Three Quick Ways to Improve Your Running
Jogging and running is one of the most popular activities in the world, and is on the rise. In the Unites States in 2016, 64 million people went running or jogging. There are many reasons why it is such a popular activity. Running is one of the easiest exercises to do because it requires no equipment, it can be done in groups or alone, it can be done inside or outside, and almost anyone can do it.
Although running is so widely available and used, not everyone does it well. Because all you need to do is lace up a pair of sneakers and go outside to go for a run, people do not always know the best techniques or the safest ways for them to run. If you feel like you are struggling, or just want to improve your times, here are three quick ways to improve your running:
Breathing: It may sound like common knowledge, but in order to run well, you need to be able to breathe well. Many beginning runners will quickly get out of breath and use quick, short chest breathing. This is not an efficient way to breathe, and does not allow oxygen transfer into the muscles well, causing earlier fatigue. The ideal breathing is “belly breathing”, which is expanding your belly to let your lungs fully expand and fill with oxygen. The greater oxygen saturation in your blood, the longer and more efficiently you will be able to run.
The Landing: Many runners have likely read articles or been coached on the landing, or foot strike, but unexperienced or recreational runners may not be very aware of this. The foot strike is how your foot initially hits the ground with each stride. Many people use a heel strike (landing with the heel first), just like we do in walking, but this is inefficient because every time your heel strikes, it is actually causing greater friction and slowing you down. Heel striking can also be a major cause of shin splints and joint pain while running. The ideal foot striking position is to land with a full foot (or slightly towards the ball of your foot), with your full underneath your body weight.
Shoes: Not all sneakers are made the same, not all sneakers are made for your feet, and not all sneakers are made for running. Just because they have rubber soles and laces, does not mean that you should run in them. Running in the wrong sneakers can not only cause foot pain, but also can transfer up the body chain to your knees, hips and back. Proper sneakers cannot only help you avoid injury, but they can also help you run longer and faster. When you run in proper sneakers, your muscles are in proper alignment and are able to function at maximum efficiency. In the images below, you can see how proper shoes can fix issues such as flat feet and over-pronation.
Physical Therapists can help you with all three of these steps. They can teach you how to properly relax certain muscle and activate others in order to do properly perform belly breathing. The Physical Therapist can do a running evaluation to help you with your foot striking, and improve your running gait. A Physical Therapist will also be able to examine your feet, and legs to determine the most appropriate type of sneaker for you.
Lastly, remember to have fun!