One of our providers, Dr. John Cybulski, recently wrote this article featured on the Austin Family Medicine blog. He lists some great tips for improving running form to minimize discomfort and optimize your movement. Check it out!
Proper running gait and form are both crucial to a pain-free run. Let’s focus on some simple fixes to specific areas to keep you running pain free.
Bad Posture and Poor Running Form
Eye Strain and Headaches
Staring at the ground a yard in front of you is one of the first mistakes you might be making when running. By looking at the ground instead of what is ahead of you, your body starts to shift into a slouched position. Proper running posture means your shoulders are back and chest is up, while your gaze focuses on the path ahead.
It may seem like a simple fix at first but maintaining good posture may not be so easy for those of us who spend the rest of the day sitting at a desk. The best solution here is to make sure to follow the 20-20 rule. Every 20 seconds try to look up at something about 20 yards away. This strategy can easily transition to your favorite running path and you’ll quickly notice a change in form.
Arm and Elbow Pain
Arm movement is just as crucial to a pain-free run as posture and stride. An exaggerated arm swing is typically overcompensation for a lack of reciprocal alternating rotation of the rib cage. This is the runner who looks like they are in a boxing match, with their hands pumping forward to guard the face, therefore not allowing for any extension or rotation of the torso.
The fix here is in the elbows. Imagine throwing your elbows behind you in order to fend off those slower runners you’re now trying to pass. Bio-mechanically speaking, this rotation is crucial and can improve oxygen circulation. Ideally, you’ll know you’ve accomplished a thorough arm swing if you notice your chest shifting left and right. The arms are the pendulums that help keep the body in balanced motion.
While your arms should help encourage balanced thoracic movement, you can improve your running form further by focusing on the chest and core. Now that you are keeping your eyes up and arms moving at a steady rhythm, let’s see if we can encourage some forward momentum with the rest of our upper body.
Keep your chest up when you run. Imagine there is a string tied to your chest and a kite is pulling you up and forward. Running is momentum and weight shift. The gaze and chest cues should shift your body weight forward and propel you to new personal records.
Hip and Leg Pain
Do your feet make the same sound when they land? Does one foot slap the ground while the other smoothly grazes the grass? Does one foot land on the toe while the other lands on the heel?
Gait dysfunction and asymmetry are incredibly common, but if left unchecked can quickly lead to painful injuries that can travel from the feet up to the knees and hips. Consider first where your foot is landing, and then also feel for where you are pushing off. Certain groups of muscles fire under specific conditions. If you are putting all your weight on the outside of the foot, you are limiting your muscular capabilities by only using those outer muscles. Ideally, you’ll be able to use all your muscles at a low level instead of fatiguing your calves to the point of constant tension. Try to get full use of your body balancing the effort through the foot. Maintaining a balanced gait is crucial to keeping your lower body happy and healthy.
The calcaneus, or heel, is an important stabilizing structure to the entire body, yet our footwear, especially our laces, typically doesn’t reflect that. It is generally accepted that the body is built so that one joint is stable while the next joint is mobile and so it repeats through the body.
The forefoot should be nice and mobile, with the heel stable and the ankle mobile. Any interruption to this system will cause the next joint to “give up” its inherent stability or mobility. So, the easiest fix for this is to give the calcaneus as much stability as we can. Secure your foot all the way back in the cup of the heel and then make sure to use that last lonely lacing hole in your shoe to secure it firmly in its place. This will allow the joints to move securely, which will leave you with one less painful bullet to dodge on that long weekend run you’ve got coming up.
Keep Running Pain Free
Whether you’re training for a marathon or getting ready for a casual jog in the park, always make sure to prepare for the road ahead. Remember to stay hydrated and energized, make sure your shoes are in good condition, and do some warmup exercises before you start.
If pain or a recent injury is keeping you on the sidelines, schedule an appointment with one of our providers at Airrosti. We’ll pinpoint the cause of your pain and treat it at the source, quickly and effectively, for long-lasting results. We’ll also give you the tools and resources you need to prevent future injuries, so you can lace up your sneakers with confidence and hit the trails once again.
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