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Training & advice

Relaxed Running

If someone were to film you as you ran, what do you think you would see when they played it back to you? Imagine you are looking at your face, neck, shoulders, hands.....

Do you make running look easy or does each step look like hard work? Does your face hold a grimace or perhaps look worried? Are your shoulders hunched and your hands curled tightly? If this describes your running style then you need to learn to relax and by doing so you will run more easily and enjoy your running more!

The benefits of relaxed running are both physical and mental so let's have a look at the perfect model:

Relaxed shoulders with efficient backwards driving arm action. How do you hold your hands? If they are tense or tight or if you clench your fists this tension will move up the arm and into the shoulders and neck. Imagine you are holding an egg in each hand that you don't want to crack or you could even try holding a Pringle crisp between your thumb and forefinger being careful not to break it. This should help you to relax your hands and so you should feel more relaxed in your shoulders. Your arms should be bent at the elbow with a relaxed backward drive. Many runners move the arms in a side to side motion where they come across the chest. This can cause problems further down the body. Try running on the spot with the arms driving backwards and then change them to move across your chest and see what happens to your feet. You will probably notice them flicking outwards. Running is a forward motion so you need to make sure that all the movement is along that plane and you should avoid any twisting or turning.

Tall posture with high hips. Do you run tall or do you run in a 'sitting position'? If it is the latter then chances are that you over-stride with your heel contacting the ground in front of your body. Try running like a duck for 30 metres or so with your hips low in a 'sitting position'. Then turn around and run back, imagining you have a helium balloon attached to your head with a piece of string that is pulling you upwards. Which feels better? By running tall you are able to drive your knee higher and gain an optimum stride as opposed to the shuffling action that you will use if your hips are low.

Foot in contact with the ground underneath your hips. From this position you are ready to drive into the next step. If you run with low hips you are not able to bring your foot down underneath your body and if your foot makes contact with the ground in front of the rest of your body, you have to use extra power to propel your centre of mass over and in front of it.

Establish your optimum stride length and rhythm and then concentrate on retaining it and keeping it consistent. When you start to tire you may slip back into an inefficient running technique so try to stay focused on all of the above!

Running with a relaxed running style will work wonders for your running economy and efficiency but, as you know, training isn't just about working out. Recovery plays a big part in developing your fitness and relaxed recovery is just as important as relaxed running.

To recover from your training sessions you could have complete rest or perhaps you could have a massage or some hydrotherapy. Alternatively, you may want an active recovery: walking, cycling or cross training, for example. Whatever activity you choose you should work on performing it with a relaxed action so that regeneration of the damaged muscle fibres is assured.