Suggestions to Help You Run Better

What you wear affects how you run

When you first start running, make sure you buy a good pair of shoes. The quality of your footwear will ensure the longevity of your running career, since the better footwear protects your feet and by extension your joints. I don’t personally recommend one brand over the other, but there are several manufacturers out there that create a product that will do the job.

Running clothing needs to breathe and move with you. Stay away from fabrics that will bind and weigh you down as you run. Ideally the runner’s clothes should be an extension of him. Realize, of course, that each climate will also affect the runner’s choice of clothing, as will the season in which they choose to run.

Proper Breathing

The best way to breathe while running is what I like to call “belly breathing.” This the type of breathing that attempts to maximize your lung capacity during periods of strenuous activity, like running. You start by rolling your shoulders forward, relaxing them, then with an intake of breath push your stomach out simultaneously pushing out and down with your diaphragm. I recommend that you practice this before running, enough so that it will be natural when you do begin using the technique when run. This is an excellent way to maximize your lung square-footage, if you will, and more oxygen means a better, more alert, runner.

Ice Baths

The ice bath is more of an injury prevention technique than anything else. I recommend finding an athletic center with a whirlpool available, since it is difficult to generate the adequate ice in your own freezer. Fifteen to twenty minutes of soaking in an ice water bath can be an excellent way to prepare for a race. I also like to use the ice bath to prepare for long runs, especially if the terrain will be particularly challenging. Submerge yourself past your waist and prepare for some extreme cold. There are some neoprene toe covers available from athletic supply stores, and I highly recommend you get them. They will protect those tiny extremities from the extreme cold. But the extreme cold is exactly what you need, despite the discomfort.

Hans Overturf’s Steps to Running Form

Toe Up: The first step in running form we call the “Toe Up.” It’s important when lifting the toes not to just lift your toes, but also think in terms of angles. We want to decrease the angle of the foot to the front of the leg. In this way we can increase hamstring efficiency, and efficiency is what it’s all about when we are talking about fitness.

Knee Up: Next we come to “Knee Up.” Any running instructor will harp on about lifting your knees higher, but there is a reason for this. The higher your knee is, the greater range of motion is afforded. When you have a greater range of motion, your stride length increases. If you are looking to improve as a sprinter, this is a key step to remember. Every millimeter counts when running a race. Even if you are not running competitively, remember that we are seeking the most efficient way to run, and greater range of motion improves that efficiency.

Heel Up: The strong Hans Overturf technique includes pulling your heel quickly up toward your backside. If you get lazy about this then you will pull your heel in an arc. That arc by its very nature of being a larger span means that you spend more time moving, thus slow down. If you focus on pulling your heel straight up in a strong, quick motion, you increase your running efficiency and can also increase your power.

Extend Leg: Once you have pulled your heel up quickly and smoothly it is time to actually extend your leg. In doing so, make sure that you continue to lift your knees high and extend your leg straight in front of you. If you vary your stride you risk injury to your hips as you run, and injury is definitely something a runner wants to avoid. Additionally, any lateral movement will waste energy, and decrease your running efficiency.

Clawing Back: The Hans Overturf technique would be incomplete without this step, although you may not think it is important. Despite appearing like it slows you down and shortens your stride, think of it like a foundation of a building. By planting your foot you prepare for the next stride, and you actually spend less time with your feet connecting with the ground. Thus you run faster.

Running Problems

Whenever we talk about the Hans Overturf technique, it’s important to realize why such a technique is needed. In following a technique such as mine, you circumvent two major issues that runners constantly face: running slower, and injury. As we run with greater efficiency we increase our pace, and if you are interested in running races, this is essential. Even if you are not in a sprint or marathon, the proper technique will lessen your chances for injuries to joints, muscles or even breakage of bones. Keeping this in mind, here are some of the problems many runners might encounter as they set out on their journey to becoming a better runner.

Heel Striking: This increases the stress on your joints, and also breaks your stride, since you are essentially breaking yourself as you would a car by striking in front of your center of gravity. To prevent this, use the Clawing Back step of the Hans Overturf technique.

Leaning Forwards: When you lean backwards you put strain on your lower back. Whenever you run you should always lean slightly forward.

Lateral Arms: It might be obvious, but when you run your arms should flow in the direction your body is going. Any lateral movement will result in twisting of your torso, which strains your back and slows your pace since you create a greater resistance to the air around you.

Shin Splints: Shin Splints are the bane of ever runner. There are two types of shin splints, lateral and the medial. There are several exercises for prevention and relief of this malady, but I recommend the figure eight. The exercise I have found to cure medial shin splints may also relieve lateral shin splints, but I cannot guarantee this. Should you get shin splints, the first thing you should do is contact your physician.

This exercise requires an old bicycle tube (ask your local bicycle shop for punctured tubing) or some surgical tubing. Sitting down, position your foot so that the tubing makes contact with the ball of your foot. Pull back on the other end of the tubing, rotating your foot in circles. The circles work best if you point your toe, rotate first clockwise, and then counterclockwise. The lovely thing about this exercise is that you should see improvement in about two weeks.

Achilles: Any injury to an Achilles tendon will take a substantial amount of time to rehabilitate. Again, please make sure that you talk to a doctor first. Because of the large amount of blood flow to the ankle, the Achilles tendon is constantly working, and therefore rarely gets a chance to heal.