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Striding out with Style



A Covid silver lining is that so many have discovered the joys of walking, running and exercising outdoors. Now that everyone has the inclination, here are a few tips to help to you enjoy your chosen pace and remain injury free.


Efficient and smooth are the key descriptions of both good walking and running. Essentially, both running and walking are the same linear movements, except that walking keeps one foot on the ground whereas the propulsion of running lifts both feet off the ground momentarily.


To begin with, don’t worry too much about your style. As you clock up the kilometres, your body will mostly discover the most efficient way of moving according to your own biomechanics. If however you continue onto longer and faster horizons, you may wish to have your style evaluated, especailly if you are feeling niggles or experiencing injuries. A running or walking group can often provide you with the feedback you need.


Walking Style

You may never have considered your walking style, but it can have implications for injury prevention both in the short and long term.

Correct alignment and posture means that there is less wear and tear on joints from head to foot. Plus an efficient stride means that you can move further and faster! Some technique tips are as follows:

  • Keep your head up, focus on pulling your shoulders back and down (with frequent shoulder shrugs) and keep your eyes forward, focussing about 5-10 metres ahead. This will allow your lungs to operate efficiently

  • Be mindful of your chin position, especially if you have been sitting at a desk for prolonged periods. Avoid looking down and dropping your head

  • Keep your spine long! Don’t hunch or slouch. Use your core muscles to keep pressure off your lower back, by drawing your belly button up and backwards

  • Swing your arms, but keep your shoulders relaxed.

  • Step from heel to toe, rolling through the foot until you push off your big toe. The power of each stride comes from pushing off the back leg, but don’t take overly long strides as this can cause injury to the lower leg.

  • Use your glutes (gently squeeze your butt cheeks) and avoid swinging your hips

  • Invest in supportive and comfortable walking/running shoes. It is best to have them professionally fitted so that your stance can be assessed and the correct type of shoe prescribed.

  • Experiment with walking different terrains such as sand, rocks and grass. This will help you improve balance and coordination

Running Style

You only need to watch Olympic marathon runners to see that everyone is built differently and there are many different running styles. Like our ideas on nutrition, the advice on style seems to have changed quite dramatically but the latest is there is no set perfect style. Some people are heel runners, some are toe runners and changing your style, particularly a lifelong habit, can lead to injuries. However a few fundamentals can still apply:

  • Leaning back is like applying a hand brake so angle the body forward slightly

  • Ensure your feet are parallel and straight ahead, however some foot pronation (inward rolling of the foot) is necessary for shock absorption

  • Arms crossing midline will lead to over rotated shoulder movement and loss of efficiency so keep this cross-over movement minimal

  • Foot strike should always be under your centre of mass, not striding way in front or behind

  • Avoid shuffling by lifting knees in front of the body. If knees are too low, arms often compensate inefficiently

  • When running uphill, lean forward, don’t look up, run on forefoot, low knee lift, use arms

  • When running downhill, lean forward, lengthen stride, land quietly on flat foot. Use arms for balance, run like a 3 year old!

  • Wanting to run but getting injuries? You may need to see a bio mechanical physiotherapy

  • Getting niggles? Get a massage or do it yourself with a foam roller. If pain persists, see a physiotherapist.


BREATHING

When you run or walk, you will get out of breath, which is natural and normal. Both runners and walkers adjust their breathing patterns until they reach a comfortable level through both mouth and nose. Changing breathing patterns does not help with performance.

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