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10 Steps To Injury Free Running

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It’s ironic, but I have actually learned quite a lot about the mechanics of running since I retired from competitive athletics. Now I put my time and energy into the whole area of correct mechanics for running. I do this through the Chi Running method. I hope my experiences can help you enjoy running in the same way I have done since I started taking more notice of the importance of correct mechanics.

Even though I don’t compete anymore, I still clock up the miles every week in the Phoenix Park. If I hadn’t changed some aspects of my running style, I would still be getting injuries.

I am more confident now that if I maintain good running form and stay focused and relaxed, I can run as much as I like. I’m back doing what I did when I was growing up on the farm in Cornafean, and I have rediscovered the sheer sense of freedom and enjoyment that running gives. When people meet me, they always ask why I don’t compete anymore. When I was competing, I trained hard and had to prepare meticulously all the time. I have lost the appetite for the really hard training which is required to compete at the top. But I still love running with a passion and as all runners know, there is no better feeling and no better medicine than a nice run, whatever the weather. The following components can be developed over time to change your running form and make you more efficient and injury free. Some people have some of the components naturally, whereas some of us need to focus on these components until they become a natural movement for our bodies.


You need to be flexible; not only in your muscles but in your tendons, ligaments and joints. They all work better when they move with flexibility and any restriction in your muscles, ligaments or tendons will limit your range of motion. As we get older we tend to become less active. If you don’t use your muscles and joints they will begin to stiffen. Flexibility doesn’t just happen; you have to work at it. Stretching for a few minutes a day is enough for most people to maintain a good range of motion and decrease the risk of pulled muscles.


Your form is totally dependent on your posture. Good posture is when your spine is reasonably straight, with not too much straightness and not too much bend. The more you slump, the more your body’s muscles need to work to hold you upright. When you have good posture or good body alignment, your shoulder, hip and ankle bone are all in a straight line. If your body is out of alignment it is going to cause fatigue, discomfort and eventually pain. Poor posture also restricts lung capacity and the circulation of blood to your muscles and organs.


Having too long a stride or over-striding is a big factor in hamstring and knee injuries. This is when you land with your feet in front of you instead of under you. Not bending your knees when you run will create stiffness and poor circulation in your legs. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle when you are warmed up and running at a good medium pace.


When you run you want to spend the least possible time on your legs. The longer you take with each stride, the more time your foot spends on the ground and the more your legs have to work to support your body weight. Even if it is a split second during each stride, it adds up quickly when you are taking 1500 steps per mile. Work to maintain a cadence of 85-90 strides per minute with each leg


Develop awareness of the muscles in your body and learn how to sense tension or tightness in your muscles. When you learn to body sense, it makes it easier to relax your muscles while running


You will need a strong focus to re-educate your body when making adjustments to correct poor or improper running form.


Your upper body and lower body should be doing equal amounts of work. When your upper body and lower body are working together, rather than against each other, it spreads the work of running over the whole body. A good example of this is when someone has a good leg swing but a very stiff upper body. The legs would swing much easier if the upper body were co-operating by being loose and moving with the motion of the legs and helping the legs to swing, instead of working against them.


When your breath is shallow, you use only the very upper part of your lungs. This means you aren’t taking full advantage of your total lung capacity. It’s best to practice your breathing when you are not running so that you can feel what it’s like before you try to do it on a run. When you exhale you should pull your belly button in towards your spine, which will empty the bottom of your lungs. Then when you relax your abdominals they will expand and draw air into the bottom of your lungs. There are many new habits you can learn to become a more efficient runner and proper breathing is a good habit to have whether or not you’re a runner.


The less you bend your arms and legs, the more work your muscles have to do when you are running. An arm or leg that is bent at the knee or elbow will swing much easier than one that is straight. When you are running at a good steady pace, your forearms and shins should be parallel to the ground.


I can’t over-emphasise how important it is to relax while you are running. Relaxation is the absence of unnecessary effort. With ChiRunning, you move from your core, which reduces the amount of effort required of your legs. Another advantage of being relaxed is that when your muscles are loose and relaxed, the oxygen carried by your blood can enter the muscles much more easily than if your muscles are tense. Softer muscles are more absorbent muscles. This rule also applies when your muscles get tired. What tired muscles need most is oxygen to revive them and adequate circulation to carry away the lactic acid. When you tighten your muscles you rob these muscles of the circulation and oxygen needed to do the necessary work. So the next time you feel yourself becoming a little tired during your run, just do a mental scan of your whole body and look for any places you are holding tension. The more relaxed you are, the less resistance your arms and legs will offer to the motion of your body

Article By: Catherina McKiernan

Source: www.irishrunner.com