Tips for Running Injury Free
Running is a common form of exercise because it can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment. And although running may seem very simple, there is actually a great deal of technique involved in order to prevent injury and make running a long term source of physical activity.
Eighty percent of runners are injured each year from things like stress fractures, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. The incidence of these conditions can be decreased greatly if proper running technique is employed. The basic biomechanical positions required for running properly and preventing injury are also the most energy efficient and generate the most power and speed.
The Pose Method of running was developed by Dr. Nicolas Ramonov in 1981. It is a system of human movement based on determining key poses and working with the laws of nature to move most efficiently through the poses with the least amount of muscular effort. With this method, each running cycle has a beginning (the pose), a middle (the fall/pull) and an end (the landing).
To begin learning this method, I like to have athletes really think about the figure 4 position. This is where they are balancing on one leg and the other is bent at the knee with the ankle in line with the knee of the standing leg, making what resembles the number 4. In this pose it is important that the ear, shoulders, hip, and standing ankle are in line and weight is on the ball of the standing foot. Arms are bent at ninety degrees and hands are loosely clenched. I tell athletes to pretend they are holding potato chips that they don’t want to crush. This helps them to relax their hands, arms, and shoulders while running.
Once they are familiar with the figure 4, I teach the fall/pull portion of the cycle. In order to initiate momentum forward, the body must lean and this lean comes from the ankle of the standing leg and not the hip. Once the fall is initiated, the athlete must pull the standing foot up the trunk of the opposite leg using the hamstrings and glutes. This pull is initiated as soon as the opposite foot passes the center of mass.
The final part of the running cycle is the landing. The most important thing is that the landing takes place directly under the body and on the mid foot (the most padded portion also known as the ball of the foot). This prevents the athlete from reaching out and heel striking. Any landing in front of the center of mass is like applying the breaks, and heel striking will lead to injury because of the impact, where as the mid food is much more padded. Once landing takes place on the mid foot, the heel comes down making contact with the ground gently and briefly before the next pull is initiated. This brief landing period under the center of mass optimizes ground reaction and muscle elasticity, uses the least muscle power, and allows for the least amount of shock to be absorbed by the body.
Another important part of learning to run properly is stride frequency. The ideal cadence for Pose running is 90 or greater. This equates to 180 steps per minute or more. The best way to practice proper stride frequency is to get a cadence running app or compact metronome like this Seiko version on Amazon. These can be set to the desired cadence and each time they beep, the athlete’s foot should make contact with the ground. This really helps in shortening the stride and preventing reaching and heel striking.
Once individuals are familiar with the Pose technique and have studied several YouTube videos of Pose runners in action, the most important thing is practice. I always encourage athletes to video themselves in slow motion to really be able to see where their feet are contacting the ground and which part of the food is landing. It is also best to purchase a more minimal running shoe for this method of running. Nike Frees are a great example as they still provide support but allow athletes to feel the ground under them and are pliable enough to allow the mid foot to land before the heel.
Finally, I tell runners not to do too much too soon if this form is totally different from the way they had been running. Pose running requires a great deal of calf strength, so in order to prevent extremely sore calf muscles, I would suggest starting with under a mile of Pose running for the first week and then increasing gradually from there. Also, stretching the calves, as well as the hamstrings, before and after the training sessions is very important.
Here are some of the most common errors in traditional running practice:
Poor posture (bending at the waist)- the chest should be upright while running and the lean should come from the ankle and not the hip.
Landing in front or breaking.- the foot should land under the body and not out in front.
- Landing on the heel- landing should be on the mid foot followed by brief contact with the heel to the ground.
- Pushing off the ground in the back- the hamstring and glute should be used to PULL the leg up and into the next cycle. The less contact the foot has with the ground the better.
- Taking long strides- the metronome can be used to keep cadence at 90 or above. This will prevent reaching and keep the stride compact.
Jess Pinkerton is the nutrition coach and co-owner of Crossfit Vitality in Concord, NC.
My passion has always been physical fitness. I got involved in sports through swimming and have been training ever since. Prior to CrossFit, I spent a lot of time running and training for local races. I was skeptical of CrossFit at first with my background being mainly aerobic endurance training, but I instantly became a believer when I saw my run times drop without doing anything other than CrossFit. I enjoy working with younger populations to provide a foundation of fitness that will enable individuals to live long, healthy lives. I also enjoy working with adult populations to help them rediscover their fitness potential. Steve and I have a two year old daughter, Reagan (who is already in the process of learning the CrossFit nine fundamental movements), so I can empathize with busy moms who often do not have the time to put themselves and their fitness first.