How to run right to stay injury-free

Whether for exercise or competition, running is a repetitive sport that could eventually cause an injury if it is done wrongly, said Dr Lim Baoying, a resident physician at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre at Changi General Hospital.

It is easy to tell an elite runner from a beginner, from the ease of movement, effort put in and pace, she added.

Most telling, however, is the running form.

There are many schools of thought on what comprises good running form and technique, such as the Pose Method of Running (www.posetech.com) or Chi Running (www.chirunning.com).

These give very specific instructions on running forms, including posture and foot-fall patterns, and the strengthening exercises that should be practised.

Each has its ardent supporters but, in reality, there is a lack of solid evidence to support any one technique as being the best, said Dr Lim.

Still, there are universal principles that most running techniques agree on.

Here are some, as demonstrated by physiotherapist Cameron Black.

wanching@sph.com.sg

1. Look straight ahead while running and not at the feet or upwards so that the chin pokes out.

2. Keep the shoulders relaxed and not hunched forward or pulled upwards.

This is also a good principle to remember while working at the desk or computer.

In running, hunching limits the amount of air the lungs can draw in each time and creates unnecessary tension in the shoulders.

3. The elbows should be kept bent at approximately 90 degrees throughout the run.

If the angle of the bend is smaller than 90 degrees, the shoulders will tense up.

If the angle is bigger, then the arms are no longer providing the balance that the runner needs.

Each arm swing should not be forced but should be natural and driven from the shoulders.

When viewed from the front, the hands should not cross the mid-line of the body in each swing.

The arms are needed to provide balance, rhythm and power. The bigger the stride, the bigger the arm swing, and the converse is true too.

4. Keep the hands relaxed with fists unclenched.

Imagine holding an egg in each hand without crushing it.

From the side view, the hands should be at a level between the waist and the lower chest.

If tension builds up in the upper body while running, straighten the arms and shake them out for a few seconds.

5. Closely related to the arm swing is the body rotation.

Rotate the pelvis and shoulders in opposite directions.

If the right shoulder is in front, the left leg should be in front as well while the right side of the pelvis stays behind.

The angle of rotation of the spine should be about 20 degrees.

This movement of the body allows for the most efficient use of energy.

6. Lean slightly forward when running, instead of staying upright.

This minimises the amount of impact the body has to absorb from the ground.

7. Do not bounce.

The energy put out in each stride should carry the runner forward instead of upwards.

Minimise the vertical displacement of the body by leaning forward and increasing the speed of the running steps (the cadence).

8. The knees should be slightly bent at all times.

With the body leaning slightly forward and the knee in front slightly flexed, the foot should land just under the body's centre of gravity, where the pelvis is.

If the front knee is kept straight, the foot would be exerting a braking effect on the runner.

Runners who tend to do so have too wide a stride and this is inefficient.

9. Keep the arms and legs as close to the body as possible.

Do not flail your limbs. Arm and leg swings should be concentrated on front-to-back movements and not sideways.

This helps to maximise the energy generated to help the runner move forward and minimises additional movements.

10. It is best to land on the mid-foot when running.

Landing on the heel creates a braking effect and is associated with too wide a stride.

Landing on the forefoot creates very high stress on the calves and the Achilles tendons, especially for those unaccustomed to forefoot running.

In addition, the footfall should not be loud. A good running form is always quiet and smooth.


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