Three Simple Ways to Improve Your Running

by Owen Marcus on May 7, 2010

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A recent article on Active.com gives you three ways to improve your running. The first is to increase your cadence (how many steps you take in a minute.) The author, Patrick McCrann, claims as you get your speed up, your position will improve. That’s certainly possible, but without the right mechanics to start with, you’re probably going to hurt something.

To run faster, you need to change something – your old form won’t do it. In developing Running Flow™ as a natural way to run, we re-learned something children still do naturally: lean forward, and you’ll find you can easily increase your cadence.

McCrann’s second technique to improve your running is to change your breathing.

A lot of people tend to run at a low Zone 3 or moderate tempo pace. This is just hard enough that you need to change how you breathe, but not hard enough to really induce any specific fitness adaptation. One of the characteristics of this level of intensity is what I call ’tension‘ of breath. It’s a subtle tensing, part of what makes us feel like we are ‘working,’ and it happens in your upper chest. What I want you to do on your next run is to move that breath down.

Over the years I found that no one breathes fully. In trying too hard and being tense, we all create unneeded stress and resistance. Many years ago I had an Olympic runner come to me in part because his “shoulders were too weak.” He couldn’t strengthen his shoulders enough so they wouldn’t hurt. I asked him how strong shoulders improve your running. He thought about it. He had no answer.

His shoulders were feeling weak because they were doing a job they weren’t meant to do. They were attempting to lift up his upper ribs because his breath was so restricted; as inefficient as it is, lifting your shoulders will create a little more breath. Through releasing the tension in his shoulders, neck, and chest, then changing his stride, he had no more shoulder pain, no more exercise induced asthma, and set new personal records.

McCann’s third suggestion is to take off your watch. I also agree with this suggestion. Begin focusing on your body, your running, your stride and your breath. We so often check out when we exercise which not only make us more vulnerable to injuries. It also doesn’t allow us to use our bodies as an instant biofeedback device.

Real improvement is rarely getting a new shoe or orthotic – it is changing your simplest behaviors. Learning how you are meant to run will do more to increase your speed, decrease your injuries and bring back the fun. It can be that simple.

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