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Running Technique

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Running Session Types
In order for us to perform to our best of our ability when running it is important that we use good running technique to move efficiently, allowing our bodies to expend as little energy on each step as possible whilst maintaining the required stride cadence and length.

Without wishing to sound patronising, the time that it takes a runner to run a set distance is very simply made up of the number of strides and the length of each stride. To improve your time you must either increase your stride length or the rate your legs turn over - this is where increased strength, fitness and running technique play their part.

Here we'll concentrate on running technique. No matter which distance you are trying to run, surprisingly perhaps, the following rules apply. It is just the effort that is put into each action that will alter according to the distance that you are running.

Below is Tom. He is shown running with a good running technique for a fast striding pace running. We have slowed the action down a bit, so that you can clearly see what he is doing.

Running Technique from Tom

See how the movements are performed by his arms and legs - there is minimal wasted energy in vertical movements of his head and hips. Coaches often aim to achieve this in their runners by telling them to keep their hips up high. This avoids them dropping significantly, which would leave the athlete having to use valuable energy to lift their bodies back up again.

Lift Toe Up
Bring Heel up to Backside
Drive Knee Through
Extend Lower Leg
Claw Back
There are five basic parts to an athletes running technique, which need to be considered. Some coaches may simplify this or break it down further, but here we'll consider the actions listed.

For a fuller description of what to do and why for each of these actions just click the short description in the box on the left and you will get more details.

It is extremely difficult to try to work on each of these at once in the full running action and is one of the reasons why Drills are so important. We can perform drills to isolate parts of the running action and improve it before putting it all back together as a complete action.

With respect to running at different speeds to the above it is relatively simple - if you wish to run faster (ie. sprint) you should have more knee lift, more extension, more claw back and more drive with your arms. Equally, for longer distances (slower running) do less of each of these.

Whilst your legs are clearly of primary importance, your body position and the use of your arms contribute significantly to the overall technique. Your should run with your whole body leaning slightly forwards (not bending at the waist), with your neck and shoulders relaxed. Your arms should swing through in the direction you are travelling, not across your body. The height at the front and back of the arm swing will depend on you speed.

For sprinting, you should bring your arms up to about chin height at the front and so your upper arm is almost parallel with the ground at the back. The angle of your lower to upper arm should be around 90 degrees (just less at the front and just more at the back). For longer distances the range of movement is simply, again decreased, with the emphasis being on relaxation and balance, as opposed to drive.

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