Proper running technique has taken center stage for age group runners in the last decade. Once a bastion for largely professional/elite runners, running form assessment—and the related tweaking of minor maladies—has now made its way to runners of all ages and ability. Here are five of the most common biomechanical weaknesses and how to improve them.
Many runners have issues relating to overstriding, which occurs when a runner's foot strike is well in front of your body's center of gravity. In other words, your feet should impact either directly beneath the hips or only marginally in front of your mass.
By keeping your feet "underneath you," you will reduce the amount of contact time on the ground, thereby increasing your overall cadence (the number of times your feet strike the ground in a given period).
Additionally, a slightly shorter and more frequent stride rate allows athletes to enter the final 1/3 of distance races with less energy expended.
How to Improve Overstriding and Up Cadence
One to two times weekly, conclude an easy run at the base of a hill and run eight 30-second moderate hill repetitions (think 85 percent: not quite all-out, but 5K race effort) on a moderately steep hill (10- to 12-percent grade). Walk to the base of the hill for your recovery before engaging another 30-second hill acceleration.
By their nature, hills biomechanically force the body to naturally pull one's feet under center of mass. They are Mother Nature's cure for overstriding.
You can also try counting your repetition of foot strike for a one-minute period during a run. Most studies based on efficiency show that runners with a cadence count of 180 foot strikes per minute or higher (90 per leg) are most efficient. Are you quite a bit lower? Try abbreviating your stride just a hair to get yourself to 180. If you do this three to four times each run for just one to two minutes, you will find 180 begins to feel very natural.
Too Much Trunk Twist/Rotated Shoulders
A common malady amongst runners, particularly rookies, is the arms moving incorrectly. It's common that when the arm swings, it has too much lateral movement and, in result, the shoulder can in over rotated.
How to Improve Too Much Lateral Motion/Overly Rotated Shoulders
Draw an imaginary center line from your head to your groin. If your hands cross that line while running, work to have them come forward through the hip and to the body's center on the upswing, no farther east/west. For most effective self-tweaking, implement this "fix" while on a treadmill in front of a mirror.
Shoulders with overly forward rotation can inhibit proper diaphragm engagement and increase the lateral motion. After each run, put your hands at eye level on either side of a door frame and walk into the threshold of the door so that the hands are now slightly behind the body, opening up the pectorals and upper back. Hold for four to six seconds and repeat five times.
Shoulders Riding Too High
When shoulders are too high—close to the ears—a runner's neck, pectorals, intercostal and related muscles easily spasm. When these muscles are in spasm (often an effect of those who spend large amounts of time typing), arm drive is impaired and power reduced.
How to Improve Elevated Shoulders
Shoulders too high are easily remedied. Hunch your shoulders as high as you can, (like you're shrugging) and allow them to drop. This is where your shoulders should be during all training runs and races. This quick fix can be implemented at any point during any run. Additionally, as a means of keeping those muscles relaxed, acquire regular massage work on your back and neck.