Four Steps to Healthier Running

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Frankly I’d rather hike 5 miles with a 50 pound backpack that jog one mile.  It’s not just that I find running rather boring, but it’s also that I easily get hurt.  Many of you like to run and also get injured and sore running.  This post is for you.

The great folks that make Altra Running shoes (you may see their ads around our website) have decided to examine the most common problems and come up with practical solutions.  They call it their “Learn to Run Initiative.”  The premise is that you really need to get some instruction before you participate in most sports, while beginning runners just set off on their own without ever knowing that there is a correct way  to run.  Here, in a nutshell, are the four steps to healthier running:

1. Body Alignment

The first step is to properly align your body in a posture that helps you move forward.  When your body is positioned properly you no longer fight both gravity and forward motion when you run.  Instead you let gravity help you move forward.  The idea is to stand tall, shoulders back and gaze well down the path in front of you while your body leans forward from your ankles.  As you run in this position you will notice that you will tend to fall forward as your heel rises off the ground.  That’s what generates momentum to get you moving and keep you moving.   In this video, Leslie will show you exactly how it’s done:

 

2.  Controlling Your Arms

I’ve seen runners do all kinds of things with their arms, from holding them straight down to swinging them in various ways that seem natural to them.  Altra’s experts have found that its best to bend your arms at the elbows and allow your arms to swing in a relaxed,  rhythmical manner without your hands crossing your chest.  This allows your elbows to move upward behind you without compressing your chest.   In this short video Jason makes it easy for you:

3. Land Softly

This is my biggest failure.  I already have a tendency toward plantar fasciitis and the way my feet hammer the ground just aggravates the situation.  The key thing is to land on the front or mid-part of your foot, rather than on your heel, while your knee is bent.  Once landed, keep your pace going so your foot gets off the ground again quickly.  You’ll notice, that once you get your body correctly positioned (Step 1), it will be easier to land toward the front of your foot and actually more difficult to land on your heel.  Not only will a proper foot strike help prevent injuries, it will help you move faster and more comfortably.  Let’s let Duncan explain it:

4. Run Faster

Yeah, well sure.  It sounds impossible to those of us that pound ourselves forward with all the grace of a tipsy elephant, yet studies have shown that poor runners, like me, are more prone to injury than those that can maintain a cadence of 170 to 180 steps per minute.  It seems really fast, but in my younger days I marched in various bands with a cadence of around 120 steps per minute and believe me the pre-game run-on with the University of Wisconsin Marching Band is way much faster than that (yes, I could do it, albeit not very well).  The best approach is to get your posture, arms and foot-strike as discussed above and see what your cadence is.  It’s got to be faster than if you have been running on your heels.  If you aren’t up to 170 to 180, work up gradually.

Conclusion

So, there are four simple changes that can help you run like you know what you are doing and be healthier at the same time.  If you’d like to get more details on these steps and get some other great tips check out the “Run Better” page on Altra’s website.  There you will also learn about how Altra’s shoe designs will help you achieve greater running efficiency and safety.  Maybe you’ll find an Altra style that works for you!

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