Striding Through Your Running Journey
By Judy Long, CPT
Many runners begin as couch potatoes or something with a similar “pace” of life. Usually either inspiration or fear puts us in motion. Inspiration in the form of goal setting, a bucket list, losing post baby weight or moving for a cause like cancer or the memory of a loved one. The fear push normally comes after a visit to our doctor’s office when we realize that change and motion are necessary for us to live.
We start off walking. Walking is easy and you only need a good pair of shoes. As our energy increases we get excited and toss a little jog into our walk. Not too bad! As we continue to exercise we begin to increase our running distance and before we know it our power walk has turned into a run.
Does this sound like you? The next step in your running journey is to look at how you run. You have the stamina now let’s make sure you have the form from head to toe.
Head – Your head should be up and your gaze on the horizon. It is easy to look down at your toes or jut your chin out hoping your body will follow. Keeping your head and gaze up will help the rest of your body stay in proper alignment.
Shoulders/Torso – Shoulders should be relaxed and low. Torso should be “tall” and aligned with your head. As you tire on a run it is easy for your shoulders to creep up towards your ears or for your torso to hunch over. If you feel this happening shake out your shoulders to release the tension and try squeezing your shoulder blades together for a few seconds to open your chest back up.
Hands/Arms – Hands should be loosely cupped. Arms should swing back and forth at the shoulders and be bent at a 90 degree angle.
Legs/Stride – As a beginning runner your stride needs to be balanced and strong. The way to achieve this is by running with a short stride that has a quick leg turnover (think the Road Runner’s feet vs. a turtle). When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body. As your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly bent so that it can bend naturally on impact and help spring you forward. If your lower leg (below the knee) extends out in front of your body, your stride is too long.
Feet – You want your feet to land lightly and quietly directly underneath your body. Slapping the ground or reaching way out in front of your body is not good for you.
I know this is a lot of information to think about when you are running so start off slow, just like you did when you started exercising. Try starting at the top and focus on one thing for a week or two. Your body will begin to make this change your new normal. Remember, all of these things are intertwined. Running is a journey, have fun!