As runners we hit the lockdown jackpot. Pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and more may all be gone for now, but running is still absolutely on the menu any time we like it. This makes now the perfect time to boost not just your running performance but also enjoyment of the sport. Here are some key tips to do just that
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Fix your form
Good running form is the foundation for everything we do as runners – economy, injury prevention and, ultimately, speed - and lockdown is the ideal time for running on the spot. Get in front of that mirror and refine your form using these core basic tips:
- Footfall: how loudly do your feet hit the ground? Quieter is better. The noisier your footfall, the greater the impact (and injury risk) and the less efficient your run
- Arms: swinging evenly on both sides, hands closed but relaxed, thumbs resting on top of index finger
- Legs: pumping evenly
- Body: upright and straight with head up and looking forwards. Shoulders, neck and jaw relaxed. Shoulders back so chest remains open for easy breathing
- Pace: play with speeding up and slowing down while staying in place
Bear in mind that running on the spot will impact your body slightly differently to regular running which could lead to injury so aim for little and often. Go for just a minute or two at a time throughout the day. This is also a great way of maintaining a good daily step count in lockdown when our regular steps in the working day can really suffer.
180 is the magic number
A running cadence of 180 steps per minute (spm) is where good running form universally comes together, at any speed. If you don’t have a running watch that measures this, a metronome app on your phone is a great substitute.
180 steps per minute will feel fast to begin but it’ll get easier
Use some runs - or mirror sessions - to practice this 180bpm pace. It will likely feel fast to start with but you will quickly adapt after a few runs.
Set goals, and then smash them
All improvement needs a goal so whether yours is to run your fastest marathon or to PB on your local loop, pick one and use these tips to make it reality:
- Visualise: see yourself completing your goal and enjoy the feeling of success you’ll experience. Here’s how to visualise in 4 easy steps
- Use past success: look at how far you’ve already run, congratulate yourself and remember - if you can do that, you can easily succeed at what’s ahead for your goal
- Break it down: ‘it’s like eating an elephant’. Make your big goal manageable by breaking it into smaller chunks. If you’re in a hard place and want to stop or slow down, focus on the next tree, bench or lamppost. Even if it’s only 10 metres away, all you then have to do is get there. When you do, use #2 (above) to prove to yourself you made it that far when you thought you couldn’t, and keep going. Repeat as many times as necessary
- Just start: really don’t want to go out? Wondering how to exercise when you’re feeling low? Make a deal with yourself and just start. If you still don’t want to continue after 10 minutes, you have permission to stop and go home
- Imagine the world turning under your feet: a great mental trick, this simply involves imagining the ground you are running on as being like a treadmill passing beneath your feet while all you do is simply lift your feet as the kilometres flow past beneath you effortlessly
Actively imagine the success you want to achieve and it’ll become more likely to happen
Hydration matters and helps the body avoid injury (think how inflexible a dried-out piece of meat is) as well as helping immune function - saliva and mucus act as a first barrier against infection. No need to go crazy with this, simply drinking water throughout the day and being conscious of a little extra after a run will do it.
Lockdown gives us wonderful opportunities to indulge in our running, but just be mindful not to overdo it because now is really not the time to visit the physio or be stuck at home on the couch.
Stretching post-running is a great method of reducing injury likelihood
Injury comes from large jumps in running distance, frequency or speed so while feeling tired and perhaps a bit sore after a run is normal, sharper pains in focused spots that don’t go away or get worse with running are not.
If the latter strike, swap running for resting or walking depending on severity, along with stretching and strengthening work. Rest helps injuries go away, but that will only be temporary unless you take active steps to rehab the issue which, in most cases, requires no more than the right rest/stretch/strength combination.
Our good friends at Kinetic Revolution have loads of great (and free) online resources for running form and injury prehab & rehab if you need help with these during lockdown.
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