Whether you were forced to do it at school, picked it up as a means of keeping fit or have progressed to competitive level, running is an activity that the majority of people will do at some point in their lives.
The convenience of being able to grab a pair of trainers and go is part of the reason why running is so popular. It is also one of the reasons why we see more injuries relating to a lack of specific conditioning for running.
Due to the repetitive actions involved in running, any shortcomings in technique, strength or flexibility can become more harmful than they possibly would in ‘multi-directional’ sports where the muscle groups being loaded are constantly changing.
In general, most recreational runners will not do any training other than running. Without professional advice, it is difficult to identify what you should be doing to maintain or improve your running.
So, what makes a good runner?
The following areas are vitally important in good running form, but also some of the most common deficiencies that they see at the Drummond Clinic
Running Specific Strength
A strength program designed with the stresses of running considered can be very useful in strengthening specific muscle groups and conditioning your body for running.
The cushioning on landing and propulsion of the running technique should ideally come from the ‘extensor chain’ (back, bottom and backs of legs) muscles. Adequate strength in the gluteals (buttocks), quads (thighs) and calf muscles will allow you to control the impact forces on landing and increase the forward propulsion.
One of the strength areas commonly overlooked, or not even considered, is the lateral (side-to-side) stability needed around the pelvis, hip and abdominal region. When landing on one leg, the weight of your upper body and opposite leg has to be controlled by the muscles around your hips and pelvis. Weakness or inactivity of these muscles will allow the pelvis to drop to one side. Not only can this overload your lower back, knees and ankles but in regard to running efficiency, if you are trying to travel forwards, why waste extra energy swinging your hips from side-to-side?
In order to increase muscle strength in the legs we commonly see people being prescribed, or self prescribing, squats and dead-lift exercises. These will help to increase general strength through the extensor chain, but how specific are they to the single-leg loading position associated with running?
To increase the ‘specificity’ of your strength training, these exercises should be complimented by some single-leg exercises and lateral movement exercises to train all of the muscle groups needed.
The importance of good flexibility is an area commonly neglected, however it works hand in hand with adequate strength.
The relative tension present within a tight muscle can increase the likelihood of straining muscles or tendons during your exercise.
Poor flexibility can also limit your range of motion to the point where compensations may occur. Compensatory movements will lead to overloading the body in areas that may not be able to cope. This can in turn create ‘overuse’ issues such as stress fractures, tendon injuries, shin splints or cartilage problems etc.
It is important to maintain good flexibility in the muscles primarily used in running. Keeping your buttocks, thigh, hamstrings and calf muscles supple will help to combat the risk of movement compensations and injury.
There are a lot of magazines that offer advice on running technique and form, but it is important that you are aware of your level and ability when selecting what advice to follow. If you are new to running, or returning after a period of inactivity, it is very important to start slow (use a combination of walk and run) and work your way up slowly. Just because you were able to run 3 miles last summer without too much pain, does not mean you should head out and run three miles this weekend having spent the whole winter on the sofa.
Drummond clinic, offer advice and guidance and the also provide personal programmes. If you would like further information, they would love to hear from you.