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The top 10 questions that all running enthusiasts lose sleep over

At The Running Lab, we hear a lot.. I mean.. A LOT of questions asking how to run better.. how to eliminate niggling injuries which won't go away.. and whether fore-foot striking is better than heel striking. Here are the top 10 answers to questions we hear in-clinic and at running seminars regularly

1. What are the best running shoes?

A shoe that is light, flat, flexible and the shape of a human foot, gets the Running Lab tick of approval

Runners spend countless hours searching for the “magic shoe”. The problem is, it just doesn’t exist! Even when you find a good shoe, the company changes it and the next version no longer works for you. The real trick is to focus less on the shoes.. and more on what you can control ... YOU. Instead of losing sleep over shoes.. work on your running technique and foot strength - this will guarantee better running no matter what shoe on your feet

Before buying new runnning shoes, consider shifting your focus to your work shoes. Work shoes often cause more dysfunction and harm to your running than your running shoes. Consider the fact that you wear work shoes 10-12 hours every day.. and running shoes only about 1 hour per day! I recommend VIVOBAREFOOT and Lems for feet-friendly, comfortable and professional looking work shoes

 

2. Is fore-foot or mid-foot striking better than heel striking?

Here’s the first thing I want you to do … never use the word ‘strike’ again!

Your foot should not ‘strike’ the ground.. with your heel, mid- or forefoot.. it should caress the ground as lightly as humanly possible. In addition.. changing the way your foot contacts the ground will not fix your running. Instead, it will exchange one set of problems for another

Whichever part of your foot caresses the ground first is the consequence, not the cause, of efficient running. Foot contact is the result of good or bad movement patterns above the foot.. and will change with speed and terrain. If you force a specific “foot strike” you are guaranteed to be a heavy, knee crushing, injury prone runner

 

3. I have been told to run at 180 Cadence but I find it too tiring. What should I do?

The key here is.. Cadence and speed are NOT the same thing

The magic number of 180 steps per minute is not made up. At roughly 180 steps per minute you are able to use your calf muscles, achilles tendon and arch of your foot as a spring. Most people experiment with cadence while running, speeding up beyond their abilities to get to 180 cadence. The trouble is they can only hold this speed for a short period of time before collapsing in a heap. Again.. speed and cadence are not the same thing!

You should be able to run at your most efficient cadence (rarely below 170 in my experience) at almost any speed (slow, medium and fast - basically any speed that’s not a sprint)

One of the greatest skills to have as a runner is an efficient cadence at your slowest, most fatigued running speed. Using free elastic energy from your calf muscles, achilles and arch allows you to control your breathing.. reduce your heart rate.. and then pick your speed back up when ready

 

4. People say I am a “Heavy Runner”.. How do I fix this?

Good news - this is the easiest fix in the world. When people tell me they are a “heavy runner”.. I say, ‘don’t be!’

Get your headphones out of your ears, listen to the sound of your feet and make them lighter. The more technical you make it, the harder it will be ... Just run quietly ... and in doing so, you will save your shins, knees and hips. Be smooth.. be light.. be awesome

 

5. I like Strength Training. Will it will make me a slower runner?

This question comes out of the same book as “will lifting weights make me big and bulky”

Millions of people walk into gyms every day. They lift.. they sweat.. and sometimes they bleed.. but very few walk out looking like Arnie. Strength training will 100% help your running (and your existence on earth as an awesome, strong, healthy human)

If your aim is to be a world class bodybuilder or powerlifter, than yes, strength training will slow your running down. But if your aim is to have stronger more resilient tendons, durable bones, healthy joints, powerful muscles and better posture, then strength training is a must for you

 

6. I'm bad at stretching — do I really need to do it?

You will be happy to hear most ‘stretching’ is actually a waste of time! Simply pulling a muscle apart from one end to another (i.e. stretching) will rarely help you run better and prevent injury.. But, quality Mobility work is essential for running (and life in general)

The difference between stretching and mobility is… Mobility requires muscle strength and control through an entire range of motion.. whereas Stretching makes a muscle longer without necessary strength and control

This may seem complex but it's really just about being strong in any given body position. This can be achieved through ironing out knots in your muscles (soft tissue therapy).. training quality movement patterns through full ranges of movement.. and ultimately removing imbalances within your muscles, joints and nervous system on a regular basis - (This is what we specialise in at Wollongong Podiatry)

 

7. What is the best terrain to run on — road, trail or treadmill?

All surfaces have pros and cons.. But endless miles on a treadmill can give you a repetitive overuse injury. The surface of a treadmill never changes.. so any inefficiency in your technique will be like a woodpecker slowly chipping away at your knees, shins or achilles

Mile after mile on the road is a slight improvement to a treadmill.. but the relatively consistent pounding will still chip away at efficiency faults

In contrast, trails and bush tracks are constantly varied and able to provide your body with a large range of healthy tissue stress. Many elite track and road runners spend countless hours training on trails in preparation for their events.. which they annihilate

 

8. How can I be a better runner?

There is no 'perfect running technique' but you can always be better than you currently are. My top 3 tips for anyone wanting to be a better runner are:

1. Do running drills:
Treat running like any other physical hobby or sport.. Do drills that help your goal of running better. We don’t throw kids in a pool hoping they will work out how to swim.. and we don’t expect a footballer to become more skilful by only playing more games. Improving your running is exactly the same!

2. Keep your head square on your shoulders: 
Your head drives running posture.. If you let it tilt forward, your glutes switch off. That’s right, all those glute bridges and clamshell exercises are a waste of time if your head is not on your shoulders. Stop looking at your toes when you run and keep your head up. Position is power

3. Run quietly:
Without being technical in any way, shape or form.. running quietly exponentially improves efficiency. On your next run, listen to the sound your feet make when they contact the ground.. Then make them lighter

 

9. Are running Injuries the price you pay for being a runner?

No! No!! No!!!

Just because running injuries are common does not make them normal. Your success as a runner should not be measured solely on your PB times. Instead, it should be measured by how many hours and miles you've enjoyed running with a fit, healthy body

Yes, a 3-hour marathon PB is mighty impressive.. But if you achieved that goal 3 years ago and have barely managed a healthy 5k since, then I do not consider you a successful runner

If you want to be a better runner.. a fitter human.. or are just looking to drop a few kilos, your first goal should be to stay healthy and keep running for a long time

 

10. What's the best way to prevent running injuries?

Easy answer - Recovery!

Removing freak accidents, it is very hard to get injured running if you allow your body to recover fully between runs. People don't get injured “running too much”.. they get injured because they “don't recover enough”. (I truly love this concept!)

The food you eat, your level of movement during the day,  your general overall stress and sleep quality are all potential golden tickets to better running, reduced injuries and a better quality of life

 

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