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Run tall


TRUE TO FORM  Running without a solid foundation is like building a house on sand.

Build a proper foundation for running by paying attention to posture and form

Paul O'Brien

Foundations are important. You wouldn’t build a house without a solid one. Yet, how many of us think about our ‘foundation’ when we lace up our running shoes? Running without a solid foundation is like building a house on sand – eventually the cracks will show and the structure may even crumble. A solid running foundation is a product of good running form – how you carry yourself while you’re moving and how your body is ‘set-up’ for running.
The starting point is to check your posture while running. It’s a good idea to have a friend take some short video footage of you. Place two cones 20 metres apart and record yourself running repeats between these cones at your normal pace. Run normally, not changing anything and try to forget about the camera. About five minutes will be enough to give you the footage you want at this point. Then, review the footage and ask yourself the following questions.

A question of form
Are you relaxed? If not, then on your next run scan your body to release tension from your muscles. In particular, check your shoulders, hands and facial muscles. Mentally tell these muscles to relax during your run. Tensing your muscles diverts much-needed energy from your lower body. A trick I use is to mentally relax all my muscles at intervals while out running.
Are you ‘running tall’? Check your torso position to ensure you are not bent forward at your mid-riff. Leaning forward constricts the flow of blood and oxygen around your mid-section, ultimately affecting your lower body movement. It’s also bad for your posture. You should imagine the crown of your head connected to the sky by an invisible string with your chin slightly tucked in.
Are you landing correctly? Try hit the ground about mid-sole instead of heel-first. A mid-sole foot strike will evenly absorb the impact of the ground forces, making injury less likely. This is particularly true if you are overweight. If you experience lots of lower limb pains and strains, have your foot strike assessed. This will also help in identifying the type of shoes you should be using.
Are your hands at the correct level? Keep your elbows bent but relaxed at around 90 degrees. Your hands should brush along your hips as you run, moving from the shoulder.
How are you breathing? Most people only think about this when they start to run out of breath. Short, gasping in-breaths and explosive out-breaths will not deliver adequate oxygen to your working muscles. A good drill to improve you breathing is ‘breath repeats’. Start by measuring your breath over five paces while jogging. Try to breathe in for two paces and then out for three paces. Repeat this drill during your training runs. You may need to slow down to achieve it; it’s worth the effort. When you have mastered it, you can then repeat the drill at higher speeds.
Good running form will mean fewer injuries and a greater sense of relaxation during your running, and your improved technique will allow you to make quicker gains in your training.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or