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Common Running Technique Problems

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 11 Apr 2014 | comments*Discuss
Common Running Technique Problems

What is it that’s holding you back? One of the most frustrating aspects of running is that seeming inability to make it to the next level, either in terms of speed, endurance or stamina.

This problem should not be underestimated because it is when a runner feels that they are going backwards that they begin to lose their motivation, which in turn can result in all that hard work going to waste as their programme slowly but surely grinds to a halt.

Poor Technique

So often the root of the problem is poor technique, which not only prevents the body smoothly and efficiently operating over the ground, but can actively impair its movement, leading to one or more of the injuries that can befall a runner, whether that be knee problems, shin splints, lower back complaints, or neck or shoulder strains.

Where to start? Well, let’s think about any aches or niggles that you may have been experiencing. If they are located in the upper body, it may be a posture problem that is the root cause. And this problem may also be the underlying reason why you are not feeling the benefits of your schedule in terms of performance. So remember that your neck and shoulders should be nice and relaxed, and your chest upright and balanced over your hips.

On no account, bury your head in your shoulders, whether that be through beginner’s embarrassment or because the autumnal wind and rain is slapping you in the face. For a start, your head should be upright and centred in order to give you as wide and as clear a field of vision as possible (rather handy when road-running in order to avoid collisions with pedestrians and cyclists).

Secondly, it should be upright and centred so that it is balanced and relaxed on top of your neck, preventing any unnecessary build-up of muscular tension.

An Upright Stance

Let’s move on to the lower back. Why is it that so many runners seem to be bending over, thereby putting undue pressure on this region of the body? Again, is it runner’s embarrassment? They certainly won’t be able to see what’s more than two steps in front of them (dangerous).

Think about the restriction of the chest, thereby preventing the cardiovascular system from performing to its maximum i.e. inefficient breathing. No wonder you are disappointed by your progress! As stressed in the above section on the neck and shoulders, an upright stance is the way forward. This will not only stop those aches and pains in the lower back, but it will promote strengthening in the core muscles of the abdomen and allow the lower body – the hips and legs – to work more efficiently, too.

Think seriously about some core exercises and gym work that will build up your abdominal region and make this central area of the body the fulcrum of your physical performance.

Technical Inefficiencies

Incorrect technique in the upper and central areas of the body will have a knock-on effect on how much unnecessary pressure is put on the hamstrings and knees. It will also exacerbate any pronation or supination issues you have in the foot area. Pronation involves an excessive inward roll of the foot as it hits the ground; supination is the opposite of this i.e. insufficient roll.

Both problems can be addressed in part by ensuring you have the correct footwear (buy from a specialist running shop that can analyse your foot-fall characteristics), but poor technique should not be overlooked, either.

It is a good idea to gain some self-awareness of your technical inefficiencies. This can be done by jogging on the spot in front of the mirror, and making the minor adjustments necessary to produce a relaxed, upright stance.

However, a better idea is to ask a fellow running-club member or your regular exercise partner to take a look at how you are performing. Their insight could go a long way towards correcting your style and getting you on the road towards achieving the results you desire.

Always remember that if you are fit and healthy, the reason your body is not working efficiently is because you are not using it properly. Relax, think positive and the miles will fly by.

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