Monday, February 22, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series IV

In Series IV "How to PR by Run Technque", we will discuss the stride cycle and the controversial foot strike. 

Push-Off. In triathlon, it's emphasized to have quick turnover, especially coming off the bike. However, while this is true, we can't ignore the fact that the foot should take time for the initial loading of power to occur for push-off. The foot should land neutral with the ankle. This is when the loading should occur. Often times we over emphasize "quick feet" before the loading of power has occurred. One big mistake that is made is that we never let the heel touch the ground.  Doing so allows the achilles and calf to come to a full stretch to provide elastic energy to propel forward. If a runner tries to be too quick with their feet, the power is lost because the foot and Achilles were not fully engaged to release energy. In addition to the ankle extension, you have heard other runners and coaches tell you to lean forward.  This comes from a lean in the ankle and not at the waist or in other words, a slight lean from the ground.

Hip Extension.  Once your foot has contacted the ground, the emphasis should shift to the hip and you basically just want to think of it as moving the whole thigh backwards. The hips is where most the power comes from and not all of it is from the push-off phase. Think of the hip as your crank set: The faster you try to go the more powerful and quicker the the hip extension needs to be - similar to a set of bicycle cranks. Most runners, especially new runners, do not come close to a full force hip extension. It will take some time, but eventually you will learn how to do a proper hip extension while running at different paces. After the hip extension has occurred,  the recovery phase immediately starts and acts as a sling shot propelling you forward. If you try to force the recovery phase then your stride will slow.

Knee Drive is powerful and occurs at the end of the recovery phase. You will see many distance runners and triathletes with hardly any knee drive, and they lead out from the heel.  This results in some serious over striding where the foot is out in front of the body as seen in most recreational runners. The knee drive is extremely powerful for a sprinter (short distance/fast race) and is still required in distance running, just not as pronounced because it will cause you tire much sooner. Ideally, the the knee drive in distance running should become second nature so that it is a passive movement through the running cycle of the stride.  The ideal landing of the foot is under the center of the body and directly under the knee. This will put your foot into an optimal position with the best force production and reduced risk of injury.

Foot strike is one of the most controversial topics right now. Heel striking in particular gets a bad wrap.  It has led us from minimalist shoes to barefoot running (I've never seen a Kenyan turn down a pair of running shoes) and now back to those big Hoka's that look like moon shoes (I'm not hating, my wife has a pair). I'm going to share with you what I've gathered from my own research, observation, and understanding. Heel striking is OK! I'm sure I just caused excruciating pain to the ears of the barefoot and minimalism runners. Heel striking is ok as long as your form is nailed down to everything above.  But be sure you are not over striding and that your foot is landing underneath you in direct line with the knee.  In fact most elite runners will have a natural, light heel strike.


Distance runners should aim to land on the mid to forefoot, like in basketball (when the ball player jumps, the heels will land and the calves load to jump) you go back down to your heels for the push off (loading phase). All this happens rapidly and is hardly noticeable when everything is in motion at once. It would take a slo-mo cam to really see it all in action.

If you enjoyed this series so far on "How to PR by Run Techniqe", the closing message will teach us how all these tips I've given you is actually just one unit and how to change your running mechanics. If you have any questions please email me at  

Thanks for reading!


Friday, February 12, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series III

Last time on How to PR by Run Technique we discussed head position and how to run tall. Today I will discuss your arm position and how to use your core while running.

Arms. You not only use your legs to run, but also your arms.  I don't know how many times I've seen runners not use their arms. You need your arms like you need your legs in swimming, to propel you forward.  Using your arms will significantly improve your running economy by reducing your torso rotation and the amount spent going side to side. When running for the best efficiency, keep your arms close and pump them up to mid-chest and then down so your thumb should graze just past your hip, alternating arms. Your arms should not cross the center of your chest as this will increase torso rotation and your elbows should go straight back not outward.  In doing so, you want to keep your shoulders and hands relaxed. However, your hands should not be so relaxed that they are flopping around - just keep them loosely stable.

Core.  The cool thing these days is core training. Most people think we're just talking about the abdominal muscles, but that is not true. The "core" covers a wide range of anatomy from about the bottom of the rib cage to below the hips. I'll go on to say we have so many fancy core workouts, but we don't know how to actually apply our strong core to running, specifically. What good is having a strong core if you don't know how to use it?

In the movie "Without Limits",  Coach Bowerman pulls the world famous Steve Prefontaine aside during a track workout. We know that Coach Bowerman was a man of few words, but when had something to say he said it, especially if it involved running. Bowerman said to Pre, "Do you usually run with your butt sticking out like that? Stand up straight. You want a plumb line to run from your ear to your feet. Let your hips relax. That's how you were running.  Lift your knee. Now cock your hips under you". (Pre's confused look here). "Under you. Like in the deepest moment of penetration. Now lift your knee. It's easier when you tuck your pelvis in. Your not fighting your own body's mechanics. Makes you more efficient."

In 2004 Chi-Running became popular. Chi-Running was implemented by Danny Dreyer, a running coach and ultra-runner that placed a heavy emphasis on the core while running. Dreyer was taking Tai-Chi at the time and formed ideas of how to apply it to running. He even wrote several books on Chi-Running. "All of the Tai-Chi comes down to developing a strong core, but relaxing the moving parts. Those are the things that transfer to running. Most use their legs way too much and that's why most runners get injuries from their knees down. You can run more from your core and learn how to relax your legs."

1. Hip and butt out 2. Hip and butt tucked in. 

In these next tips on run form, we will cover the stride which will be broken down into three parts and the controversial footstrike. If you have any questions please email me at



Friday, February 5, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series II

Today on "How to PR by Run Technique" we will cover head position and how to run tall.  

Head Position is important like in swimming; You want to have a neutral spine. Your head should be neutral as if you were on a stage looking out into the crowd.  Will this make you a faster runner? The short answer is yes! You will be one hecukva rock star runner! By practicing this neutral spine position, it will allow you to relax your upper body more freeing up energy and putting it into your forward propulsion.  You often hear coaches say, "Keep your head up"! Not only is that a positive reinforcement statement but you should keep your eyes on the person in front of you....unless you're out front.  Work on keeping your gaze approximately 10 feet in front of you like in cycling because where your eyes look,  your body follows. If you run with your head sticking out forward, you will lean too far forward bending from the hip.  This will fatigue you, sooner than later. By keeping your head in a that neutral position, you will feel more relaxed, allowing you to maintain a faster pace for longer. 

Take note of Haile Gebreselassie head position, great runner from Ethiopia. 

Running "Tall".  Did you ever hear your coach yell at you to "run tall" and wonder what the heck they were talking about? I did. It's a highly common phrase in high school and college distance running.  Once you figure out how to "run tall", this will clear up most issues in your form.  From early on in school to adulthood, we spent a lot of time hunched over our desks, further emphasizing our bad posture.  In running, your head should be in it's neutral position, your shoulders balanced over the hips, and your hips over the legs. This is considered "running tall".   Even if you do not fully understand just yet, you can start thinking "running tall" and you'll be surprised by how much your form will improve. It will create less stress on your body. When we get tired, our running form starts to slouch, runners start losing the neutral position with their head, rotating in circles or moving it way forward causing neck and shoulder pain. It's important to keep your spine in line with your pelvis.  In short, running tall will once again improve running economy allowing you to run a faster pace for longer.

Next on "How to PR by Run Technique"  we will discuss arm position and how to use your core while running. If you have any questions please email me at

Thank you,