The 7 Movements your need to Master - Part 4: Gait (Running)

This is the last part of a 4 part series on the 7 fundamental movement patterns that you need to master for athleticism, performance and injury prevention.

In Part 1 we laid a foundation and looked at the Push/Pull. You can read that article here.

In Part 2 we looked at the Squat and the Lunge, essential for lower body pushing strength. You can read that article here.

In part 3 we learned about the Hinge and the Twist, which have direct and immediate application to full-body strength and stability. You can read that article here.

 

Today we tackle the most complex, yet the most underappreciated category of the fundamental movement patterns. Today we talk about Gait, or in other words, Running. The unfortunate reality is most people suck at running. This is surprising because it is fundamental to human performance. If you look at the stats, running is the most dangerous sport with over 75% of runners suffering some sort of injury annually. But this doesn't need to be the case.

Instead of treating running as a form of monotonous exercise, treat running as a skill. If takes practice to hone your technique, just like the squat or a deadlift does. If your mechanics are good, you can run mile after mile without injury. Even if you aren't a "runner", you can learn to love running.

(If you want some inspiration to kick-start your love for running, I highly recommend the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall)

Teaching you how to run isn't the purpose of this post. It is, no doubt, something I will cover in the future, but for today we are going to settle with some basic guidelines to follow when you are starting to build up your miles.

If you want an in-depth guide to honing your technique while avoiding injury, I recommend Unbreakable Runner by Brian MacKenzie and T.J. Murphy. It is a complete guide from running technique to programming for your first 5k or marathon.

In the meantime, here are a few things to keep in mind in our training:

  1. Shorten your stride, keeping your center of mass above your feet
  2. Strike the ground with the mid/forefoot rather than the heel
  3. Don't run through "hot spots" or pain. If you find a sticking point that means that you have a strength or mobility issue, and it should be addressed rather than "pushing through the pain"
  4. Don't run beyond your capacity for good technique. When your technique starts to falter (whether it be km 1, or 50), take a rest or end your run. There is no use getting another 1000 repetitions of strides when your technique is poor. You will only set yourself back
  5. More isn't always better. Opt out of long, monotonous runs every day for shorter, higher intensity 5k runs or even 400m repeats. Long runs are fine on occasion, but shouldn't occupy your calendar more than your short runs and strength training sessions
  6. Spend as much time as you can barefoot and in flat shoes. You can use shoes with a higher heel while you run to create somewhat of a "buffer zone" while you improve your ankle mobility
  7. Take the time to warm up well, and don't use running to do it. Use squats, lunges, skipping ropes and other dynamics movements. You should be sweaty before you start your run

It may seem daunting at first, but once you get a grasp on the techniques running becomes much more enjoyable and almost laughably "easy" compared to what it once was.

-Mark

B.Kin, Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology CPT

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