We all have legs so we can all run – right? Not quite. Running technique can be honed, and doesn’t always come naturally. Poor running technique can mean, preventable injuries, which could mean your running career may be over before it begins! Just like body types (think pear, apple etc) we all have an innate running style which is dictated by a variety of factors including our weight, our muscle’s strengths and weaknesses, our natural biomechanics and the volume and intensity that we run. But the good news is your style, biomechanics and muscle strengths can change, just like the clothes in your wardrobe!
Michael Dermansky, Senior Physiotherapist and Managing Director from MD Health Pilates, believes there are a number of simple things that each and everyone one of us can do to improve the way we run.
He offers his top five tips to ensure you run like a gazelle, rather than a giraffe:
Improve your Gluts! Your gluteus maximus muscle is your major bum muscle and the major propulsion muscle when running. The power when you run should come from this muscle, however, it is weak on most runners, which means your hips roll inwards increasing the strain on your knees, over working your hamstrings and risking hamstrings tears, which could stop you from running.
Increase each aspect of your running – but only one at a time! It is important to focus on increasing your volume, speed or intensity, but not two or all three at once as this is the most common way to develop long term tendon issues, such as hamstrings tendonopathy, achilles or quadriceps tendon issues. With any training, it is important to progress the load to further improving, however, all aspects of load, such as volume, speed and intensity is often more than the body can adapt to and will lead to long term tendon injuries, which can require months to heal.
Do not overstride! Most runners take too long a stride when running because they can’t maintain the optimal step rate (about 170-180 steps per minute) – this is often due to gluteus maximus weakness. Hamstrings issues, gluteus medius tendonopathies, and other knee related injuries are all linked to this weakness. You should talk to your running coach about analysing your stride length and working on your optimal running pace.
Watch your Gluteus Medius! This is the muscle on the side of the hip. It is very important in maintaining a level pelvis when you run. Weakness in this muscle increases the load on this muscle’s tendon and can lead to gluteus medius tendon problems and long term damage to the hip joint itself. This can really affecting your running career in the long term.
Address your biomechanics issues before worrying about your footwear – Addressing the above factors will have a much bigger affect on your running than wearing the perfect running shoe. However, the most important aspect when choosing a running shoe is that it bends just before the beginning of the big toe.
Caroline Scott, a competitive runner and a member of MD Health Pilates, has noticed a real improvement in her own running style – including some personal bests – thanks to following these guiding principles and a personalised running program designed by MD Health Pilates. She comments “over the past 2 years I have been training with MD Health and I have had some major improvements and gains in my running. I was impressed with their approach and ability to tailor a program to suit my needs and goals. The program worked on my weakness to develop strength that translated into improved results in my chosen sport. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!”.
“I may not be the fastest runner out there, but I am faster than what I was 2 years ago! In addition, Pilates has helped me remain injury free over the past 2 years, which is always a bonus!.”
Michael concludes: “Ask your running coach, or someone qualified on biomechanical analysis, such as a sports podiatrist, to help analyse your running technique and work out the best ways to improve your running biomechanics.”
MD Health Pilates is a Melbourne based Clinical Pilates and Physiotherapy centre of excellence led by a team of highly qualified Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists. They offer clients truly personalised and progressive exercise programs that deliver life-changing results. The MD Health Pilates programs are based on a unique integration of Clinical Pilates and Physiotherapy to achieve optimal musculoskeletal health.