Running Technique Advice


I’m joining up with a fantastic distance running coach in the UK, named Dave Bird. Dave and I will be working together to help runners learn how to find and self-treat muscle spasms that have a negative affect on their ability to run, and to race. As you know, it’s my goal to teach as many people as possible how to self-treat and to this end I have written several books, including The Pain-Free Runner. It is always my advice to first treat any spasms in the muscle fibers before doing any type of stretching.

I just received the following techniques article from Dave and I want to share it with my readers. If you’re a runner, or you want to add running into your exercise routing, I believe you’ll get a lot out of Dave’s advice:

The Ultimate Head To Toe Running Technique Makeover

It’s vital to get your running technique right before committing yourself to any serious training program. Follow this simple head to toe makeover to run faster and reduce your risk of injury

Habits that will improve your general technique

Optimistic head!
• Up and looking forward 30m but keep chin in
• Relaxed jaw and neck

Square shoulders
• Square and back with slight rotation
• Shake them loose if tight or moving upwards

Backward arm swing
• Low, relaxed and compact 90deg action to avoid wasteful movement
• Swing straight back and allow forward drift, minimizing torso rotation

Soft hands
• Cupped butterfly couriers!
• Don’t swing behind body line
• Loose and relaxed with straight wrists to avoid tensing up shoulders and neck

Balanced torso
• Chest up and out
• Core engaged and kept strong so that your glutes, hamstrings and quads can
control the pivot action around your hips
• Don’t bend from waist

Pelvis, bum and hips
• Don’t spill the pelvic bucket and avoid hip drop from weak adductors/abductors
• Bum in with hips high and pressed forward

Leg muscles
• Quad and calf decelerate foot strike
• Avoid poor hip drive by using hamstrings and glutes to extend hips

Low knees
• Slightly bent to avoid braking effect and low action to avoid wasteful movement
• Not over bent at strike to increase elastic recoil and reduce contact time on ground
• Bounce forward allowing loaded energy in leg muscles to do most of the work
• Bent knee then swings through quickly in a short arc

Feet form
• Forward pointing on strike without ove-rpronation
• Mid foot strike under center of gravity
• Raised toes provide more push off energy from pre-stretched calves
• Push off backwards followed by a loose, relaxed heel flick
• Avoids over striding braking, wasteful movement and impact stresses (heel)
• Avoids wasteful movement and impact stresses (toes)

Slight forward lean
• Avoids over striding, ‘sitting in the bucket’ or impact stresses
• Maximizes forward momentum

Relaxed but brisk
• Short, quick, light strides (ca. 90 per min) ‘sneaking up’ on others
• Reduce contact time on ground
• Elastic energy return from muscles the moment your foot leaves the ground
• Think ‘bike’ not ‘pendulum’ for smooth, elliptical motion

Breathe easy
• Always through mouth
• 321 steps per breath for steady, hard and all out efforts

Habits that will improve your uphill technique
• Same stride rate but shorten stride and arm swing
• Bounce up in short, sharp steps with good elastic recoil
• Push back and down off balls of feet with knees slightly more raised and bent
• Don’t foot strike in front of head
• Angle forward towards crest of hill

Habits that will improve your downhill technique
• Use quick, short, light strides and soft knees
• Angle slightly forward to ca. 90degs
• Keep feet low and allow momentum to carry you
• Avoids over striding stresses on ‘braking’ muscles as they stretch and contract
• Include downhill running in training program to perfect technique

Why? Critical to faster, easier, more injury free running for all runners

What Maximum forward momentum with minimum effort

Action: Effortlessly glide along in quick, light strides creating a smooth elliptical motion
Posture: Slight forward lean of whole body with hips pressed forward
Landing: Mid foot with toes up and leg tensed but slightly bent
Swing: Heel flick then short arc forward swing with bent knee
Who? Running shop: Right shoes and specific advice on your technique resulting from gait analysis
Running coach: Sessions to improve your technique by changing bad habits and practicing drills
Sports physiotherapist: Advice on flexibility and strengthening exercises to correct poor technique due to muscle imbalances
When? Practice during warm up and cool-down until instinctive

Run fast and get good times that last,
Dave Bird

You’ll be hearing more from Dave as we design the program that will combine Dave’s coaching on running techniques, and my program on self-treating the spasms that can cause injury to your muscles.

Wishing you well,


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