Running Efficiency

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

During yesterday’s 8 mile run on the hills of Newton I passed one of my runners who proclaimed, “I’m practicing my Chi!”  I smiled because he was clearly putting thought into his run.  I’ve heard several definitions of Chi but I’ve always thought of it as smooth and efficient movement.  His form embodied that concept.

My focus on the run was to push the pace and complete a hard workout.  Although it was only an 8 mile run I felt the pain and discomfort similar to the latter miles of a marathon due to the combination of hills and speed.  I imagined how I would be feeling on that section of the course on Marathon Monday after already covering 17 miles.  It reminded me of how much work I have to do over the next 4 months and the importance of retaining smooth and efficient form.

This becomes more challenging as the miles progress and fatigue sets in.  Core strength is an essential component to proper running form.  An upright position with a slight forward lean is the ideal position for running.  A runner constantly monitoring their form is similar to an airline pilot trimming the wings in an effort to gain maximum efficiency.  This ideal position places less stress on the body and significantly reduces the risk of injury.

Running at a stride rate of 180 steps per minute is the ideal range .  During your next run count your foot strikes on one foot for a minute and you should be near 90.  Most runners over stride so that number will be less than 90.  It seems counter intuitive but you improve your efficiency by taking more steps.  You expend less energy attempting to propel your body over a greater distance by maintaining an 180 spm (steps per minute) rhythm.

Running with a slight bend in your knees also places less stress on your body.  Heel strikers tend to straighten and almost hyper-extend their legs, placing a considerable amount of shock on their lower extremities.  Each   generates 2-3 times your body weight of force  so it’s important that each foot strike be flowing and rhythmic, almost like a dance.  Maintaining relaxed shoulders, hands, and breathing will improve the ability to run efficiently.

As the miles progress and fatigue sets in it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain running efficiency.  Taking regular walk breaks staves off fatigue and extends the ability to run efficiently.  My form suffered over the course of yesterday’s run.  I still have a considerable amount of work to do as I prepare for Boston.  I plan to focus on improving my upper body and core strength so that I can run the challenging Boston course with greater ease and sustain a more efficient running form from Hopkinton to Boston.

Developing proper running form throughout each run should be a top priority for every runner.  Living in the moment and focusing on smooth and efficient movement, rather than how many miles remain, is a huge step in the right direction!

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