RUNNING TECHNIQUE

By Nenad Rodic,
posted 05/05

The focus of this article is the long distance running technique. Since there is a great difference in speeds of distance runners, ranging from the world record 26 minute 10 km to the 50 minute 10 km triathlon run, it is obvious that there is some difference in the techniques used by runners of different abilities. We'll focus on the ideal technique needed for fast distance running.

RUNNING TECHNIQUE IN SEQUENCE

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The foot strikes the ground below the center of gravity (central area of the hips). The strike is lightly to the outside of the heel while the forward movement progresses down the outside of the foot toward the ball of the foot. Very fast runners may not land on the heel but on the middle of the foot or even on the outside toe area, but this is an unlikely occurrence for someone running slower than a 35 min 10 km in a triathlon.
When the foot strikes the ground, the knee bends somewhat; this bend should not be excessive. There is also a slight movement around the hip girdle. It is essential that this region is strong enough to insure stability and a strong platform from which to drive. The more speed work you do and the faster you are, the more strength you will need in the abdominal and lower back regions. It is wise to strengthen these areas with a weight lifting routine.

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The torso moves ahead of the foot. The Achilles tendon and the calf muscle are put under considerable stress. [In my opinion it is more important to improve the flexibility than the strength of this area. Running is the best exercise and should suffice for strengthening both the Achilles tendon and the calf muscle.]
The calf muscles go from almost full extension to full contraction very quickly, forcing a runner up higher on their forefoot. The foot grips the ground as the torso moves ahead, resulting in the leg being almost fully extended. It is important to note here that sufficient hamstring flexibility is crucial for insuring the proper biomechanics of this phase and avoiding potential injury.
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After the full stretch, muscles of the hamstring region pull the foot of the ground. This allows the whole leg to swing further back. How far back the leg will go depends greatly on hip mobility, as well as the flexibility of the quadriceps. 1

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The upper leg is drawn forward by the action of the hip flexor and the quadriceps while the foot continues to travel up toward the gluteus. This backward swing of the foot makes the actual lever shorter, thereby making it easier to be brought forward.


The thigh continues forward and the foot drops from its highest position as it accelerates downward and forward. The knee reaches its highest point (approximately 90 degrees).


The foot ends it swing just in front of the knee, which is at a slight angle. The thigh starts to swing downward, which initiates the backward acceleration of the foot.


The foot strikes the ground again below the center of gravity in a backward motion adding to the runner's forward motion.

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Some other technical aspects of distance running include the positions of the head, shoulders, arms, and torso.


-The head is erect and the eyes are focused toward either a point on the ground approximately 20 to 30 meters ahead (an obvious exception to this would be if you’re running on trails, in which case you’ll focus on the ground right in front of you), or an imaginary point in the distance at your eye level; this is a matter of preference.


-Shoulders should be as relaxed as possible. Do not shrug them, round them, or swing them forward or backward.


-Arms should be swinging freely in a tight figure eight forward/backward motion. How much bend you're going to have in your elbows is a matter of preference.


-The torso is erect, with plenty of room for the diaphragm to move up and down. Do not slouch or lean forward or backward. These postures are a deviation from a proper running technique and place undue stress on the lower back.

By Nenad Rodic, founder of TriathlonPlace.com