Running is just one foot in front of the other, right? In theory yes it is, but if you want to run efficiently, use your energy wisely, hit those times, then it is definitely more than left leg, right leg, repeat. How can you improve your run efficiency to hit those PBs or simply make the experience more comfortable? Let me explain on how I’ve been changing my run.
Before I dive into what you can do to run better, I’ve had some excellent news this week in that we’ll be able to fly to America so I can do my Indian Wells 70.3 race in December. The training is definitely on now! Well, the training was already on as I have the Royal Parks Half Marathon October 10th and the Yorkshire Marathon October 17th. That’s a fair amount of running I know, so running better is top of my priority list.
Run efficiency from my coach
I have a triathlon coach who took some track sessions with me to look at my running. I’m not saying you need to get a running coach to become efficiently, I’m simply going to explain what my coach taught me. The feedback was that I bounce upwards, so instead of using that energy efficiently and moving forward, I was going up and down. I need that energy to propel me forward not up, otherwise I don’t move anywhere, or if I do I don’t go forward. Mind blown, I thought I’d been running well, instead it was almost like putting all this energy in and then slamming on the breaks each time I starting going forward.
I always struggle with balancing my energy when it comes to running, I either go all out or I don’t push hard enough. I needed this to change as I want to have a consistent run that allows me to hit my goals. We started off our track session doing some technique drills before getting into the running session. Don’t worry about your time/pace etc in this type of technique training, that’s not what you’re there for but I still like to track my runs, and did on the new Garmin Fenix 6 from Very. This has a track specific setting and using technology like this, is always good to track our progress. Something we all should do to help us improve.
I noticed I was leaning back when I run so if I can paint this picture for you, I was Benny Hill style running, something out of a comedy scene essentially! This was actually propelling me up, instead of forward. Coach got me to roll my shoulders up and back, then slightly tilt forward from the hips, but only a small bit. That tiny shift in position allowed me to propel forward when I took my stride, rather than up because I was leaning too far back.
I used to be a heel strike runner until I had my ACL knee operation and realised this was going to cause me more knee pain, so I learnt how to land forward of my foot. It took some time, but it was the best running adaptation I’ve ever done. By landing forward onto your heel you’re not only sending an impact sensation up your leg, you’re also hitting the breaks during your stride. Another area you’re slowing yourself down, yet using up energy. When you stride forward your should be landing on the forward part of your foot, this then keeps the motion fluid and you’ll continue to propel forward.
Over reaching and cadence
Whilst striding forward and landing on the front part of your foot is better than your heel, a lot of people can over stride and still bounce. A higher cadence (continuing movement of the feet), not like fast feet, but a high cadence, rather than a over stretched stride is again an energy saver to improve your running efficiency.
Avoid the bounce
As I have said the bounce up and down is the biggest issue many of use have with run efficiency. What can you do to change it. During my track session, I pretended like I had a set of books on my head and then found I couldn’t bounce like I did. I kept my shoulders down, tilted forward and the difference was incredible. I was moving forward instead of up. Imaging something was on my head helped break that bouncing habit.
Why technique drills are important
I personally find track sessions really important because when we get swept up in races we can often forget to strip back the running from just clocking distances, and forget about improving technique. I’d never just swim without doing dedicated drills/technique sessions as well as distance training, so why not with running? Exactly! How can we improve without it, we can’t.
In summary, as I say, it takes time and patience to change your running style especially if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while. However, with the right training you can become quicker and more efficient with these small changes. Over time it’ll change, just like me going from a heel striker! It can be done! So as I go forward to my upcoming races I’m hoping I’ll be able to run far more smoothly and efficiently as I head toward those finish lines!
*Post in collaboration with Very