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Posts tagged ‘running form’

The Top 5 Things I’ve Learned in a Year- #5, Running Form

In five days my one year blogging journey will come to an end. In 360 days, I have learned A LOT of things but there are 5 that I think will carry my running a new level. I would like to share my list of the most important things I’ve learned this past year…

#5 – Running Form

Running form is particularly important to me right now because I’m coming back from an injury that I know was caused by bad running form. I could feel it when my form started to deteriorate, and because I chose to ignore it for so long, I realize how incredibly important it is.

Back in June, after seeing a few race photos, I realized my form needed a little work. In comparison to the super fast runners out there, my form was a mess. In July, I took a Chi Running class and was amazed at the things I learned. For a while, I focused on my chi running techniques and it worked quite well. However, over time, as I got more interested in speed in distance, I let the form go.

My lesson from this is the following: bad running form exacerbates a running injury. Everything in the body plays an important role – your legs, your hips, your core, your back, your shoulder position, your head position… everything. Two Saturdays ago a guy went flying past me. His running form was beautiful. Efficient. Effortless. And clean. I immediately tried to imitate it and found my pace quickly increase.

I have learned that when you feel your form start to go, slow down. Rest. Take a break. Stretch. Speed and distance are never worth the numbers, at the price of bad form. It will catch up with you.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,;

Tracie

Running Update: I had a pyramid fartlek run today. 1-2-3-3-2-1 minute intervals with :30,1:00:1:30 minute breaks in between. I was not excited about it. I found myself really taking it easy on the warm up mile because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I did my intervals and at the end I realized I only did 1-2-3-2-1 and missed my second 3 minute interval, or so I thought. I made up my second 3 minutes at the end. Turns out I was wrong… I did do all of my intervals plus an extra one because I can’t count. Or at least speed and hills make me forget how to count. I did a 2.5 mile cool down and was incredibly happy with how strong I felt up that one beast of a hill. For 7 miles with some intense speedwork, I was very happy with the end result. Warm up mile is here, fartlek run is here, and cool down miles are here.

 

Seeing my bad form for the first time...

Seeing my bad form for the first time…

 

An improvement after my chi running class...

An improvement after my chi running class…

 

City of oaks

I think I have good for in this too…

 

 

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Tight Glutes

Any time I’ve ever had a sports massage, I have always been told I had extremely tight glutes. In my mind I took that to mean you have really strong glutes but it seems this isn’t the case. This morning, as I started out my run, I could tell I was holding a lot of tension in my glutes and it was affecting my running form. Once I focused on letting the tension go, my stride really opened up and my running felt so incredibly efficient. It was awesome.

When I got home, I decided to look into tight glutes. Well it turns out, I think this may have been a big contributing factor to my injury in February. Glutes are important.

Your glutes are the largest, most powerful muscle in the body. When they are inhibited, they can affect everything from your hip flexors to your lower back muscles. (Wait, isn’t that what was wrong with me for 5 weeks?) If your glutes are inhibited, this means they can be either too tight or too weak. Want to know if you have inhibited glutes? Try the hip extension test. Right now it seems mine are pretty normal. (The goal will be to keep them this way as I slowly pick my running back  up.) Your glutes are the muscles that help keep your pelvis, femur, ankle, and knee in alignment. If that gets out of whack, you could potentially have issues with your lower back, your IT Band, or even your knees. Um, not good.

This website has some great stretches and exercises for getting the glutes firing properly. In addition, it has some stretches for the piriformis. I know I’ve said this before but it continues to amaze me how running is a complete, whole body, activity. In order to be an efficient runner, all the parts have to be in sync with one another. Kind of like a nice, fancy car… 🙂

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: This morning was a glorious run. The weather was perfect, my body felt great, and everything went by effortlessly. I ran 9 miles and that is my longest runs since my injury. I keep reminding myself that some of the best female runners are in their 30s. I turn 30 in two weeks so maybe my time is approaching. 😉 Stats are here.

Arm Swing

Last week I made the decision to take a ChiRunning class after seeing a few race photos.  It looked like my arms and shoulders were probably slowing me down instead helping me to run faster.  I learned many things during the class on Saturday, but the component that I am focusing the most on right now is arm swing. Arm swing is important and it can either help you or hurt you.  In some of my photos, I look like I’m ready to elbow you or do the chicken dance.  In other words, my elbows are going out and not back.  Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I learned on Saturday is to focus on on your elbows going straight back, not out, and not twisting.

Here is what Danny Dreyer has to say about arm swing:

“Having a relaxed and efficient armswing can have a huge effect on the smoothness of your gait which translates into increasing your economy of motion which will reduce the workload of your legs. When I talk about efficiency, it means that you can either run faster, or farther, or require less recovery time…with a lower perceived effort level during your runs. And,  you can feel all this with a more effective arm swing.”

Want to learn how to improve your arm swing?  Check out these tips here.  Just by focusing more on my elbows going back, I can already tell a little soreness in my body but my running feels a lot easier.  This was the best video I could find demonstrating the technique.

Check out all the different arms from the race a few weeks ago:

 

I’m in the back in the purple

 

A few crazier arms in this pic

 

I’m beginning to think that running form should be a class taught in PE.

 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Form

At the start of this summer, I decided to focus on running speed.  More intervals, more hill repeats, and harder tempo runs.  After the race this weekend, where I did PR in the 5K (20:40), I decided I needed to reevaluate my plans.  As I mentioned earlier this week, Mario took some great photos of just how crappy my running form is.  I have a crazy left droopy shoulder and hips that always push to the right. Every year when I pick up heavy training, an injury soon follows.  It’s inevitable.  Then I take my training inside to the elliptical and bike, recover, and start running again.  When I pick up the mileage, I find myself in the same situation.  It really is a vicious cycle and I hate it.

Running is my passion.  It makes me happy and if I can not do it, I am sad.  Of course speed is a great goal to work on, but I think I need to address my form first.  If I can stop wasting energy on bad form and swinging hips, I imagine that I will inevitably run faster. If my form is better, then (hopefully) I will encounter less injuries, which will lead to more mileage.  (And that equals a REALLY happy Tracie.)  This brings me to today’s questions…

What the heck can I do to help my running form?

The first thing I am doing is taking a chi running class on Saturday.  I’ve read many great things about this running method, and if it can help me with my form, I’m there.  Next, I need to strengthen my core.  Predawn Runner recommended doing side planks to help with the obliques.  He also has a great blog post detailing a 30 minute routine to strengthen the core and improve running form. (I’ll be doing this after I post my blog.)

I also learned quite a bit about what good form looks like from this video analysis of Chris Lieto and Craig Alexander:

I think I need to focus on strengthening my hamstrings.  Here is a great video from Livestrong.com with some simple hamstring strengthening exercises to do at home.  (I’ll do these after my 30 minute core workout.)

I’ve never been one for running drills (obviously).  However, it seems that incorporating a few into my weekly workout routine can only help my running form.  This video demonstrates several different drills to improve speed and form:

After watching it, I realized my version of high knees is nothing like this guy’s version.  Maybe that’s why he’s a track star and I am not.  I wonder if I do these drills along with Predawn Runner’s core routine if I’ll have an 8-pack like him? Fingers crossed.

Learning ways to improve my running form is an ongoing process.  Today, this is what I’m starting with and over time, I hope to learn more.  This morning I was reading The Lore of Running and came across the “Ten Laws of Running Injuries.”  Law 6 is my goal for the summer – Treat the Cause, Not the Effect.  I will be a better runner!

I’m trying to focus on my arms and make sure they don’t swing out like batman. And see how I still lean to one side?

 

Form looks somewhat better than the other pics.

 

Thank you Mario for taking pictures in the parking lot this morning.  I’ll get it right one day 🙂

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Tracie

 

Shoulders and Running

At the race this past weekend, thankfully Mario was there to take pictures so I could realize just how bad my running form is.  I mean, when you look at the pictures, my left shoulder swings back practically to the start line and it looks like I have something weighted in my left pocket that is forcing me to lean towards one side.  Then last night I went back to look at other race pictures.  The good news is, at least I can report this isn’t a new problem.  It goes back as far as my first race.  And I wonder why I get injured?  The thing that I noticed to be consistent in all of my pictures is my left shoulder really swings back and drops down.  So today I spent my afternoon trying to answer the question…

What can I do to help my shoulders stay in alignment when running?

As many runners already know, running isn’t just about your feet.  It’s about the movement of your entire body.  Your head and shoulders are just as important as your knees and hips.  When running, your shoulders should stay loose and relaxed.  If they start touching your earrings (or earlobes), they’ve probably crept up a little too high.  It is also just as important that they stay level with one another (this is where I fail).  No dipping from side to side.  If you aren’t sure what your shoulders are doing, you can have someone take pictures of you while running (this is what I made Mario do that this afternoon), or you can try this from HowtoBeFit.com:

Stand in front of a mirror. Notice your hand position, arm position and shoulder position. Do they look the same on both sides or is one “off” a little bit? That is, does one hand show only the back of the hand while the other is showing the thumb and index fingers? Does one shoulder hang lower than the other? If so, these are definite indications that you are running inefficiently. Since the shoulders act as counterbalances to your hips and vice-versa, and since the body is a unit, correct shoulder and hip position have a direct correlation to proper running form.

If you happen to be a drooper like me, a few exercises you can do to help are arm circles, elbow curls, and overhead extensions.  This video does a pretty good job explaining why your shoulders are important when running and how to have proper shoulder placement.  It also includes a few shoulder stretches.

I watched a few videos of Ryan Hall’s running form and he is like a gazelle compared to me.  I had Mario take about 100 pictures of my running form today and I must say, I thought I was much more graceful than that.  But the important thing is to be aware of the problem, with hopes that I can correct it.  After looking at my crazy left shoulder, I went out for a nice slow run, really focusing on my shoulders, my arms, and my hips.  I hope one day I too can run like a gazelle.

This is my decent (not great) side

See how far back my shoulder is and how my body is twisting? Not cool. And be careful – I might elbow you!

Again, decent on this side

Yikes!

Maybe if I can fix this, I’ll stop wasting energy on bad form and can run faster!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie