There are two kinds of runners in the world; those who love it and those who don’t. I am definitely the latter of the group. However, the one thing they all have in common is, you guessed it, running. Regardless of whether you are enjoying your time on your run or not, we all know that it is the best way to impact our health goals of staying in shape, losing weight, relieving stress or whatever it is why we feel the need to run. What if I told you that all you need to know are three simple things?
Running certainly has its benefits, we all know this. The problem arises when injuries creep up on us while doing the one thing we know is intended to keep us healthy. You can choose not to run. That would eliminate your chances all together of getting injured from running, guaranteed, or you can take these three simple tips to heart and implement them on your next run. Granted these will take some practice and patience, but when observed routinely, your risk of injury is certain to diminish, making your opinion on running more personal than physical.
Tip #1: Know Your Cadence
Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute. The common number for optimal cadence is 180 steps per minute, but if you are trying to run at an easy comfortable pace, you should be running at least 170 steps per minute. By staying in this range, you will reduce the impact forces on your legs, cut your injury risk, and even improve your running efficiency. How? With a shorter, faster stride, you’re “bounding” less and not introducing the stress that accompanies longer, more impactful strides. In other words, you’ll get hurt less often and probably get faster (Yah!).
Tip #2: Proper Foot Strike
Before you rush out to by that super cool pair of running shoes that will help you to run faster, jump higher, and solve world hunger, you must first understand that contrary to what Mars Blackmon tells us, “It’s not about the shoes”. It is more about where your foot strikes the ground. Many of us start out to fast, placing our foot out in front when we are striking the ground, this will both increase the level of impact on the body and slow your momentum down with each step. Your foot should strike the ground directly under your hips, propelling you forward. Changing your foot strike, although a bit awkward at first, will reduce the impact on your legs and cut your injury risk by creating a more fluid and efficient stride.
Tip #3: Run Tall and Proud
Remember all those times your mom used to tell you to stand up straight? Well, she has now officially become your running coach. Too many of us feel the need to “lean in” when we are running, but that is not a recommended strategy when trying to be most efficient in our running. We all want to have a forward lean, but that should not be happening at the waist, but rather at the ankles, where it will naturally occur. To help keep you honest, try to imagine that you have a string coming out of the top of your head and some giant puppet master is holding you erect. Too much forward lean will create and energy depletion, causing your body to work harder than it is already being asked.
I hope these tips will provide you with some reprieve from the onset of injury when running. Certainly, there are a variety of factors we must consider beyond just these simple ones, but remembering the fundamentals is the most effective way of evolving with anything we are trying to improve upon.