Runner's Guide To NON-Retirement

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   With the beaming summer sun casted upon the desert abyss, all that is heard is the stampede.

   The thumping of feet, the heaviness of breath, and the odor of fresh sweat. A short distance ahead a horned four legged animal hustles for survival. The antelope, dying of exhaustion and dehydration topples to its death and the persistent hunters have their way. 

    A quick look at our hunter and gather root s reveal that humans beings are designed to run long distances. The one thing that is so innate to our anatomy, is poorly performed all across the globe. Running, whether you love it, or hate it is a skill all humans should master. It appears to be so straight forward, yet a huge percentage of our population don't engage in some form of running on a daily, or even weekly basis. Those who do sadly end their career swiftly as running injuries begin to manifest. 

   That is why the running gods have spoken, and chose me to write this article (or so i think so). Here I am breaking down each key component that will either make or break your running career. 

   Just like any other movement we engage in, addressing posture is key.

   Why does posture matter? 

  1. It can avoid unnecessary spinal compression
  2. It avoids EOMF - early onset muscle fatigue 
  3. It can conserve energy
  4. It avoids joint damage and common knee/ankle injuries

  Running Posture Checklist: 

  •     Midline Stabilization
  •     Head Position 
  •     Arm Position

    - Midline Stabilization 

       When the upper body is not stable, the shock wave caused by the impact of running will compress and flex the spine. Overtime this will overload the muscles and weaken the joints that are in motion. 

       THE FIX: 

       Establish neutral posture and engage the core. 

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       - Head Position

Where the head goes the body follows

       Poor head position = poor posture and harder shock on joints. Even if the midline is stabilized, if the head is not in a neutral position, stability will weaken due to fatigue. 

       THE FIX: 

Perform the "Hang Ten" drill to place that noggin in a neutral position!


- Arm Position

       Proper positioning of the arms can lead to stronger posture, added stability, and energy conservation. The biggest contributor to this movement is called contralateral motion. This is the slight rotation and simultaneous movement of the opposite hand and foot. 

       CHEAT CODE: Right Foot Forward/Left Arm Forward - Left Foot Back/Right Arm Back -Reverse & Repeat

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           THE BREAKDOWN:

  1.                Bend Arms at 90˙
  2.                Bring Shoulders Back 
  3.                Externally rotate the shoulders so arms are by sides
  4.                Thumbs facing the sky and hands closed
  5.                No Flare in elbows, arms close to body



   QUICK TIP: The cadence and speed at which you are running will determine the degree of arm movement. 


     Factors that will MAKE YOU or BREAK YOU!


       Gravity: It's your friend, not the enemy. By shifting the general center of mass over the base of support, gravity is being utilized to maintain forward motion. 

       Ground Reacting Impact Force: The manner in which the foot strikes the ground will determine how force is applied to the joints of the body. With the foot under the general center of mass, and by landing on the ball of the foot, impact is minimized increasing propulsion. 

       Muscular Elasticity: Imagine the stretch and recoil of a rubber band. The muscles mimic that same reaction when forces are applied to the body. This natural response can increase performance. The contraction of the muscle works hand in hand with it's elasticity properties. 


More elasticity = less muscular contraction

Less muscular contraction = More energy conserved


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       Momentum: Picture a train for a moment. From a complete stop, a train takes a long time to gain speed. Yet once that speed is gained the momentum generated by the forward motion of the train is easier to maintain and demands less energy. When the body shifts over the general center of mass it creates forward motion, utilizing gravity and conserving energy. 



Learn To Fall 


       Learning to fall will get you comfortable with shifting the general center of mass over the base of support. This same movement is what is used to create forward motion and momentum. Give the drill below a try to get a feel of shifting over the base of support. 

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       The Technical Components:

Pulling Mechanics: Removal of the foot from the ground

Shifting Support: Transition from one foot to the other

 Landing: The foot making contact with the ground 


Pulling Mechanics

       The "foot pull" is the motion of bringing the heel toward the butt using the hamstring. Anytime the knee is pulled to the chest when running, the glutes and hamstrings aren't engaged, which can lead to damage to the hips or knees. Using the hamstring to pull the foot upward utilizes it's muscle elasticity which aids in energy conservation. The foot should stay relaxed and in-line with the opposite leg to ensure proper foot landing. 

Pulling height of the foot changes under speed. The angle of the fall will dictate speed of travel as well as the height of the foot pull. 

       BASIC RULE: 

       Sprinting = Larger degree of fall and high foot pull (heel to butt) 

       Mile Run or 5k = Medium degree of fall and moderate foot pull (heel to knee level) 

       Marathon or Jog = Small degree of fall and low foot pull (heel to calf level)









      Shifting Suport

       This component is the most overlooked and most crucial step of running mechanics. Shifting support is the brief moment where both feet leave the ground and you are completely suspended midair. The reasoning for this is to ensure proper foot landing and avoid heel striking. 


     Landing (Catching Your Fall)

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       Feet are pretty amazing. The arch of the foot is designed to absorb shock and pressure. Almost the same function as a leaf spring on a truck. Choosing the portion of the foot that makes contact with the ground is very crucial for long term joint health. Landing on the ball of the foot engages the muscular-tendon-elastic-system (mouthful, I know). This reduces impact and conserves energy. 

       Due to modern day running shoes, many individuals land on their heel. This is what will bring your running career into early retirement! But more of this will be saved for another article. 


Ball of foot mechanics 

       Though it sounds simple, this could get complicated, so LISTEN UP! Ball-of-foot-landing-mechanics simply doesn't mean letting only the ball of the foot make contact with the ground. If you are landing solely with the ball of the foot, it will damage the calves, ankles, and foot over time. 

      THE FIX: 

     When landing on the ball of the foot, the heel should touch the ground for a brief second (the heel kiss) before transitioning back to the ball of the foot. Be sure to keep the foot relaxed and not overthink it! 




      BAM, that's it! Now you have the basic knowledge to run longer distances, become more energy efficient, and keep your joints healthy and strong. Remember that running is a skill and will take time to master. As long as you follow the steps, drills, and tips listed above, you will have no problem honing in your running skills. 


   I can't take full credit for all the great information above. A good portion of the knowledge I gained from running as a skill came from the book, "Power Speed Endurance - A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training" by Brian Mackenzie. It's a great read and I recommend anyone check it out if they're interested in learning even more technicalities of running, swimming, biking, and lifting. 


John Schaser - Head Trainer & Owner of Health Alchemist Training

Writer Bio:  John Schaser is a certified health nut...not sure if I should blatantly state that, or why I'm talking in the third person...anyways I am the founder and owner of Health Alchemist. In my spare time I wrestle bears and day dream about being in nature. My focus is to spread my wealth of health & fitness knowledge to help others and assist in their journey of living a happier healthier lives. Instagram @health_alchemist.