What good is conditioning if you don’t have the skill required for your sport? If you want to run faster and farther you will need to improve your running skills.
It’s the general assumption that anyone can be a runner. Most “Learn to Run” programs help people slowly and manageably progress their milage. I have seen less than a handful of learn to run programs that actually teach people HOW TO RUN! The focus is actually on conditioning, with running as the modality. These learn to run programers are the ones who fill up my schedule 3 months away from their first half marathon. Why? Because they have been building fitness on top of a dysfunction. Improper running technique is dysfunctional.
The definition of running is “move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time.” This is going to require a paradigm shift for most people who assume that if you can tie up your shoe laces you can run. Based on the above definition this is true. But the act of running doesn’t just make you a better runner. In the above example, the improvements made are in conditioning, not running technique.
If you want to limit your visits to your chiropractor or physio, start by mastering the skill of running.
Yes, RUNNING IS A SKILL!
Improving the skill of running still requires you to run. Depending on where you are with skill development, it may require breaking down mechanics into drills while slowing things down in a controlled manner, before speeding them up and incorporating them into your stride. The focus should be improving your running skills before conditioning. You know, actually “LEARN TO RUN”. Again, we are trying to avoid building fitness on top of a dysfunction.
There tends to be an obsession in the running community with running volume, or milage. If your technique is great, then have at it. However, for most runners, especially those just starting out don’t have great technique. Which is completely ok, as long as you understand that your efforts should be placed in improving your technique over slogging miles. Yes, you will get a bit faster. Yes, you will be able to run farther. However, this may take months. This is usually see beginners in my office, frustrated and upset because they were just starting to round a corner. It takes time for your body to adapt both positively (faster, farther, less huffing and puffing) and negatively (injury).
By focusing on improving your skill as a runner you can achieve the above positive adaptations in less time, while significantly reducing the negative adaptations. Optimizing technique then gives you a stable platform to build on, for speed, endurance and VO2Max.
Fifty percent of your stride should be done by the elastic properties of your muscles and fascia. 50%!!! Thats a lot of saved energy that will allow you to run a lot farther just by optimizing a few things in your stride. This could happen in a matter of moments. In most cases, it takes time to purposefully re-pattern that into your new stride. However, the time it takes to learn and re-pattern is significantly less than it would take to wait on physiological adaptations. You will notice that when you start to utilize these elastic properties you will be running faster than normal. Despite the increased pace, it may even feel easier. If you were to go back to your old run technique, it would feel like you are running with a weighted vest or sled with all your over-striding and energy leaks (when I say “you” I am speaking in general terms, I’m sure your technique is perfect).
For beginners, imagine making these gains BEFORE you even start training. For more experienced runners this could be what you need to burst through plateaus.
If a car’s tires are 50% inflated, it will have poor fuel economy. It would seem silly to beef up the engine to improve fuel economy before putting air in the tires. Running economy is the same, with poor technique being your flat tires.