Running is – technically – something that just about anybody can do. But there’s an art and science to doing it right.
What does ‘right’ mean? In this case, it’s an optimal stride that moves you along as efficiently – and comfortably – as possible.
There are three major areas that factor into an optimal stride – here they are, along with an overview of why they’re important and some exercises you can take away and work on.
1. Hip extension
Adequate hip extension is critical when running as it allows us to use our powerful glute muscles to propel us forward. Also, it enables us to achieve longer strides so that we can cover more ground using less energy.
Most people have limited hip extension thanks to prolonged periods of sitting with our hips in a flexed position. Frequent sitting can tighten the muscles that cross our hip joints (the iliopsoas and rectus femoris).
An easy and effective way to increase hip extension is by incorporating the following stretches into your daily routine:
2. Ankle Mobility
Ankle mobility is often overlooked in the world of running. Adequate ankle mobility is essential for proper heel-to-toe contact when running. If ankle flexion is limited, the risk of over pronation (foot rolling inward) is dramatically higher.
This compensation alters our gait and places increased stress on the supporting structures of the knee. Ankle flexion issues are usually caused by tight calf muscles. Here are some stretches you can do to help increase your mobility:
3. Knee stability
Knee stability is critical during running as it allows proper tracking of the patella (knee cap). When tracking is ‘off’, it can lead to painful conditions such as patellar tendonitis, chondromalacia and premature arthritis – all of which are very common conditions among runners.
The muscles of the hip, including the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, play a major role in knee stability. Here are some exercises you can do to strengthen yours and keep your knees tracking as they should:
This is just a taste of the stretches and exercises we use with our running clients. If you’d like to learn more, contact us today to set up a free consultation.
Poul Nielsen is the owner and operator of Nielsen Fitness, Toronto's leading team of in-home personal trainers. He has 18 years' experience in the fitness industry and has taught courses in Fitness and Lifestyle Management at George Brown College.
In addition to exercise (obviously), he loves spending time with his family, playing the guitar, strong coffee - and dark chocolate!