Are you a runner who struggles with hills? Running hills needs to be practiced just like any other aspect of running. The more you run hills the better you will become at running hills. Run short hills, long hills, run hills fast, run hills slow, pump your arms faster, drive your knees higher. Hills are speed work in disguise. Run hill repeats, run hilly courses, run on trails (there are almost always hills there).
Here Scott Jurek, who is arguably one of the top ultrarunners of all time (7 time Western States champ) and also a physical therapist, demonstrates proper posture and body position for hill running.
(Previously published from my blog at karlstutelberg.blogspot.com)
I have been jazzed about this recent blog post by Jay Dicharry, P.T. from the University of Virginia’s SPEED Performance Clinic on optimal form to minimize loading rates. I got to meet Mr. Dicharry at the UVA running clinic I attended last April. He discussed some of this topic then and really summed it up well in his last two blog posts. They are both worth a read and reread.
Here is Part 1 and Part 2.
There is so much talk about heel striking vs midfoot striking vs forefoot striking when it comes to form. The conclusion most people make is that heel striking is BAD! They blame the running shoes for causing all the form changes and allowing a more comfortable heel strike and give runners something else to blame their injuries on. They may be partially correct, but what Mr. Dicharry has found in his lab is that foot contact style is not as important as contact position relative to center of mass when minimizing loading rates. This means that heel striking can be ok as long as the ground contact position is almost directly under the runner’s center of mass (or almost directly under the hip). Loading rates are how quickly the body (bone, tendon, muscle) has to absorb the ground reaction forces with each step. The higher the loading rate the more force the body has to absorb in a short amount of time, thus increasing the likelihood of injury. The problem many runners have is over striding not heel striking (although many heel strikers are also over striders).
Mr. Dicharry used some great pictures on his post from subjects in his lab, but he also used a picture of Scott Jurek that I have seen and contemplated before. Here it is.
Look at the difference in foot position on the forward leg of Scott Jurek and the Tarahumaran runner. They are completely opposite. Scott has his toes pointed up (ready to heel strike) and the other has his toes pointed down (ready to forefoot strike). Both of these runners are very efficient but have completely different forms. The thing they both have in common is that when their lead leg hits the ground it will be almost right under the hip (under their center of mass) thus minimizing loading rates. Interestingly, Scott (a heel striker) is wearing running shoes and the Tarahumaran runner is wearing sandals…hmmmmm.
Optimal stride frequency has been found to be between 180 and 190 strides per minute. If you count your steps for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 you will have your stride frequency. If it is under 170 you may be over striding. This RunnersWorld.com article summed it up well.
There are some easy form drills and cues to help you increase your stride frequency and shorten stride length. Actual research has been done that shows decreased loading rates after runners modified their stride based on the cue, “run soft.” That’s it just “run soft.” He also discusses the importance of lumbar posture when running and how an anterior tilt, or too much curve in the low back, can shift your center of mass back, thus causing a relative overstride. This is a sign of a weak core and can be remedied with core training and again form drills.
Take home points:
1. Increase your stride frequency to at least 180 strides/min without increasing your speed. Try it on an easy run day and play with it a little.
2. Barefoot running drills are a good way to work on form since it discourages over striding. I suggest 50-100m strides on grass to start.
3. “Run soft,” I don’t want to hear you coming up behind me on the roads, ok!
4. Just like the word “pronation,” “heel striking” is not necessarily a BAD WORD.