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Injury Free Running Tips

Are you a seasoned runner battling injuries or a new runner who is wary of injury?

Are you thinking about getting into running as a means to get healthy, more fit, reduce stress  AND be happier?

Have your read Born to Run or Unbroken and now inspired to solo or relay long distances like BRR, Palmetto, Destin, Leadville?

Have you used Couch to 5K with success but clueless about how to add mileage safely? Or do you just dread running at a bootcamp or a WOD?

Since 2005, I have quietly trained hundreds of people in the southeast to get fit and get back to running  and walking safely. To gain speed and more energy through technique.

We are born to run, but at a certain point, running injuries may hamper our progress as well as increase personal health care expenditures and stress.  Making us very unhappy!

If you want to prevent injury, be more efficient, and have more fun running, you MUST, MUST, MUST first understand why so many runners get injured in the first place!

Check yourself right now: Look down at your feet. Do you splay your feet? That splay in your right or left foot may explain your ongoing knee, IT band and hip pain on the same side. So align your feet hip width and parallel.

Do you stand, work, walk and run hunched over or with poor posture? Poor posture will create stress in your upper and lower back, hamstrings and knees – and compromise your ability to inhale and exhale efficiently when exercising.

Do you have a side-to-side/lateral swing with your arms? Hello IT band and hip pain. Maybe even rotator cuff pain! Ouch!

Are the heels of your shoes built up? Not everyone needs a super minimal shoe, but long ago I learned that it is YOU not the shoe that needs to work harder to prevent injury!   If you have a shoe with nosebleed heels or a high heel-to toe drop- it will simply encourage heel striking and related pain to feet, shins, knees, and back (think shin splints, plantar and achilles pain, fractures, runners knee).

When running, do you ruminate about your job, the family, competitors, and your to-do list?  Train your brain to focus on your form only. You will be less stressed.  Research out of many great institutions proves this mindful stuff works!

As you focus on your form and relaxing – you will run more efficiently and eventually you may look and feel like you are gliding like a Kenyan!

Over the years as a runner, I have ended up with the “boot”; pain in my metatarsals (across toes), IT band pain, rotator cuff pain, shin splints, a ganglion cyst on my ankle, x-rays and $350 orthotics.

With each visit, the Dr. would say…..”And, don’t run for at least six weeks!!” GASP!  Doc!! Say it isn’t so!  Another six weeks off?  I thought – it’s just the life of a runner.

The running skies opened when I read about ChiRunning in 2005. I found that by tweaking my body alignment, engaging gravity, choosing appropriate shoes, and relaxing, I could run in a way that is powerful yet fluid, and remain injury-free in the process.

Now with every run or WOD I naturally bring my focus to my form.  I check my posture, arms, and foot placement. I use technique on hills to go up faster and gain speed on the downhill – can you say fun?

If I feel any twinge of pain, I re-align myself (particularly my arms), lengthen my spine, shorten my stride, and the pain disappears.  Life is very good.

Now it’s your turn to try this!

Think energy efficiency and injury prevention when you exercise!

Great form is key and something every runner, walker and exerciser should consider with each step, squat, swing or push up they do.

Posture is the foundation.

Run tall. Walk talk. Sit tall. Get aligned. Align your skeleton.

Your head, shoulders, hips and feet should be aligned in a vertical column.

Drop your shoulders. Arms should also be relaxed.  Check in mirror. Are you aligned?

Engage your core always. This stabilizes your upper body, prevents lateral, extraneous movement and related injury to back, etc. Engaging your core helps you run up hills more efficiently and faster, and protects you from falls, pull downs.

And if you are coming off an injury – I bet a PT has been telling you to engage your core and work on your balance too!  It is all in the core!

Run forward! Move your entire body in the direction you are headed. Eliminate side to side, lateral and extraneous movement/sashaying when running.

Align your arms and get those elbows back!

Arms should be at 90 degree angle on flats, 45 degrees on hills. Use them – and let them glide fully.  On uphills, use arms and core more vs legs.

Easy tip: Always make arms parallel to the ground your are on.

Apply some physics to your running. By shortening your pendulums (your arms) to 90 degree right angle, you naturally become more efficient.

If you also engage a slight lean from your ankles, your center of mass will move forward and so will you! So fun!  Magic!!

Land more mid-foot & more lightly.  Tread hard, run lightly.  This is no fad. Running more mid foot helps prevent heel and metatarsal injury to the foot and mutiple injuries to the knees and back.

Running on toes and heels may just hurt you over time.

To run more mid foot, you will need to take shorter, quicker strides, and pick up your cadence/steps per minute (spm) to 175-180. A small metronome or metronome app will help with this.

Want to run free of gear?  Run to quick cadence or waltz count.  1,2,3, 1 or right 2,3 left 2,3….. Still a sceptic?  Not sure this really works?

Do your own assessment! Think about how you move when you are entering or leaving a room after putting your cherubs to sleep.

Or, consider how you move when trying not to wake your kids or the dog as you leave for a WOD at 5am.

I bet you lengthen your spine, pull in your core, and bend your knees to do this. So quiet! So light!  Not even a creak in the floor!

Next time you for a run, listen to your feet hitting the ground whether outside or on a treadmill.  Run as your normally do, then try “chi running” as started above.  If you listen carefully, you will hear the difference in your pounding.

Or, try this “Sand Pit Exercise”

Clear sand so it is smooth.

Run across the sand as you normally do, look at your foot print. Can you see you injuries?

Now  chi run/run more lightly across the sand. You should witness an immediate difference. Keep doing this until you see almost no footprint.  Yes, the secret  is in the sand!

Okay, it seems like a lot. Think gradual progress.

Start with better posture and an engaged mind. Then go for it.

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