We all have a ton of stuff to do and when we are productive we feel great, right? We waste less time and energy on unnecessary tasks. We are efficient, feel energized and accomplished.
Wouldn’t it be great if our runs could be the same way? The good news is that our runs can be more efficient for us. We can improve our overall performance and prevent injury by considering the following 3 principles:
Cadence, Foot Strike and Posture
These 3 elements of running have been discussed and researched in the running world for decades. Thankfully, Jason Fitzgerald from StrengthRunning.com, has gathered all of this science, simplified it and helped to make it applicable outside of the research labs and onto the pavement.
Cadence is the number of steps you take in one minute (during an easy run). This can be measured in a number of ways. I find it easiest to take a video of my clients using an app like hudl technique. This allows me to slow down the video so I can more effectively count. Of course, this is not necessary and you can simply just count your steps while watching the time on the treadmill.
180 steps per minute has been considered the “ideal” rate. However, this is based on elite runners and will not be the most efficient for everyone. Jason recommends the following guidelines…
IF your easy run is slower than 10 minute/mile, ideal cadence should be 160 steps or greater
IF your easy run is faster than 10 minutes/mile, ideal cadence should be 170 steps or greater
To improve your cadence, take shorter, quicker steps at the same pace. The easiest way to do this at first is on a treadmill where you can keep your pace consistent.
How does counting and potentially increasing your step rate make you more efficient?
Decreases the impact force from the ground through your body
Decreases overall stress to your body
Reduces injury rate while improving performance
2. Foot Strike
Heel, Midfoot or Forefoot…what should I do? What is best? This has been an ongoing conversation and a very hot topic, especially over the last decade. The pendulum has swung back and forth and seems to have settled somewhere in the middle.
The important concept to remember is that it no longer matters HOW your foot strikes the ground but rather WHERE it lands in relation to the rest of your body.
Heel striking has been given a bad rep yet many of us do this. The good news is that we don’t all have to feel bad about it nor do we have to force ourselves to completely change our habits. We just need to prevent an aggressive heel strike that is combined with a long forward stride. Or, said another way, avoid having our foot land far out in front of our body. This type of heel strike will increase the impact forces and potentially lead to injury over time.
Simply try to land with your foot under your body.
Landing this way has the following benefits:
Prevents aggressive over striding
Improves running economy
Prevents aggressive heel striking
Much easier on your joints
If you want to get all fancy and gain further power, you can consider increasing your rear stride by extending your hip. This will allow you to have a long stride and fast cadence.
This one is simple. Consider the following cues while you run. This keeps your body better balanced, avoids unnecessary muscular and joint strain and helps you to run more efficiently.
Think athletic and tall
Keep your back straight (as if you had a string attached from your tailbone to your head, pulling you upright)
Look straight ahead
Shoulders placed (not forced) back and down
The key to all of this is to not overthink these things or try to implement all 3 at one time. Running is one of the best ways to clear our minds. We can simply drive ourselves crazy trying to perfect our form. Simply incorporating these principles into your easy runs over time will lead to better efficiency.
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