Winter Running Fundamentals

Improve your running by working on form and core strength

The new year is here and it’s time to start thinking ahead to the upcoming season. What can we do differently with our training? How can we make the biggest gains with the smallest efforts? What is the least time-consuming thing I can do to make the most improvements with my running? In this first of a three-part series, we’ll take a look at a return-to-the-basics approach to swimming, biking and running, and what we’ll start off with is working on improving our basic running fundamentals. For seasoned runners it may seem silly, and for new runners it may never have crossed your mind, but making improvements in our running form will help us run faster with less effort. If you’re consistently getting in your running mileage week after week your fitness is improving, but without proper form you’re wasting energy because of your inefficiency, and setting yourself up for potential injury. Improved running form will help.

Imagine making a 1% improvement to your running economy. This tiny improvement could shave 20-30 seconds off your 10k time, and all that comes with only an additional 10 minutes added to your training each week. To improve running economy you need to improve your running form. So what does proper running form look like? Well, it’s going to look a little different on everyone, but some basic fundamentals will be the same. Here’s a video to get you started:

Body Position
Running properly feels like you’re about to fall forward. You want to feel like you’re leaning over from the ankles with your body aligned from your ankles, not bent over from the waist. You want your heels to be off the ground without leaning so far forward that you’re on your toes. Proper running form includes mid-foot running, and proper body position helps us achieve that.

Arm Position
You may not realize it when you’re running, but arm swing and arm position help propel us forward when running. Ever tried running with your arms locked at your sides? Try it and you’ll feel just as ridiculous as you look. Proper arm swing creates momentum, and we try to keep our arms at about a 90-degree angle with hands swinging from cheek to bum cheek. We also don’t want white knuckles so we clench a loose fist that helps us relax our shoulders, which is where our arms should be swinging from. We want quiet upper body movement; the better our arms move, the better our legs move.

Foot Strike
The last thing we want to work on is one of the most crucial, and that’s which part of our foot hits the ground first, and where. We want to be running with the ball of our foot hitting the ground first, ideally with very little or no heel strike, and your foot should hit the ground slightly behind your knee. If you’re running with your heel hitting the ground first in front of your knee, you’re slowing yourself down because running this way means your body’s mass is behind you. It’s like you’re hitting the breaks every time your foot hits the ground. This is a good way to set yourself up for injury as landing with your heel first and out in front of your knee puts a massive load on your knees with each and every foot strike. Proper foot strike position combined with proper body lean means you’re running with you body’s mass always ahead of you.

Shoe Selection
The winter season is also a great time to re-think your footwear. If you have a history of running-related injuries, your running shoes may be a culprit. If you’re running in bulky “supportive” running shoes it’s going to be harder to transition to mid-foot running because those bulky shoes make it difficult to keep your heels off the ground. Try switching to a “transitional” shoe, which are shoes specifically designed for runners trying to get away from bulky shoes and into something lighter, more flexible and less supportive, and will allow them to achieve proper mid-foot strike.

Read the rest of this training article at Winter Running Fundamentals.

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