Author: Bridget Jones-Cressmen

USAT Level I Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

6 Pointers on How to Improve Your Running Form

Getting the running shoes on and out the door is just the first step… Most people don’t realize that running is not just about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, there are many small nuances and techniques to running that create better run efficiency, power, and the ability to run injury free. Just sit at Greenlake one Saturday afternoon and you will see it all, the good the bad and the otherwise. Proper run form is the key to increasing your speed as well as to help you from getting injured. Here are a few proper run form technique pointers:

  1. Posture: You should run tall and erect, shoulders level, back straight with a neutral pelvis.
  2. Forward Lean: Lean forward from your ankles. Many times you will see people running hunched over from their waist or their shoulders (I blame it on computers and being hunched over at a desk all day) this can tighten the chest and restrict breathing. The other extreme is the puffed chest runner I like to call a peacock runner. They literally lead with their chest. Proper form: You want to be tall when you run while leaning from your ankles creating a light forward angle to your body.

    Helpful hint: think about looking forward about 20-30 feet on the path you are running, this will naturally give your body a slight forward tilt. Looking directly down will make you hunch and looking way up at the horizon can lead to almost a backwards tilt – you want to lean forward in the direction you are going, let the natural forces help you not fight against you.

  3. Relax! Relax your shoulders relax your hands! Let your body fall into a natural rhythm. Running tense is wasted energy and as you start to run long you will feel the effects whether you realize it or not.
  4. 90degree arms: keep elbows at a 90degree bend. If you are breaking this it means that you are “hammering” with your arm and loosing efficiency. Arm should swing from the shoulder joint not the elbow. Hands should brush by your waist not be tight up by your chest which can cause tiredness and tightness in your shoulders and back.
  5. Midfoot strike: (though this one is often up for debate…) Land with your foot striking directly under your center of mass and roll off the ball of your foot. Heel striking often means that you are over striding which affects run efficiency and means you are “braking” causing you to actually run “slower” and may lead to injury because of the impact on your joints. If you are running all on the balls of your feet, your calves can get tight and fatigue quickly and or you can develop shin pain.
  6. Run cadence: this is the frequency of your foot strike. Ideally run cad is around 90 (or 180 steps per minute) though many elite runners and triathletes will run at a cadence 100 this is very high for most. Running with shorter strides uses less energy and creates less stress on your muscles and impact to your joints. To count your run cadence, during any portion of your run choose one foot and count how many times it strikes down in a minute. If you are much under 90 this could mean that you are either over-striding and or your foot is spending too much time with impact on the ground (anywhere from 88-90 is great). You want to think light and airy when you run not thumping down heavy footed. Run as if you are running on a hot surface: quick, light and with short strides. NO bouncing! Bouncing = wasted energy and too much impact on your muscles and joints.

Next time you put those sneakers on and head out the door for the run think about “how you run” and how you can improve your run efficiency by following the above pointers.

A cure for when you hit a Training Plateau and the Running Blues

Feeling like you have hit a plateau in your training or just getting bored with running the same route at the same pace every time?!?! Then it is time to mix up your training! Here are a few different fun run workouts to incorporate into your weekly training that will not only help your running funk, but also help increase your speed, strength and power.

STRIDES: Strides are a gradual build or pick up that ends in about your 5k pace (or 85% perceived effort). Usually they are anywhere from 10-30sec long taking a full recovery between each walking back to the start of the stride, which can be anywhere from 1-2 minutes making sure you are starting your next stride not breathing heavily. The purpose of a stride is to work on your run mechanics and quick leg turnover. They are an easy way to incorporate speed work into your running without it being hard on your body or causing injury. The things to think about when doing strides are: forward body lean from your ankles, relaxed body position, picking your ankles up, mid-foot strike, and quick leg turnover. Great times to include strides are; at the end of an easy recovery or aerobic run to work on a quicker leg turnover, before a track workout to activate and recruit those muscles before you ask them to do a fast and hard workout, or on race day as a pre-race facilitation to help warm up your muscles.

FARTLEK: Otherwise known as “speed play”, fartlek runs are great on mid to longer runs. During a fartlek run you are alternating our pace between a slower easier effort and faster bursts of varying distances. It is key to pace yourself on your hard efforts so that you are running your last effort as fast as your first. Make sure that you recover between your fast efforts so you are not breathing heavily when you are starting your next hard effort. This is a great way to build speed and strength. Be consistent and try to add speed into one of your runs each week.

HILLS: Running a hilly course or hill repeats is a great way to build your muscular strength and endurance, as well as your mental toughness. When running hills make sure to work on that quicker leg turnover and do not bend at your waist, keep a nice tall body again leaning into the hill from your ankles, not bending at the waist, lifting and driving your knees into the hill. When you feel your form is going bad slow it down or choose a less difficult grade of hill. Recovery is running down the hill with a quick and light leg turnover. Just be careful to not overdue the hill training as it can be an easy way to get injured.

TRAIL RUNNING: Not only is it scenic and beautiful to go out and run on trails, but there are great benefits to your running as well! Running on trails is more challenging than running on the road and is a great way to build strength in your running. Trails are also soft and are easier on your joints as opposed to running on hard asphalt as the soft surface of the trails absorb more of the shock. Because of the variable surface, you are naturally adjusting and changing your stride and can become more explosive with it. As your body moves to adapt to the changing terrain you will begin to “find” and strengthen your core. When you move from trial running back to the road, you will notice how much “easier” it is.

Try incorporating one or more of these fun runs into your weekly running routine and as long as you stay consistent with it you will see improvements in your overall running. It might also be the cure to your running blues and just what you needed to help bring enjoyment to your running once again! But remember, CONSISTENCY is key!

Tips to Improve Your Running Form

Getting the running shoes on and out the door is just the first step… Most people don’t realize that running is not just about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, there are many small nuances and techniques to running that create better run efficiency, power, and the ability to run injury free. Just sit at Greenlake one Saturday afternoon and you will see it all, the good the bad and the otherwise. Proper run form is the key to increasing your speed as well as to help you from getting injured. Here are a few proper run form technique pointers:

  1. Posture: You should run tall and erect, shoulders level, back straight with a neutral pelvis.
  2. Forward Lean: Lean forward from your ankles. Many times you will see people running hunched over from their waist or their shoulders (I blame it on computers and being hunched over at a desk all day) this can tighten the chest and restrict breathing. The other extreme is the puffed chest runner I like to call a peacock runner. They literally lead with their chest. Proper form: You want to be tall when you run while leaning from your ankles creating a light forward angle to your body. Helpful hint: think about looking forward about 20-30 feet on the path you are running, this will naturally give your body a slight forward tilt. Looking directly down will make you hunch and looking way up at the horizon can lead to almost a backwards tilt – you want to lean forward in the direction you are going, let the natural forces help you not fight against you.
  3. Relax! Relax your shoulders relax your hands! Let your body fall into a natural rhythm. Running tense is wasted energy and as you start to run long you will feel the effects whether you realize it or not.
  4. 90degree arms: keep elbows at a 90degree bend. If you are breaking this it means that you are “hammering” with your arm and loosing efficiency. Arm should swing from the shoulder joint not the elbow. Hands should brush by your waist not be tight up by your chest which can cause tiredness and tightness in your shoulders and back.
  5. Midfoot strike: (though this one is often up for debate…) Land with your foot striking directly under your center of mass and roll off the ball of your foot. Heel striking often means that you are over striding which affects run efficiency and means you are “braking” causing you to actually run “slower” and may lead to injury because of the impact on your joints. If you are running all on the balls of your feet, your calves can get tight and fatigue quickly and or you can develop shin pain.
  6. Run cadence: this is the frequency of your foot strike. Ideally run cad is around 90 (or 180 steps per minute) though many elite runners and triathletes will run at a cadence 100 this is very high for most. Running with shorter strides uses less energy and creates less stress on your muscles and impact to your joints. To count your run cadence, during any portion of your run choose one foot and count how many times it strikes down in a minute. If you are much under 90 this could mean that you are either over-striding and or your foot is spending too much time with impact on the ground (anywhere from 88-90 is great). You want to think light and airy when you run not thumping down heavy footed. Run as if you are running on a hot surface: quick, light and with short strides. NO bouncing! Bouncing = wasted energy and too much impact on your muscles and joints.

Next time you put those sneakers on and head out the door for the run think about “how you run” and how you can improve your run efficiency by following the above pointers.

Interested in learning more about running or to just have some buddies to run with? Run Club leaves from the SAC lobby every Wed morning at 6:30am!

Multisport and Running Season Kicks Off!

As the weather finally (at least we think…) starts to take a turn for the better, the local multisport and running race season commences! The first weekend in May brought the first multisport race of the season for many athletes racing in the PNW, as well as half marathon and marathon mania! It was a jam packed race weekend as SAC members participated in events from Vancouver Canada all the way down to California! With plenty of races came plenty of stellar SAC member performances!

Check out the what and where your fellow SAC friends have been racing!!!

4/30: Wildlfower Long course Triathlon, CA
A tough and challenging half iron distance course (1.2mile swim/56mile bike/13.1mile) with lots of hills and trail running thrown into the mix! Not only that, but what makes this race so unique is the fact that participants have to camp pre-race because it is nestelled in the middle of now where!!! What can we say, it adds to the “charm” and comraderie of the race!

  • Mark Webb – (OA: 5:15:35; 31:40swim/2:55:36bike/1:44:42run) A super race preping for Ironman Couer D’Alene!
  • Genevieve Priebe – (OA: 7:32:38; 41:32swim/3:51:39bike/2:46:52run) Her first triathlon ever and tackled a half iron!

5/1: Mt. Rainier Duathlon, Enumclaw WA.
A short course or long course option duathlon of super challenging porportions in the name of a huge climb called Mud Mtn. Dam in which the long course participants had to tackle twice!

Short course: (1.6mile run/14.4mile bike/3.8mile run)

  • Karen Jones – (OA: 1:42:30; 13:38run/52:03bike/32:55run) Getting the first race jitters our before HONU 70.3!
  • Bri Cooper – (OA: 1:39:47; 13:16run/51:14bike/33:13run) Super effort all around!
  • Teresa Engrave – (OA: 1:50:25; 13:37run/56:16bike/36:15run) Nice and solid race!

Long course: (5.1mile run/28.8mile bike/3.8mile run)

  • Vicki Boivin – (OA: 2:34:06; 37:10run/1:29:19bike/25:32run) 2nd overall female!
  • Amanda Camp – (OA: 3:19:35; 47:36run/1:51:32bike/36:15run) Pushed it till the end!
  • Tom Camp – (OA: 3:02:41; 41:13run/1:46:13bike/32:32run) Shaved 8+min off of his time from last year!
  • Ann Sloan – (OA: 3:28:08; 53:20run/1:52:15bike/38:20run) CDA Ironman watch out!
  • Bridget Jones – (OA: 2:36:09; 37:28run/1:29:19bike/27:23run) 3rd overall female!

5/1: Vancouver Half and Full Marathon, Vancouver Canada
A beautiful and scenic half marathon through the city and Stanley Park!

Half:

  • David Landers – (1:47:32) A personal best on a “fun” training run, not bad!

Full:

  • Patricia Nakamura – (4:05:06) A super effort gearing up for Ironman Canada later this summer.

5/1: Eugene Half Marathon, Eugene OR:
A fast and fun course!

  • Elizabeth Martin – (1:39:42) A fantastic result and a personal best!

5/1: Tacoma City Half Marathon:
A scenic city run with great support and cheer!

  • Chuck Cathey – (1:41:54) A stellar run that landed him 3rd in his division!

If you see any of these athletes roaming around the club feel free to give them a big high-five for their awesome efforts!

If you are interested in learning more about what the SAC has to offer in both multisport racing and running, please contact: Running Coach Bridget Jones-Cressmen