Strength Training for Run Efficiency

MiniMos has been run and done and the next event on the Sydney winter running calendar is the Sydney Harbour 10k on July 12th and the Sydney Running Festival on September 20th. If you are thinking about entering either, or are lining up for the marathon then read ahead for some tips on improving your run technique and efficiency whilst reducing your injury risk. This month the theme of “Consistency in Training” continues. Last month we talked about maintaining flexibility and tissue mobility post run sessions using your “Runners Toolkit” to help reduce your injury risk and the month before we talked about strength training to help reduce your risk of run related injuries. This month we look at the other side of strength training for running, not just to reduce injury risk but to help improve performance.

 MiniMos has been run and done and the next event on the Sydney winter running calendar is the Sydney Harbour 10k on July 12th and the Sydney Running Festival on September 20th. If you are thinking about entering either, or are lining up for the marathon then read ahead for some tips on improving your run technique and efficiency whilst reducing your injury risk.

This month the theme of “Consistency in Training” continues. Last month we talked about maintaining flexibility and tissue mobility post run sessions using your “Runners Toolkit” to help reduce your injury risk and the month before we talked about strength training to help reduce your risk of run related injuries. This month we look at the other side of strength training for running, not just to reduce injury risk but to help improve performance.

Have you ever closely watched an elite runner, or a bunch of elite runners and noticed how fantastic their running technique and form is. Think of an Olympic middle distance track event or an elite marathon and have a close look at how they run- great trunk extension, a stable pelvis that isn’t moving around, good hip extension and drive and very minimal bobbing up, down or sideways. What does it spell? Efficiency. All of their effort is going into moving them forward in a straight line with minimal movement that doesn’t contribute to this. Conversely if someone’s run technique is poor and they don’t have adequate strength to maintain a correct running posture and technique they will be leaking power output, or performing inefficiently. When running we want all of our force production to be producing an output that moves us forward in a straight line. The more inefficient we are then we “lose” energy output in other directions. Energy output is wattage and we are heading to a place where we will be able to measure our wattage output when we run. We aren’t there quite yet but in the next few years we’ll see consumer devices on the market that measure our efficiency. Opposite to cycling we want our wattage to be as low as possible indicating a high level of efficiency for a given speed.

This brings me back to our strength training focus. If we don’t have adequate strength in the ranges of motion that we require for a correct running technique then we will be losing form and leaking efficiency. If our hips drop backward or drop side to side, chest drops, shoulders come forwards and start to rotate, stride length changes, ground contact time increase- all this leaks power and we slow down as our efficiency decreases. As our efficiency and quality of movement declines then our risk of injury correspondingly goes up. Tissues within the system are placed under more stress than they should be (think Gluteal tendons “trochanteric  bursitis”, ITB insertions, hamstring tendon, Achilles tendon, patellofemoral joint and tendon) and are all subject to more load than they can tolerate. Combined with the repetitive nature of running and injury can result.
 
So what do we do about it? Firstly we‘d recommend undertaking a musculoskeletal analysis with Campbell from SquareOne to identify any areas of weakness or loss of range that are compromising your run form from where we’d develop a program to address these and strengthen any areas that are known to develop overuse injuries. Secondly we’d recommend having your run form assessed by a qualified and experienced run coach such as Owain Matthews from Energylink Coaching (www.energylink.com.au). Key strength exercises to improve your run technique focus on the hips and core, calves, gluteals and hamstrings for both injury prevention and performance. This needs to be combined with run drills that work to improve your run form and incorporate your strength gains into your running action. Think one to two sessions a week in the off season to build your strength base and incorporating run drills in to at least two of your run sessions a week during a competition phase. A combination of a good physio and a good run coach will improve your efficiency and reduce your injury risk!
 
Continuous good practice makes perfect!!