Improving Running Technique – Running School, Part 2

Recap – The Analysis

After my detailed analysis from Nick at the Running School on my running form, I am back. This time, we are going to try and improve my running technique. (See Part 1 here)

In summary, the analysis was this: I’m a typical runner. I over-stride. I completely under use my glutes and hamstrings, all at the expense of my quads and calves. Quads and calves that compensate and take on a task far bigger than they were ever designed to do. I am injury prone and not as fast as I could be. I hate to say it, but I kind of knew this.

Time to Work on Running Technique

Fear not! Nick from reassures me that he can fix me. The cure? A little bit of hard work and a back to basics approach. Nick explained that the biggest problem I have is a lack of posterior activation. Your posterior chain is the back of your legs. Primarily your glute and hamstring muscle groups. My problem is as much a neuromuscular inefficiency as one of simple weakness. How do we fix it? Have you ever tried sprinting hard up a steep hill? Well, it turns out it is difficult sprint up a steep hill with bad form. The Running School use this as one of their philosophies to fix runners form.

A thought had occurred to me during my previous analysis with Nick. This kind of methodological breakdown is common in many other sports, but not running. Why is that? I think it is clear that we can’t all run well. Yet people often raise an eyebrow at the idea of ‘learning’ how to run. Especially if they’ve been running for a while.

In the words of The Running School:

“First, we teach you how to run, then we teach you how to run faster”

Faster is the only word you need to tell me. I didn’t expect it to be quite as much fun…

The general method:

  1. Perform lots of activation/stability exercises to get the muscles firing. Stability is important here.
  2. Break down the running action into its component parts.
  3. Concentrating on correct form, it’s on to the treadmill. The idea here is to exaggerate the running form as if sprinting. Prepare for some steep inclines!
  4. Repeat. Over and over again. At different speeds and inclines, but always using the exaggerated running form. Train that muscle memory.
  5. After enough repetition, the brain and nerves start to ‘rewire’ and the muscle firing patterns begin to change. You start to run how our bodies evolved to before we spent most of our lives sat down.

After only a couple of sessions in the capable hands Nick and rehab specialist Joe, the effect was obvious. With mirrors all around. With helpful pointers and reminders. I found myself pumping the arms, driving back with the legs, kicking my heels up and hitting my backside. Most importantly my feet landing closer to under my hips. It was working. And not just in the sessions. Outside the sessions, I was noticing big differences. The periods of time that I could sustain good form lengthened. My muscle memory was becoming hard wired and my hitherto neglected posterior muscles strengthened. Consequently, I found it impossible to run slowly while practising good running technique. With full glute activation kick-back form, I was flying. I was getting faster. I also became an even more vain runner than I am already. I look in EVERY possible source of reflection to check my form.

The Road to Recovery

Admittedly, there was one reservation I had. It was all very well having this incredible exaggerated new form, but I just could not imagine sustaining it. Not even for 10k. Nick reassured me. This was all part of the master plan. In my final session, I would learn how to apply this to a real life run and sustain the improved running technique. I am very very excited!

Check back for the final post in the Running School Series.