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Running Lightly

The New Year’s rush is running in full force at the gym; as a result, you may have found yourself waiting for a treadmill to open up. Whether you are looking to get into jogging, yourself, or planning to run a long distance race, an efficient stride can help you decrease the risk of injury and improve your speed.

Every time I walk by the treadmills, even with headphones on, it is hard to ignore the loud thudding from others’ steps, which I like to call “running heavy” because the force pressed down on the treadmill belt is greater than necessary. Obviously, my solution to this is to focus on “running lightly”, which I will briefly explain.

A common cause of “running heavy” comes from over-striding. While stride length plays a major role in jogging speed, we should also consider stride rate. Since many people overemphasize the need to lengthen their strides, the force resulting when the foot meets the ground is greater when over-striding, which creates a braking effect, so they are essentially slowing themselves down. In addition to that, the force travels up to your knees and lower back, which, in time, may have detrimental effects and cause a great deal of pain.

To minimize the effects of “running heavy” means slightly reducing the stride length and focusing more on stride rate. Recreational runners average about 150-170 steps per minute, whereas elite runners are around 180-200 steps. While I do not expect you to count every step, increasing stride rate is easily noticeable.

Additionally, you can work on having the foot make contact with the ground, as the foot is moving backwards. By doing this, the braking effect, such as that from over-striding, is minimized and so is the force when the foot meets the ground. Also, when applying this technique to your running style, listen to the volume from your footsteps and try making each step as quiet as possible. While doing this, I would recommend leaving your headphones at home for a while, that way you can keep your mind focused on “running lightly”. It will take a few runs until this technique feels natural, but your knees and lower back will thank you for it.

While breaking down running technique in full would require me to write an entire book because of its complexities, but I find that starting with “running lightly” as a great place to start when working with runners. Try it out and you will notice yourself running faster.


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