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Become a Faster, Stronger, Healthier Runner with Optimal Form

By: Angela Ciroalo

As a runner living along the Jersey Shore I commonly pass other runners by the beach or throughout local trails.

Some are running slow, others running fast – one thing that I can’t help but notice is the many differences in each runner’s form.

A runner’s form is the position of their spine, head, arms, legs and feet while running.

Form is an important component of running that I do not think receives enough attention.

When first learning to run people often focus on the length of time they are able to complete a run or how fast they were, meanwhile the movement of their body is often overlooked.

Form is important because the position of the body can greatly impact a runner’s performance, their instance of injury, and even their level of enjoyment.

As a new runner, I too never gave my form much thought. I did not see the significance and

However, as time continued, and my knee pain increased, I realized the importance of proper running form.

Correct Running Form
Photo taken from travellingscorner.com

Running Form Mistakes
The 10 most common running mistakes, according Iloverunningmagazine.com, include; looking down; keeping the shoulders and body tense; clenching the fists; rotating the torso; placing the arms in the “chicken wing” position; leaning the torso too far forward; over-striding; heel-striking; over bending the knees; and breathing shallow.

Bad Running FOrm
P
hoto taken from zero-drop.com

Most runners will make one or more of these mistakes every day.

Now that you are aware of these common mistakes let’s take a look at how to fix them – and help you achieve peak running performance.

The Runner’s Head
We will address the placement of your entire body, since running is a sport that includes the entire body, but first we will begin with the head.

Proper running form includes an upright head looking forward.
When a runner is looking down, their neck and back muscles become strained trying to support their 7 to 10 pound head.

Over time, the strain can turn into an injury, ultimately damaging muscles and causing unnecessary pain.

In an article published on WorldRunning.com, an international running site powered by the International Association of Athletics Federation, it was suggested that runners keep their head in a straight and neutral position, allowing the head to align with the shoulders and back.

Maintaining a straight and upright head will improve posture, performance and experience.
It will also allow you to notice the beautiful scenery around you, the other smiling runners – and prevent you from running into any poles or cars.

The Runner’s Shoulders
Runners often arch their back and raise their shoulders, as if they were typing at a computer.

Running in proper form includes rolling the shoulders back and keeping them square with the chest.

Another good tip to keep in mind is to allow the shoulders to remain loose and free from tension.

The Runner’s Spine
The spine can move in many different directions depending on the placement of the runner’s body.

Runners can achieve optimal performance when running with a straight, upright spine.

A common term used to explain optimal posture is to “run tall” or to run with a string pulling the head and body up straight.

Placement of the Arms and Hands
While running the arms are used to balance the body while the feet lift off the ground.

Optimal balance and running performance is created when the arms move at the same pace as the feet, the arms are moving towards the shoulders and back down towards the hips, and the hands are loose.

A few things to avoid include running with arms across the body, keeping the hands close to the shoulders, and clenching the fists.

Running should be a smooth and relaxed, symmetrical movement throughout the entire body.

The Runner’s Stride
In an article published on WorldRunning.com, it stated that optimal running performance is achieved when a runner’s strides are short and the knees have a slight bend and lift.

Making shorter strides, no further than your knee, will cause your feet to land under the body, opposed over-striding the leg away from the body.

Forefront
P
hoto taken from altitude-blog.com

The Runner’s Foot Placement
In recent years, much debate has been expressed between the differences in landing on the heel or the forefront of the foot.

WorldRunning.com stated that landing on the forefoot area of the foot is “the most efficient way of running” to prevent injury and achieve peak performance.

Due to the suggested benefits I decided to give it a try.

What I found was that my knee pain disappeared, my form straightened and my performance improved.

Physical therapist Jay Dicharry from the University of Virginia’s Center for Endurance Sport stated in a Runners World Magazine article that when the foot lands on the forefront, the ankle and foot will absorb the force of the landing and create a spring in each lift off.

When the heel lands, however, the landing is a “stiff system” which does not allow the ankle to “give,” Mr. Dicharry said.

Therefore, when the heel hits the ground the shock will be shifted to the knee.

This is not to say that the heel strike is wrong. Some runners prefer it and have not had any issues as a result of landing on their heels.

Running Tips
P
hoto taken from thrillon.com

The Benefits of Proper Running Form
Each of these tips do not have to be incorporated all at once. If there is one that you prefer to the other, try that first and make changes gradually.

Transforming the way you run can make lasting changes in your performance, posture, health as well as your love for the sport.

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself,” running champion and author John Bigham once said.

This article was previously published in Night and Day Magazine

Angela Ciroalo_Running Form_2015

Best,

Angela Joy

Resources for improving running form:
Runner’s World: http://bit.ly/1e62ybx
http://bit.ly/1j2yCtR
I Love Running Magainze: http://bit.ly/1Mt2ehQ
YMCA: http://bit.ly/1FM3J6P
World Running: http://bit.ly/1jr5PTD
The Run Doctor: http://bit.ly/1B98Ukl
Good Running Form: http://www.goodformrunning.com/
Chi Running: http://bit.ly/1pFfEk2
Competitor.com: http://bit.ly/1nLoYOD

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The healthy way to fuel for long distance running

By: Angela Joy

As a runner, or exercise enthusiast, the foods that you eat should be taken just as seriously as the shoes you wear and the time you finish in.

Unfortunately, proper diet is not always top priority.

According to Erin Strout of Running Times Magazine, runners continue to follow the age-old beliefs that eating large amounts of pasta the night before, chugging bottles of sports drinks or following fad diets, will improve performance.

However, what runners are beginning to recognize more commonly is that high quality protein, fats, carbohydrates, electrolytes and superfoods, each play an intrical role in fueling a succesful athlete.

Healthy Foods

Photo taken from wicklowpartnership.ie

Ms. Stout writes in the Running Times magazine, proper nutrition and hydration are critical components for improved running capabilities.

Upon first beginning my running career I was not aware of the importance of a healthy diet.

I maintained a seemingly healthy diet, although had not true idea of what health really was.

I followed the all of the age-old runner beliefs, leading me to suffer during my first half marathon race.

It wasn’t long after when I recognized the importance of nutrition and consuming healthy organic whole foods as a runner.

During my second half marathon I cut my time by 15 minutes, finished strong, and recovered almost immediately after.

A year or so later, I took on the next challenge – running a full marathon.

I began my training unaware of how often or what types of foods I would need while running a distance longer than 90 minutes.

I can still remember coming home from my first 15 mile run. I was ecstatic, but once I met my living room I was done for the day.

I went to bed that night with an incredible headache and woke up the next day feeling worse than ever.

It was at this point that I looked to ultramarathon champion, and author of the book, “Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,” Scott Jurek.

SCott Jurek

Photo taken from Twitter.com

Jurek is known for his victories in nearly every elite ultra trail and road event. He is most commonly recognized for his seven straight victories at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, his record-breaking Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon win, and his historic 153-mile Spartathalon win.

Jurek explains the importance of eating carbohydrates prior to a run, eating carbohydrates during a run that is longer than 90 minutes, and eating protein 30 minutes after a run to restore your energy levels and avoid fatigue.

Jurek follows a whole foods plant-based diet, and suggests that runners eat a variety of organic whole foods such as grains, legumes, green vegetables and fruits.

Running

In reaction to reading Mr. Jurek’s book, and seeking guidance from other professional runners, I created this training guide to prepare for long runs:

Day before:
Avoid carbo-loading the night before.
Instead, focus on fueling your body on quality protein, unsaturated fats and carbohydrates throughout the day.
Your body will store the protein, fats and carbohyrates and utilize them the following day.
Also make sure to allow the body proper time to digest all of the food you eat, prior to race morning. In other words, try not to eat too late at night.

A sample pre-race day, or pre-long run, meal for me would include:
Organic brown rice
Black beans
Avocado
Tomato
The day before I also snack on different fruits and nuts between meals.

Morning before: Before embarking on a long run it is best to wake up at least 30 minutes to one hour before running to allow yourself to eat and digest the food.

Each runner’s stomach will handle foods and digestion differently, therefore trial and error is key – the same goes with foods eaten during the run.

Carbohydrates are key the day of a run.

istock_000017061174small

My pre-run meal often consists of a piece of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a banana or orange. If I wake up early, I will eat a small bowl of oatmeal with organic blueberries.

During the run: A runner only needs to consume food if they are partaking in exercise longer than 90 minutes.

If running for longer than 90 minutes it is best to eat every 30 minutes, or so, to fully restore the body’s glycogen levels.

Most professional athletes suggest eating at least 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes.

Jurek created a conversion that meets each runner’s specific needs through relying on the runner’s weight.

The runner’s body weight, divided by 2.2, multiplied by .7, equates to the amount of carbohydrates consumed while running.

Jurek’s conversion: (Body weight/2.2) x .7 = grams of carbohydrates

I weigh 130 pounds, therefore my conversion would appear as; (130/2.2) x .7 = 41.4.

What to eat on the run:

Many runners reach for sports gels to meet their carbohydrate needs while exercising.

I opted for the natural whole foods remedies.

A few examples of foods I consume while running include;
Bananas
Figs
Organic fruit baby foods
Dates

While running I eat one item every 30 to 40 minutes and drink water after every mile.

sproutbabyfood

Photo take from: livingrichwithcoupons.com

Angela’s Tip:
Bananas are a common go-to food for me while running. I often peel the banana right before the run and place it in a plastic bag untouched. I will mush it up right before I eat it to allow easier digestion and carbohydrate absorption.

Post-Run: After completing a run it is time for the body to refuel, recover and prepare for the next run.

Physiologist Deborah Shulman concluded in an article on Active.com titled, “Get enough protein post-workout,” that it is important to consume carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of completing endurance exercise.

She explained that the nutrients consumed after exercise will fend off fatigue and promote recovery.

Ms. Schulman suggests that 20 grams of protein is optimal after completing an endurance exercise activity.

She said 20 grams can often be found in one scoop of protein powder.

What to eat after a run: Eating can be difficult after undergoing a sustained, difficult workout. My solution is to reach for a protein-packed smoothie.

I often consume one full cup of a protein smoothie after each run.

Angela 3

Photo courtesy of Angela Joy

My favorite post-run smoothie; Blueberry, banana and flax seed smoothie

  • Banana
  • Rice milk – you can use any kind of milk
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Hemp protein
  • One tablespoon of crushed flax seeds
  • One teaspoon of cinnamon

If you prefer a sweet smoothie, include one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to the mix.

Finding Inspiration

A quote that gets me through long, strenuous runs is one of Jurek’s common phrases, “Sometimes, you just do things.”

The quote resonates with me to the fact that I don’t have a specific explanation of why I run other than the fact that I simply enjoy it.

Truly, we don’t need an explanation for why we do things that make us happy – it is just important that we go out there and do them.

Don’t worry about what people think or say – just do it.

I challenge you to go out and do something that you love for the simple reason that, “Sometimes we just do things.”

Blog Post Takeaway:

Healthy Food

Photo taken from:socialdashboard.com

Have you ever heard of the expression, “You are what you eat,” well, my motto is, “Your performance is only as good as the food that you eat.”

Therefore, make sure that you are eating well!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it was helpful! Please share your feedback, comments, questions.

❤ Wishing you lots of love, joy and blessings

-Angela Joy

Information obtained from:

  1. http://running.competitor.com/2014/04/inside-the-magazine/the-long-run/the-long-run-eating-on-the-run_28754
  2. http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-for-runners/fueling-facts
  3. http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/get-enough-protein-post-workout
  4. Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman
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