Did you know that humans first started to run around two million years ago? Over a decade ago, National Geographic found fossil evidence confirming that people were born to run. It is hardwired into our species for survival.
Running is one of the most popular, simple, inexpensive and exhilarating forms of physical activity. But pause for a second. How we run can influence our physical performance and helps to ward off joint and muscle pain in later life. Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently and comfortably, with less stress on the body and reduced injury risk.
The most effective methods for preventing runner injuries and improving your form involves three main aspects: running techniques, strength and recovery.
A big part of your running is simply maintaining your form. If you’re someone who always keeps their form perfect during runs, you have nothing to worry about. But if you’re not a perfect runner, there are techniques to help you master proper running form. One of the worst things you can do to your body is to run too much, too little or too fast for too long. This is because each of these three factors can wreak havoc on your running success. If you’re not careful, you can end up damaging the tissues that support your knees and ankles.
- When jogging, try to maintain good posture, engage your core and look forward.
- Try not to slump your shoulders or run with your head down.
- Run with a relaxed arm swing. A simple technique of moving forward and backwards creates more momentum in a run, making it more efficient to propel yourself forward.
- Avoid hitting the ground with your heel. A heel strike can reduce running speed and stress your knees.
There are many symptoms to look out for when it comes to bad running form:
- Difficulty breathing: hunching your shoulders as you run increases the pressure in your chest making it harder for you to breathe.
- Knee or hip pain shortly after running: pounding your feet can increase the impact on your joints and is an ineffective way of using your energy which can cause injury. Work on treading lightly and minimising sound when feet hit the ground.
- Neck pain while running: bad running posture can affect the neck and the back when running. You need to make sure you have a strong core to keep the pelvis aligned to allow for more effective movement.
- Elbows shooting side to side, not back and forth.
- Shoulder pain while running.
Targeted muscle training helps to improve speed, form and posture while running. One of the most common weaknesses is unstable hips. Your pelvis has to be capable of supporting the body weight above and below it. Many athletes have experienced a handful of common injuries, including lower back pain, ITB syndrome, groin strains, meniscus injuries, tendinitis, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis and more. Your dynamic single leg stability, glute activation and core control need to be incorporated into a runner’s injury prevention programme.
Recovery after running is very important. A runner should be mindful of their recovery after running and not over train. Remember that running does not equal being able to run on a daily basis without over training. The best athletes in the world understand the importance of proper recovery and understand what they can do to improve their recovery.
Some runners tend to overdo it while training and not give their bodies enough time to rest. They become extremely excited about running and accidentally push themselves too hard, too fast and too soon. Listen to your body and its needs. Remember that it’s the quality of your weekly training that counts, not the quantity.
Every runner wants to be able to run better and faster, as well as avoid injury. But before you can run better, you have to be able to determine which speed, distance and type of trail works for you.
BSc Sports Science(UKZN) BSc (med) (hons) Biokinetics UCT Durban