For Beginners
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Variation 2 = For Advanced Runners
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