Ask Coach Collins: Improving your run technique

Ask Coach Collins

Q: How can I improve my run technique to help me become faster and less prone to injury?

 A: The key to being a fast long distance runner is mastering economy of motion. The goal is to move fluidly and comfortably while expending the least amount of energy possible. By keeping your stride compact and controlled you’ll be able to increase your speed over time and not feel as out of breath as you would when wasting energy on unnecessary movements. You’re also less likely to develop injuries when using a controlled technique since you are minimizing the number of imbalances in your stride.

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Follow these simple techniques to keep your posture perfect and your form on point:

·       Keep your head and neck in line with your body always. If your chin is jutting forward your butt will automatically start to stick out in back and ruin your posture (like the letter K), so concentrate on keeping your head and neck straight and your gaze forward.

·       Keep your shoulders and hands relaxed with your arms compact and close to your body. Your arms should only swing 4-6 inches with every stride. If your arms swing all over the place the rest of your body will follow suit and create imbalances that can lead to injury. A small compact arm swing will also help you keep your cadence higher which minimizes ground impact.

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·       Focus on keeping your belly button pointing forward, never downwards. Even when running up hill you want to look like an italic i leaning forward from the ankles, instead of bending over at the waist.

·       Make sure your feet land under your body with every step. Avoid landing out in front of your body as it will put the brakes on and increase the impact on your knees, hips, and lower back. Instead your foot should land directly under your hips with every step. This allows you to land on your forefoot instead of your heel and protect your hip flexors and IT bands from eventual fatigue and strain.

·       Don’t let your legs fly too far out behind you (especially when running on the treadmill), instead increase your leg turnover so you are hitting a cadence of about 23 steps every 15 seconds. You can measure this by counting how many times just your left, or right foot, hits the ground within 15 seconds (don’t count EVERY foot strike because it’s too hard to count that fast). Generally, a cadence of 90+ per minute is considered good (multiply your 15 second result by 4 to work this out).

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Have training questions that you want answered? Send them our way for some expert advice!

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Michael Collins is IRONMAN University certified triathlon coach with over 30 years’ experience coaching swimming, cycling and running. He specializes in technique and improving efficiency in athletes of all ages and ability levels from pros to novices. When he is not coaching or organizing Ironman training camps he is preparing for his own races, from sprint distance to Kona Ironman World Championships. He is also the creator of the Do it Faster, Stronger, Longer, Faster podcast ( ) based in Orange County, California.

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