When you run shorter distances such as a 5K, your biomechanical running form is not going to create any type of “form drag” on your performance. Also, I’m not advocating that you go out and purposefully try to change your striking technique or your overall form. However, your running form could be causing you to deplete more energy or let your body become more susceptible to running injury thus causing you and your long runs to suffer. By analyzing the foot strike, proper form, and extra luggage such as water bottles and phones, you might be able to help your legs stay safe and conserve a little bit more energy for your longer runs.
First of all, study after study after study has been done and there is no evidence to support that one type of foot strike causes more injury than the other. The causes of injury are actually due to where the feet land in perspective to the body. If you are a sprinter then you will be using forefoot striking.
Three types of foot strikes:
Forefoot – the forefoot and toes land first on each step.
Midfoot – the midsole lands first.
Heel – the heel of the foot lands first. This is where the majority of runners fall into place. About 75% – 85% of all runners are heel strikers. This statistics depends on what source you reference or who you talk to. I myself am a heel striker.
What you want to avoid is continuous overstriding during a long run. The forefoot strikers are prone to overstriding. Olympic sprinters land on the forefoot and their foot lands out in front with each stride. To avoid overstriding your foot should land slightly in front and below your hip.
First of all, no running form is perfect, however, there are some basic guidelines you should follow. Again, I’m not trying to get you to change your form. I’m simply trying to make you aware of ways that your energy might be draining out of you quicker than it should.
- Your Arms should be close to the side with a nice easy swing on each stride. Your arms don’t need to extend beyond a 90-degree hinge.
- Spine straight.
- Body leaned slightly forward.
- Shoulders relaxed and slightly pushed back.
- Your nose should be the most forward appendage on your body.
Some possible running forms that might be draining your body or causing possible long-term injury, especially during longer runs where the miles and iterations of your form amplify:
- Running tense – This could be your shoulders or more commonly your arms. Some runners run with their arms tucked in and tightly toward their chest. By not allowing the arms to swing more freely your body is having to exert more energy for your muscles to hold your arms in place. An Example of this is what I call the football blocker where the arms are tucked in and parallel with the chest and it looks like they are blocking with every stride. If you run like this, again, I’m not telling you to change, just be aware that contracting the muscles like that requires more energy than an easy normal forward swing of the arm.
- Bouncing while you run – Unless you’re running a specific drill such as knee hikes or runner hikes, you should avoid bouncing. Some runners don’t know that they bounce. If you have a feeling that you might bounce when you run you need to have someone videotape you for a minute or two running. When you bounce mile after mile on long runs, your body is springing up at a higher distance from the ground and coming down with more force on impact. This repetition over and over again causes more energy exertion and the possibility of injury.
Your extra baggage could be causing an imbalance with your running gait cycle. If you run with a phone especially over long distances (5+ miles) try to wear the armband on the upper part of your bicep and not down along the forearm. Even though a phone doesn’t weight that much, mile after mile can add up and one side of your body might be slightly overcompensating for the difference in weight. Also, make sure you’re switching your phone placement between different arms every other run.
If you hold your phone in your hand, make sure to switch hands every mile or every 5 minutes or so. The same goes for a handheld running water bottle.
Hydration belts worn at the waste might be the best place to store your extra baggage. Some belts even have room for your phone to sit on your upper tailbone. A hydration belt is a good solution because it is worn on a part of the body that doesn’t have much movement while you’re running. If you do wear a belt, make sure you try to evenly distribute the weight across the belt.
A hydration pack is probably one of the best ways to carry your water and even phone. It sits on your back and it’s securely fastened to your body with minimal movement. The weight is evenly distributed across the back and you don’t have any imbalance.
Most of these techniques and forms don’t really become prevalent until you’re out on the road running 5+ miles. One of the best ways to help you when you begin to struggle when you’re running is remembering your running form and your breathing. Your breath should be deep and through your nose and mouth. If you find yourself breathing quickly, shallowly, or just out of breath, then you need to slow down, maybe even walk for a minute or two to readjust your breathing.
Book #5 in the series, Beginner to Finisher!
Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner’s Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3) which has become an Amazon international #1 bestseller. To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor click here.
Beginner to Finisher Series (5 books):
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