Chapter 8: Learning to develop good running technique

This chapter of Running Technique discusses strategies for either learning to run as a beginner or refining your technique for more experienced and advanced athletes.  I have divided the stages of running expertise into three phases: (1) Developing correct muscle activation patterns, (2) Increase strength and stability through the hips, and (3) Fine tuning for power and speed. Learning from each phase carries over into the next without much conscious effort.

Learning how to learn your running technique is what this chapter is all about.  Successful technique improvements can be made by gaining an awareness of how your body responds to various mental cues in relation to physical movement and the environment.  Everyone’s wiring is slightly different, and your neurological pathways have been fixed for decades, so you may need to reprogram your brain to send different messages to your muscles to get them firing in the right movement pattern.

I’ll be adding a number of short instructional videos to cover some of the more important aspects described in this chapter of the book.  Stay tuned.

As a final complication each of us absorbs information and learns differently, so one set of instruction that works for me might not work equally well for you.  For this reason this chapter contains a number of physical exercises and mental strategies that allow you to practice getting a feel for how better running works inside your mind using your body.  The goal being to recognize what good running feel like and learn to stimulate your mind and body to create a more effective movement pattern.

Why running technique is not all about foot-strike

There has recently been a lot of focus on foot-strike and ankle contact posture as it relates to whether a runner has good or bad technique.  As I discuss in the eBook, contact posture is only part of the picture and is less important in the overall scheme of running technique than developing the correct muscle activation patterns in the larger joints and muscle groups around the hips and knees.  To give you an idea where I’m coming from, consider this diagram.

As a regular runner it would be easy to get depressed reading about how the only way to have good technique is to run on the forefoot or even on your toes.  My diagram is only intended to be a guide, but it depicts four running contact postures.  Despite first impressions only the first runner has major problems because there is no engagement of the hamstrings and glutes ahead of ground contact – the consequences are a hard, injury inducing, heel-toe landing well ahead of the knee.  The other three figures all have acceptable technique with good engagement of the hamstrings, glutes and calves.  By activating these muscle groups at the right time, these runners are stable, have the ability to absorb landing shock and generate more power.

There is a good argument to be made that the runners towards the right of screen have better technique and I cover the reasons for this in the eBook.  However, having said that, I have seen many Olympians running with a pattern not dissimilar to the second figure from left. Provided any heel striking is not extreme and the muscle activation pattern is good, thereby preventing landing with the foot ahead of the knee, you’ll generally be ok.   However if you run like I used to (see image to the right) then you definitely have problems that need to be corrected. This chapter is all about learning the muscle activation patterns that will help you build a sound injury resistant running technique.  If you already have the basics right it also explains how you can improve aspects of your running form that will deliver faster running and less risk of injury.  For more information, please refer to Chapter 8 of Running Technique.

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Learning to run

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