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20120418014624-arthur123ton

Guide posted by Deneice A in Let's Run

Body Mechanics: Tips For Runners

The science of body mechanics is much utilised in sports performance analysis and enhancement. Simply put, it is about taking actions to maintain the optimum body alignment. Correct alignment reduces the risk of injury through overstrain and it also ensures the body’s energy output results in optimum gain. Although there will be some slight differences of body mechanics between individuals with regard to age, gender and personal physique, the general principles are the same.

The head – this is a heavy part of the body and incorrect posture here could well throw out every other part of the body. Look up as you run – this encourages correct alignment and also helps increase oxygen intake.

Stand tall – according to running experts, the best runners have an almost vertical running stance which ensures the most energy efficient running style. Avoid a bent waist, a stooped back and an over-emphasised forward lean. This puts undue stress on the back, knees, shins and ankles. As if that wasn’t enough it will also shorten your stride and limit your oxygen intake.

Shoulders – this is another area which impacts directly on other body alignment if held incorrectly. Hunched shoulders mis-use energy and cause neck tension which in turn causes incorrect head alignment. Practice shrugging and pushing down your shoulders to feel the sweet spot of relaxation in-between.

Forwards not sideways – for optimum running efficiency direct all your energy forwards and not laterally. This means no side to side action of the head, hips or shoulders. Arms should be driven forward and back (without a forced action) and not side to side.

So, how many bad habits have you got? If you answer ‘none’ then congratulations and happy, injury free running. If on the other hand you can recognise all of these here and then some, don’t put your running shoes in the bin just yet. Pick something off the list and work at one thing at a time. Let us know how it goes and by sharing your own success story you may well be helping another runner to a more efficient style.

Responses (7)

Thanks for the great guide, Deneice. What do you recommend in respect of running stride?

David H responded Comment

20120418014624-arthur123ton

Thanks for the comments David. As regards the running stride it would seem there is a great deal of ongoing discussion and research on this subject from industry professionals and sports physiotherapists. The current thinking suggests there is no one-size-fits-all answer although there is agreement that anything which wastes energy or leaves the runner open to injury needs to be addressed. Avoidance of foot placement too far in front of the body alignment is a good start. This heel impact style places undue strain on the knees and hips. Short, quick strides are preferable. One suggestion if your stride pattern needs adjusting is to try and run barefoot. Without the cushioning which trainers provide you will find yourself running more 'naturally' because if you don't it is painful. If you do adjust your style then do it gradually - sudden changes will place stress on the ankle.

encouraged this.

20120828164549-denisehli

what about landing mechanics of the feet should you land heel, mid, or forefoot? and does it really matter how you land?

Natures1 J encouraged this.

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Thanks! Been thinking about this for my last couple of runs and especially the tip limiting side to side action was helpful! Never realised how much swaying I've been doing :) 

Olivia Z responded Comment

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A great guide, lots of useful tips, i shall certainly be looking to run much more efficiently and not waste energy hunching my shoulders or moving in any direction other than forward.

Kaye D responded Comment

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A great guide! I wonder if anyone has talked about how core strength affect running performance.

Huy M responded Comment

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Hi Deneice, I noticed that striking heel first is not optimal (this is how I run, and I'm terrible at it), but as Denise L asked should we be landing mid-foot or forefoot? I have recently started to run off my heels but was wondering about proper foot placement. I run with my head down most of the time and when I get tired (which is really quickly) I hunch foreward. I am going to have to work on it.

David B responded Comment

20130607040041-davidb2

Haha, my pace is already slow. That sounds reasonable actually. I just went for a run before reading this and was trying 3:3 and 4:4, I found that it hurts trying to do this so i gave up. The different ratio would probably work though 3:2. I'll have to give it a crack, probably not tomorrow though, I have already run 2 days in a row and was worse today than yesterday. Thanks for the help, I will have to remember to read this again before i go for a run/seriously slow run in a couple of days. I also tried running with a midfoot/forefoot strike as you suggested. It was not easy, probably because I am not used to it, but I will persist and see how it goes. I know this is getting laborious, but, other than just keep running, what is the best way to increase my endurance? I run until I can't keep going (slowly) and then do a minute on and a minute off at a much higher pace, maybe about half a sprint pace (ish). Again, thanks for all your help.

20120418014624-arthur123ton

Not laborious at all - good on ya that you want to get it right. Endurance increase is slow sometimes and can be a little disheartening but you are doing it right. Try adding a few uphills or gentle slopes to your running route which could help. You might want to look at your diet too. If you are specifically looking to increase stamina then what you eat (and WHEN you eat it) will play a major part. There are plenty of purpose specific nutrition guides online but make sure you opt for those written by qualified sports nutritionists or coaches. Some form of cross training will also be helpful to increase your general fitness and lung capacity -swimming, cycling, hill walking etc. Interval training can also help accelerate endurance capacity (check out 'fartlek' - sounds dodgy but a great type of interval training). But most of all be kind to yourself. We think of running as easy, and so it is at its most basic - we've been doing it almost as soon as we could walk. But doing it as a sport, protecting our body and perfecting the technique is REALLY HARD! You are doing it. You are out there. Well done you!! It will get easier but it will take time.

20130607040041-davidb2

There are no hills on the ship, but when I get home I will find some. I don't get too much choice in when I eat nor what I eat to a certain extent out here. There are set meal times and menu. I do try to eat healthy, but I'm not really into measuring this and exact amounts of that at this time of day, it's just too much hard work. I know it sounds slack, but I want to enjoy my life a little and not have it revolve around my eating habbits and exercise, if you know what I mean. Again, thanks for all the advice!!

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