A common misconception I see in runners is when there is a shuffle of the feet along the ground with the belief this is efficient and protecting the legs from impact and injury, allowing us to run for long with little effort. The feet barely lift with each stride and the arms are coasting along the side of the body.
I definitely understand the thought process behind this approach, especially in distance runners as we are conserving energy to go the distance, right? Well...
Unfortunately not. It may feel that way with each step, however we are inhibiting our ability to run efficiently and fast. This is also increasing our chances of developing long term and serious injury. Let me explain.
The biomechanics of your running movement can get off track and you are creating more impact and force on the lower leg muscles and tendons than if you were to run with a cleaner kick off the ground and a noticeable knee drive through the body. By shuffling, we can inflame the lower leg tendons which can also result in a significant risk factor for shin splints.
It is also more energetically wasteful, as a common trait of a shuffling runner is a foot strike out front of the body and longer ground contact time, slowing us down. We are then having to 'push' ourselves off the ground with each step.
Outside of correcting your running form which is in an article I've published here Promoting your knee to drive higher and through your body can help combat the shuffle and improve your speed, efficiency and reduce injury.
Here are my top three at home exercises you can do to promote your knee drive and strengthen the key components of your body to achieve this, mainly your hip flexors and core.
Standing banded knee drive
Choose a resistance band that allows your feet to stand no more than shoulder width apart and wrap the band around the feet just in front of your arch. Drive one leg off the ground as if you are simulating a running stride to a high position with resistance on the band and hold for up to 3 seconds.. Maintain balance on the foot that is stationary on the ground. Return that leg to the starting position and alternate between each leg for a series of reps or a set time.
Banded Mountain Climbers
Just like a standard mountain climber except we are adding resistance with the band as the leg drives through the body. This exercise also works your core and stabilisers.
Wrap a resistance band around your feet just in front of your arch, with resistance on the band shoulder width apart then position yourself in a high plank. By staying as still as possible through the core and upper body, alternate each edge by driving the knee under your body through to your chest then returning to the high plank position. Repeat for a series of reps or a set time.
Banded Dead Bugs
Dead bugs can be tough enough without added weight or a band as it works your core and hip flexors well. With this exercise the added resistance engages the core, quads and hip flexors all at once to give a fantastic strengthening workout to increase your strength and improve your stride.
Wrap a band around a fixed structure that can take the resistance of your pulling power when the band is fully stretched. As you work through the motion, make sure you are adding enough resistance when the knee drives towards your chest to gain the most benefit. Repeat for a series of reps or a set time.
As with any new exercise, progress slowly and work to your level. You may wish to start on these exercises as body weight only then add resistance once you have mastered the technique.
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