If you’re like me running is a key part of your life. Whether you’re running to improve your fitness, socialize or work up a sweat, the benefits are countless.
I love running to keep me fit and healthy, enjoy the outdoors, clear my mind and to go on adventures!
One of my favourite runs in recent times was on the NSW coast. The weatherman had put on a beautiful day that complimented the fantastic views, which made the run an absolute delight!
It’s runs like these that help keep me in peak state, both physically and mentally.
Healthy mind, healthy body!
Photo taken during my run at Port Macquarie, NSW
Optimising Performance – further, faster or better
As a passionate runner I want to be able to perform at my best. I also want to help others run further, faster or better.
Now you may be thinking to yourself that this a no-brainer – if I want to run further then go for a run – and you would be correct, somewhat.
Running performance is dictated by a multitude of factors, each with their own important role.
- Muscle fibre type
- Aerobic capacity
- FITT (training Frequency, Intensity, Type, Time/Duration)
- Body mass
- Shoe selection
Whilst there are several areas that we cannot change on this list (thank your parents for your genetics and for the most part muscle fibre type!), there are still plenty of opportunities to enhance your running performance.
Let’s start with Running Biomechanics.
Remember when your parents told you to stand up tall?
Although we did our best to ignore them, they were actually giving us important life advice! Why? To reduce our risk of future pain and injury. By standing with a ‘good posture’, the force of gravity is evenly distributed throughout our body, thus avoiding an excessive strain on a specific region (assuming there are no ailments and you regularly change position).
The same applies to running. When the alignment is ‘ideal’, your body is well equipped to absorb and generate forces.
The end result being an improved running efficiency and reduced strain on your musculoskeletal system.
The two images below demonstrate an ‘ideal’ alignment when running, and a technique that has an elevated risk of injury.
(a) Optimal alignment: Notice how the hip-knee-foot are well aligned; (b) Sub-optimal alignment: the angle of the thigh creates a mal-alignment between the hip-knee-ankle, resulting in altered joint loading.
Steps to optimizing your running performance
Step 1: Functional assessment
Most individuals learnt to run at the playground, which for the most part involved an absence of feedback. Unfortunately, bad habits often eventuate and go unnoticed.
A video analysis will help identify any biomechanical faults that need to be addressed (i.e. foot placement crossing the midline; hip-knee-foot mal-alignment).
If you’re one of the lucky ones, your technique will not need any intervention. However, there may still be an opportunity to enhance your flexibility, proprioception and muscular strength and endurance.
Step 2: Intervention
Based on the analysis an individualized plan will be developed to take your running to the next level and/or prevent future injury.
This will often include a combination of strength and conditioning exercises (lower limb and core) and running-specific tasks.
Since running is multi-factorial, the ‘optimal’ technique will vary between individuals, hence the need for a customized program.
Step 3: Transfer to running
The goal here is to ensure the improvements are transferred to running, especially once fatigue sets in.
Starting with small distances, I use verbal cues to ensure the ‘optimal’ technique is mastered, before progressing to the next level.
Step 4: Maintenance
Here we look to ensure the enhancements are converted to long-lasting movement patterns. It is important to continue with regular strength and conditioning work, and look after the body in every aspect – nutrition, flexibility, sleep, mental state.
Prevention is better than treatment
If you’re asking yourself why go through the above steps, think about how your car functions when the wheel alignment is out. Aside from the uncomfortable ride, your tyres will wear out at a faster rate than normal. Choosing to ignore the issue will create further damage to your car, turning a small issue into a large problem (maintaining a car is difficult enough without having to face any unnecessary expenses).
In terms of running, if your technique is sub-optimal, your body is likely to experience an excessive amount of stress. Over time, the increased strain will breakdown the integrity of the musculoskeletal system, leading to an unpleasant layoff from running.
How to avoid this happening to you?
Have your running technique assessed, identify biomechanical flaws, and follow through on the recommended interventions. Just do it!
If a thorough run assessment is what you’re after please make an appointment with me at Happy Physio and we will serve you in the best way possible. For any questions regarding this article please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Running 🙂
Dan D’Avoine – Perth Running Expert
Happy Physio Exercise Physiologist
Head Trainer at Happy Physio Run Club
B.Sc Exercise Science and Rehabilitation
B.Sc Exercise and Sports Science
Happy Physio Run Club every Tuesday morning @ 6:40am 🙂