Running is a quick, easy and free way to get your heart pumping and your limbs moving. As you’ve been running since you were about two years old you’ve surely got the hang of it by now, right? Wrong! Hopefully you don’t fall over as much as a two year old but there’s always room for improvement!
Learn how to breathe…
Okay, so obviously we all know how to breathe, otherwise you’d be finding it pretty tricky to read this article! But
when it comes to running there’s a technique you need to master: ‘Belly Breathing’. If you can make your diaphragm work harder than your chest muscles then your body will get more air for less energy – helping you to run longer and stronger. To do this you need to fill your stomach with air, not your chest. As you breathe in push your belly, not your chest, outwards. This will then cause a contraction of your diaphragm instead of your chest muscles and as a result, it increases oxygen intake. Try it lying down, then sitting and then standing to get it mastered.
Slow your breathing whilst running…
When you first start out, a runner’s breathing can be erratic. Then, once, you find your rhythm most runners breathe
on a 4-count cadence (in other words, on average, you inhale for 2 steps and exhale for 2 steps). However this pattern of breathing actually results in us using only 50-60% of the available air taken in. New advice suggests that changing from a 4-count cadence to a 5-count cadence will draw more air into your lungs and keep it there for longer, therefore giving your body longer to absorb more oxygen. To to this you’ll take 3 steps during inhalation and then 2 steps while exhaling. This also helps avoiding the “wall” that all of us have hit at one point or another. So give it a go – you might find it a little strange at first but it is well worth it!
If you run properly, you waste less energy. Simple. But keeping the correct form takes practice.
So what should you do?
- Keep your head up, looking straight ahead
- Keep your body tall, but relaxed with your shoulders back
- Make sure your arm swing is forward/backward and not side-to-side
- Place your feet correctly – aim to land towards the middle of your foot (not on your heel) with your foot contacting the ground as close to directly underneath you as possible.
- Avoid really long strides – if you land on your heel with your foot way out in front of you whilst running then you’re effectively “putting on the brakes”. Keep initial contact more directly under you and the running motion will propel you forwards.
Mix it up…
Add in some strength training, tempo runs and some hill runs. Strength training is just as important as running, tempo runs build speed, stamina and overall strength and hill runs increase leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. So how do you do it?
Strength Training: Running is a repetitive, high-impact form of exercise that can cause damage if not done correctly. By strengthening key muscles in your core and legs (quads, hips, bum, back, and stomach) you’ll make sure you make it to the finishing line.
Tempo runs: Warm up for 5-10 minutes, then run for 15-20 minutes at a “comfortably hard” pace (a little faster than you would normally run). Finish with a 5-10 minute cool down. Ideally you should build in 1-2 tempo runs per week and increase up to 3-4 (any more than that may be too much and could cause more injury than good).
Hill runs: Find a fairly steep hill (easier said than done in Chatteris!) approximately 100 meters long. Start at the bottom and run hard to the top of the hill. Slowly jog back down and start running hard up the hill again. Try 3-4 hill runs per week; eventually you want to work up to 6-7 per week.
Rest might seem like the last thing you should do on the road to success but running hard every day will not make you faster. Rest is critical to recovery and injury prevention. You need at least one day each week where you don’t run at all. In this time your body will repair areas that have been broken down and you will actually come back stronger than you would have done otherwise.