Running season is here. Whether you were smashing out the kilometres all winter long or you’re only just dusting off your running shoes now that summer has arrived, good news: there’s an easier way to pick up the pace – and use less energy doing it – this run season.
Here, run coach Dom Cadden shares his top running tips for better running efficiency and running technique to propel you to your best running results this summer.
RELAX YOUR UPPER BODY
Holding tension in your upper body wastes energy and slows you down. Unclench that jaw and relax the shoulders and arms, maintaining an angle of about 90 degrees at the elbows.
CHECK YOUR FOOT STRIKE
If your heel always hits the ground first it might be a sign your hips are behind your feet, which is called “over-striding”. When you over-stride, it’s like you’re riding the brakes while your foot is on the accelerator because it takes more effort to pull your hips over your feet so you can push off again. You may not land on your toes or the ball of the foot, but at least make sure your foot lands under your hips. A good way to practice is to run short distances barefoot on a soft surface.
BEND YOUR KNEES
It’s best to have your knee bent at a more acute angle when your back leg comes through to the front (the “swing phase”) to assist rotational torque and the production of force needed to complete each stride. Your leg will naturally be much straighter at slower running speeds than when running at pace.
IMPROVE YOUR STRIDE RATE
Your stride rate is the number of steps you take in a minute. The oft-quoted goal for runners is around 180 strides per minute or 90 per foot. When your stride rate is slow, you can waste energy moving up and down instead of forwards and your feet can spend too much time in contact with the ground. A slow stride rate might also mean you’re braking with every step instead of rolling quickly over the ground. Running in deep water can help increase your stride rate. Another good drill is hopping in one place. Rest one foot behind you on a step, then hop as fast as you can on your single leg.
USE YOUR ARMS
At first, beginner runners may think it is best to keep their arms close to their body, as any additional movement seems like a waste of valuable energy, especially when you are a long-distance runner. But in actuality, your arms are there to help propel you forward, and correctly using them can boost your stride more than you might imagine.
In general, you want to swing the arms right through to behind your hips to help propel you forward. As mentioned above, you want to maintain close to a 90-degree angle in most cases and get your main source of power from driving your elbow backward.
Throughout all of this, try to stay relaxed and loose and minimize any tension you may find yourself holding in your shoulders, arms, or hands. If you check yourself and do feel tense, shake out your arms and neck before resuming your position.
HOW ARM SWING AFFECTS CADENCE
Especially if you’re having trouble achieving long strides, use your arms to control your leg motion. The speed you move your arms will directly correlate to how quickly your legs move in response, helping you run faster or slow down.
If you shorten your arm swing or perform more spastic movements, your stride will likely be shorter to complement this motion. The same goes for the reverse: if you lengthen or exaggerate your arm swing, your stride length will lengthen as a result.
Use this correlation to your advantage and be conscious of how you move your arms, especially at the start of your run or when terrain changes (bigger arm swings can help you drive up hills), so you can develop a healthy habit to maintain throughout the remainder of the run.
Stay strong through your trunk without collapsing at the core or chest.
Wearing a compression top is a great way to get external help and support in maintaining good posture and postural awareness throughout your run. We offer both men’s and women’s options in sleeveless and long sleeves.
These tops will help support blood flow throughout the upper body and back into the working heart while holding your muscles in place and reducing excessive movement or vibrations, allowing you to focus on keeping proper running form. Compression tops are ideal for providing a base layer of warmth in cold weather, but sleeveless options provide a lighter, breathable summer choice.
BREATHE WELL, BREATHE DEEP
A lot of runners breathe too often and too shallow, especially when they’re new to running. This means they don’t get the oxygen they need and don’t process carbon dioxide properly. Efficient runners tend to breathe in a 3:3 ratio at a relaxed run pace and 2:2 when they get serious; that is, two breaths for every two steps with the same leg, assuming 90 steps per minute for each leg.
Get the most out of your breathing by forcing your breath right down into your abdomen, so you can see it expanding as you breathe in. For interval training or when you’re pushing it at the end of a race or training run, you can switch to a 1:2 pattern, breathing in for one step and out for two, or a 2:1 pattern, breathing in for two steps and out for one. Don’t worry too much about whether you breathe through your nose, mouth or both – just remember that your mouth will take in and expel more air, more quickly.
RUN AND RECOVER IN COMPRESSION GEAR
Running and recovering in compression gear is beneficial to all runners, including those undergoing marathon training, triathlon preparation, and speed workouts for sprinting. Compression garments work to boost running performance and aid in your body’s natural recovery process, making them a sure way to elevate your training.
THE BENEFITS OF COMPRESSION FOR RUNNERS
Compression gear includes a wide range of recovery and performance-based benefits to help you get the most out of high-intensity training sessions. Compression gear will:
- Help support blood flow and circulation throughout the area of the body the garment covers
- Soothe muscle swelling, soreness, and fatigue post-run
- Minimize excess muscle movement and vibrations in the glutes, hamstrings, and calves, leading to a reduced risk of injury
- Remain in place due to the secure, tight fit, minimizing distractions and discomfort
- Provide targeted muscle support to the area the garment covers
For runners, our range of compression tights is perfect for providing you with the benefits listed above and leg muscle support as you endure long-distance runs, strength training, and anything in between.
We also have a collection of recovery compression garments designed specifically to help your body recover between runs, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and ensure your needed rest time is as minimal as possible so nothing will stand in the way of your training plan.
Options include tights and leg sleeves; the leg muscles are targeted so you can be on your way to reaching faster speeds while preventing injuries and be as ready as possible for race day.
WARM-UP AND COOL-DOWN
Another great way to work towards more efficient running is to make sure to include a warm-up and cool-down before and after every running session. This includes longer distances and speed training; any time you move your body at a high intensity, you want to be sure it is as prepared as possible so it can move efficiently when it comes.
A good warm-up should include a mix of exercises, starting with stretching, both lower and upper body. You can also do some light cardio in preparation for your run, whether this be a light jog, some kind of mild aerobic exercises such as jumping rope, or even stationary cardio exercises like high knees.
Finally, for a complete full-body preparation, you can perform some moderate exercises to activate your leg muscles, such as squats or lunges. Warming up before your run will not only help with injury prevention but also activate your muscles and signal to your body and brain that they should prepare for physical activity. It is always better to include a warm-up and cool-down so you can start your run with warm muscles and slowly transition back to a relaxed state.
Your cool-down doesn’t always have to be as thorough as your warm-up, but you still want to do a good mix of light cardio and stretching. You can start by simply slowing your run to a jog and then down to a walk to tell your body it’s time to start relaxing and recovering. From there, you can perform the same or similar general stretches that you did before your run, making sure to place emphasis on the leg muscles.
Sometimes you may be so exhausted from your run that it can be tempting to skip the cool-down and relax instead. Still, your body will appreciate the effort you put in to properly start its recovery process, and it will help you feel better prepared and ready to tackle your next run.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD GEAR
If you truly want to become a more efficient runner, you can’t just throw on any old t-shirt and gym shorts and call it a day. Your gear has an impact on how you run, how much drag holds you down, how comfortable you feel, potential distractions you may encounter, and more.
Take the time to find a good variety of cold and hot weather running shirts, shorts, pants, and accessories to equip yourself with gear that makes you feel good. Do the research on the products you buy, and make sure they are designed specifically to benefit runners. Additionally, if you’re working towards a specific distance, such as a half-marathon, check out what clothing is recommended for those races.
In general, you want to run in lightweight clothes that are also breathable. This ensures you aren’t held down by heavy clothing, but your body can still breathe while sweating and moving. Gear with moisture-wicking material is a bonus, as it will work to actively pull sweat away from your body and help you stay cool in the heat.
2XU RUN GEAR
All of our 2XU running gear is made with high-quality material that is lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking to ensure you are properly equipped to tackle your run. Options for all weather are included, and we also offer running accessories if you’d like to run in a hat in the summer or gloves in the winter.
Additional features are included in every product designed to aid in a specific aspect of running for your convenience. For example, the Light Speed collection has reflective highlights for low-light running safety and visibility, allowing you to run confidently in the dark.
Keep these tips in mind on your next run and you’ll be on your way to a more efficient – and more enjoyable – run this summer.