Monday, May 11, 2009

Running Biomechanics & Form 101

It's funny...people characterize 'bungie jumping', 'skydiving', and 'base jumping' as EXTREME sports. BUT, when you run every footstrike can generate 3-5 times your body weight in impact force! Talk about EXTREME!

With this in mind, it's important to have proper biomechanics/form when running to improve running performance and economy, but more importantly to MINIMIZE the chances of injury/aggravation!

Below are a few key concepts/ideas to keep in mind:

Upper Body

  • Your shoulders should be relaxed and low. Avoid carrying tension in your shoulders. Sometimes your shoulders creep up towards your ears when you're
    feeling fatigued.

  • Your arms should be held at roughly a 90 degree angle. Avoid swinging your arms across your midsection. Your arms should swing roughly between your waist and your heart. DON'T let your arms swing across your midsection. You want to AVOID this kind
    of lateral motion.

  • Your hands should be nice & relaxed. Don't clench your fists. Think of holding a potato chip or butterfly in your hands. You don't want to crush either!

  • Keep your chest forward and fully expanded. This will maximize the amount of oxygen you can take in when you breathe. Your upper body should be slightly
    ahead of your hips when you run.

  • Keep your eyes near the horizon. This helps you maintain all of the aforementioned.

Lower Body

  • The ideal leg turnover is roughly 170-180 strides per minute. This comes to 85-90 footstrikes for each leg per minute.

  • Avoid landing on your heel! This actually slows down your forward momentum and is in effect a braking motion.

  • Try to land with more of a flat foot. Your foot should plant with each stride in such a way that is roughly square underneath your hips with a slightly bent knee.

  • Try to focus on a light footstrike. The most efficient runners are those who minimize the amount of impact associated with each stride.

The Lean

  • The fastest runners in the world (most Kenyans) utilize a slight forward lean when they run. In utilizing this slight forward lean from the ankles (NOT
    THE WAIST!), they are able to accomplish much of what is outlined above.

  • When you lean, you are using gravity to your advantage. You should feel a 'slight' sensation of falling when you do this. This is OK, but will take some
    time to get comfortable with this position.

  • When the lean is utilized, your upper body naturally extends in front of your hips and essentially forces your foot to land squarely underneath your hips, rather
    than landing on your heel and impeding forward momentum.

  • Visualize the roadrunner cartoon. His wheels (aka-legs) were always behind him moving at a fast pace, pushing him forward as he leaned forward slightly
    from the ankles!

Something else that I would encourage you to do is some barefoot walking when you get a chance. As I mentioned, your feet tend to land/move a bit differently when you're barefoot versus when you wear shoes.

More specifically, your feet tend to land/move in a more biomechanically efficient way! Doing some barefoot walking periodically will help train your body to move in a more biomechanically efficient way AND help strengthen the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and tissues in your feet that are normally not utilized when wearing shoes. This will help strengthen your feet and help minimize aggravations/injuries!


Anne said...

Great tips!

One of the best pieces of advice I read was to imagine that there was a rope attached to your sternum, pulling you forward. When I think about this, I automatically open up my chest, relax my shoulders, and lean slightly forward.

Also, a good way of calculating 180 footstrikes per minute is to just count 3 steps every second (left-right-left right-left-right left-right-left) since 3*60=180! I wrote about this in length on my blog:


Karen said...

This has really helped me with my Exercise Science/Biomechanics assignment - thanks so much.