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The video below outlines the first two things I address when I start working with runners. There is plenty to dissect when it comes to running form, gait, breathing patterns, etc. However, these two tips can be implemented in less than an hour with very little coaching needed. You may just need to take a video of yourself running to get a better idea of your starting point. The following article provides a bit more explanation of these two tips, but if you don’t like reading, watching the video is more than adequate.
1. Torso Movement
Simply put, you want as little of this as possible. Any movement through the torso has to be compensated for by your lower body, which is taking away from your legs primary objective of moving you forward.
Arm movement is the first area I address when cleaning up someone’s mechanics. The arms should swing freely forward and back, but the arms should not be driving any rotation through the torso. Think about the arms moving independent of the torso with their pivot point being the shoulder. Often times getting the arm movement to dissociate from the torso is enough to stop large torso rotation.
If the arm movement has been cleared up, but there is still considerable rotation with each step, then I move down to the lower body. This is where the analogy of “running the wheel” comes into play. I try to teach people to think of each leg creating a wheel or circle underneath their hips. This wheel motion should occur with the torso staying quiet from the hips up. Taking a video of yourself running from the front is an eye opening exercise for many people. Do this and then cover the lower half of your body so all you can see is the torso and arms. Ideally your torso looks like it’s just floating in space with very little movement occurring. If that is not the case, run again with a focus on very little movement and thinking about the legs moving independently beneath your torso. It will feel significantly different so use that feedback to acknowledge when you are and are not properly “running the wheel”.
2. Increase Your Cadence:
Although this may sounds like counter intuitive advice, it will help make you a much more efficient running without having to change anything with your form. Simply taking more steps per minute increases your efficiency…but how? Muscular elasticity.
The number of steps taken per minute is not really the key, but instead a proxy for the amount of time you spend on the ground with each step or ground contact time (GCT). Less ground contact time and muscular elasticity increases. So if you think of your glutes, hamstrings, calves, achilles, and feet and a system of large rubber bands, less ground contact time makes that system more “springy” for a lack of better terms.
I could spend more time trying to explain this phenomena, but it’s easier for you to experience it for yourself. Below is a quick drill that you can do at home to see what it feels like to move at various cadences.
Click on the links below. Start with 80 beats per minute and start jumping (as if you were jumping rope) with both feet at the same time. It’s fine if you don’t have an actual jump rope. Go for at least 30 seconds and try to be conscious of the amount of effort it takes for each jump. Then repeat with 90 and finally 100 beats per minute.
You will probably find that 80 beats per minute feels labored and just a little bit too slow, almost as if you have to pause on the ground each time. 90 beats per minute should feel better, more efficient, and like you’re springing up with each jump. 100 beats per minute should be the one that feels the best and most efficient.
Here is a rough breakdown of the cadences you should be holding during your runs:
80 BPM – Never
90 BPM – Minimum cadence for long distance runs
94-96 BPM – Shorter runs such as 5k’s or 5 milers
96-100 BPM – Specific training runs like 1/2 mile or 1 mile repeats
100 + BPM – Track and sprint work such as 200M and 400M repeats
RunTempo from the Apple App Store is what I use for my runs since it’s only $0.99 and it plays behind your music. However, any metronome app will do to help facilitate faster and more consistent cadence. I set my metronome to somewhere between 90 and 102 BPM and simply line up my right foot fall with each “beep”. If you want a cue for both the left and right foot fall, simply double the suggested cadences above.
And as promised below is a link to the warm-up routine I’ve used consistently over the past few years for a variety of athletes. If the workout that day was run or sprint specific, this is the warm-up routine I put them through to make sure their body is prepared to run. Simply create an account then use the promo code (RunFree) and this warm up routine is yours free of charge.