Coppell Trainer Tip - Running Basics -

Coppell Trainer Tip – Running Basics


Feb 05

Coppell Trainer Tip – Running Basics

As our Coppell Cardio Club kicks off it’s second week, it is always good to for everyone to look at your running or jogging form. There are two great tips from a while back from Julie McCan below but I did want to give you a Health_Tipsgreat MobilityWod.
If you have been to an Orientation of ours, you have probably done the “Stand UP” routine where we talked about your alignment and how your body should be. So this video is great to see how what we have preached over the years is also being preached by someone who is internationally known for movement and mobility. Check it out and then take some time to watch the videos and read the running basics.
Start, though, with being conscious of how you are walking. Is it like a duck? If so, start working on straitening your walk out.

Running Basics –
The Tip of the week will help you with your form and posture with running.

Part One: Running Basics

I have never liked running. Although I have gotten somewhat better at doing since I started Boot Camp, it is usually the part of the workout I least enjoy. The reason I don’t enjoy it is because it is hard for me to do and therefore, I am not very good at it either. That said, the only way I know how to overcome my dislike of doing an exercise is to get better at doing it… so running is my current challenge.

My goal is to improve my running enough so that I don’t dread doing it so much. Hopefully, I may end up even looking forward to it. But, in order to get better at running, I know I need to run more than just running during class… a lot more! I decided that having a goal to work toward would provide some motivation for me. So, encouraged by a few others in class (thank you Carla and Stacy), I registered for the White Rock Half Marathon. Yes, that is over 13 miles!

In reality, my goal has now gone beyond to simply improve the dread factor I have toward running and to actually become a decent runner. I started training the first of September and the race is December 5th, 2010 giving me about 3 months to get in the best running shape I can.

How to start? It seemed easy enough – all I needed to do was put on my shoes and go, right? Wrong!

Since I am a beginner when it comes to running, the Trainer in me wanted to do it right. To learn how get the most out of running and become the best runner I can be, I started by doing research. I have found several websites that have helped me but the one I like the best is Although I encourage all of you to use it and other resources to help you with your running, I thought I would take you through my journey – both through learning the science and technique – as well as keeping you posted on my progress toward becoming a true runner.

The first thing I had to do was reassess was my running form. Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body. Specifically, I had some concerns about my stride and my breathing. Through information like the tips below, I quickly learned how to move from being a heel runner to a mid-foot runner. I am still working on my breathing technique but using the tips below will help improve that too.

If you are a beginner like me, or just someone that wants to improve your running, going back to important basics will be very helpful.

[Disclaimer! Before you get started on any new exercise program, including running, please check with your Doctor to get medical clearance just to make it is right for you.]

Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form.

  1. Look Ahead: Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Don’t stare at your feet. Not only is this proper running form, but it’s also a safer way to run because you can see what’s coming.
  2. Land Mid-foot: Don’t be a toe runner or a heel-striker. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigue quickly and you may develop shin pain. You will also tend to bounce which is inefficient as well. Landing on your heels means you have overstrided and you are stopping your forward momentum and causing undue stress on your knees, which wastes energy and may cause injury. Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes.To determine what type of footstriker you are, pay attention to which part of foot you’re landing on when you’re running. If you’re a heel-striker or toe-striker, you can try to switch to landing on your mid-sole by not overstriding. Make sure that you don’t lunge forward with your feet. Focus on landing on the balls of your feet, with your foot directly underneath your body with every step. A short, low arm swing is the key to keeping your stride short and close to the ground. You can practice changing your footstrike during shorter runs at first, and then work your way up to doing
  3. Keep Hands at Your Waist: Try to keep your hands at waist level, right about where they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired. Ironically, you may actually get more tired by holding your arms that way and you’ll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck.
  4. Relax Your Hands/Upper body: As you run, keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands, as if you are holding an egg and you don’t want to break it. Don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck. It’s important to stay relaxed when running because tension can cause improper running form, which can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, and even injuries.
    Runners typically get tense in their upper body. Throughout your run, try to check your running form to make sure you’re not allowing any tension to creep into your run. Here’s what to look for and what to do:
    Check your shoulders. Are your shoulders moving up toward your ears? If so, roll your head, push your shoulder blades together, and let your shoulders drop.
    Keep arms at a 90-degree angle. Are your arms at a 90-degree angle? When runners get tired or tense, their hands start to move up towards their shoulders. If you notice this happening, drop your arms and shake out your arms. Then re-position them at a 90-degree angle.
    Relax your hands and wrist. Are your hands in a tight fist? If you’re clenching your fists, the tension in your hands will move from there up your arms to your shoulders and neck. Try to keep your hands and wrists relaxed. You should keep your hand in a loose fist, almost as if you’re holding an egg and you don’t want to break it.
    Keep your arms at your side. Are your arms crossing over your chest? Your arms should swing at your side and not cross your chest. If you’re crossing over your chest, your arms will start moving up toward your shoulders and you’ll find yourself hunching over more (which also makes it harder to breathe). Keep your arms at your sides, parallel to each other.
  5. Check Your Posture: Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Check your posture once in a while. When you’re tired at the end of your run, it’s common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out.
  6. Relax Your Shoulders: Your shoulders should be relaxed and square or facing forward, not hunched over. Rounding the shoulders too far forward tends to tighten the chest and restrict breathing.
  7. Rotate Arms from the Shoulder: Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint.
  8. Don’t Bounce: Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Too much up-and-down movement is wasted energy and can be hard on your lower body. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue.
  9. Keep Arms at Your Side: Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. If your arms cross over your chest, you’re more likely to slouch, which means you’re not breathing efficiently. Imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half — your hands should not cross it.
  10. Inhale through both your nose and mouth/Exhaled through your mouth: You should allow air to enter through both your mouth and nose when you’re running. Your muscles need oxygen to keep moving and your nose simply can’t deliver enough. Make sure you’re breathing more from your diaphragm, or belly, not from your chest — that’s too shallow. Deep belly breathing allows you to take in more air, which can also help prevent side stitches. You should exhale through your mouth and try to focus on exhaling fully, which will remove more carbon dioxide and also help you inhale more deeply. Here are a few more tips for breathing while running:
  • Try to take three footstrikes for every inhale, and two footstrikes for every exhale.
  • As a beginner, try to run at a pace at which you can breathe easily. Use the “talk test” to figure out if your pace is appropriate. You should be able to speak in full sentences, without gasping for air.
  • Slow down or walk if you’re running out of breath. If you relax and slow the pace, breathing problems often take care of themselves. Don’t overthink it!

I will put this last tip into practice during my next run and I’ll keep you posted on how well it works for me. Thanks to Christine Luff, for these tips and where you can find more information in here “Guide to Running & Jogging” at

Written by Julie McCan. Julie is a Certified Personal Trainer for Get You In Shape.

Part Two: Preventing Pain and Injury While Running

CLICK HERE to see the first tip of this series.

When you first start running, you may experience some initial discomfort and pain with things like side stitches, blisters or chaffing. All of these can be annoying and possibly discourage you from continued running. Don’t quit yet, because there are things you can do to easily prevent these things.

Side Stitches
“A side stitch is a sharp, intense pain under the lower edge of the ribcage caused by a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. They’re common in novice runners who tend to breathe more quickly and shallow.”

I mentioned these in Part One of my series but it doesn’t hurt to discuss the treatment and prevention of this annoying and very uncomfortable pain again. The best prevention of side stitches requires just a few simple things; avoid eating within one hour of running, and make sure you are breathing through your mouth AND nose so you get a deep breathe from your stomach not just your chest (note: if you are running in cold weather, try breathing though a scarf or neck warmer).

Although there are some breathing techniques you can enlist if you get a side stitch while you are running, the easiest thing is to stop running and walk briskly while concentrating on deep breathing. You can continue running once it goes away.

“While not a serious injury, blisters — those fluid-filled bubbles of skin on your feet — can be painful and keep you from running.” Preventing blisters from occurring requires the right sock and shoe. Buy socks that are specifically made for running. This alone with help ensure your feet don’t get too much moisture built up that can cause friction and lead to a blister. As for shoes, buy them 1/2 size large than you normally wear. This made a huge difference for me. When you run, your feet actually swell so you want to make sure you have enough room to prevent any rubbing that may lead to a blister.

“Chafing is caused by repeated motion — specifically, skin rubbing against loose fabric or other skin.” Again, prevention lies in wearing the right things — in this case, synthetic clothing — something that will wick away the moisture so it doesn’t get wet. In a long run, wet clothing will stay wet and rub on your skin, causing the discomfort of chaffing. You can also put vaseline or other types of chaffing cream on trouble areas.

Once you’ve been running for a while, you may start to experience more serious pain or even injury. Through my research on this topic, I have consistently found that “most common running injuries are due to overuse, overtraining, improper shoes, or a biomechanical flaw in body structure and motion.” From a biomechanical perspective, it is always best to go back to the basics of your posture (see Part One of this series) to ensure you are running with good form and technique. If you aren’t sure, have someone watch you or video you while running. You can also go to a specialty store to have your stride analyzed.

Christopher McDougall, author of the book, “Born to Run” started the barefoot running craze based on a lot of research and running experience. Whether you want to become a barefoot runner or not, he (and others I researched) give some great advice on how you can use running barefoot to help train your foot and your body to run more efficiently. Refer to the bottom of this article for the link to some great discussion and demonstration of these techniques.

That said, to make it easier for you to get some quick guidelines on injury prevention, I have provided the following from Christine Luff’s website These things will help ensure you can continue to run injury free.

Here’s How:

  1. Avoid the “terrible too’s”. Many running injuries are a result of overtraining: too much intensity, too many miles, too soon. It’s important to go easy when adding mileage or intensity to your training. You shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week. You can still push your limits, but you’ll have to take a gradual and patient approach. By building up slowly, you can save yourself pain and frustration, and still reach your goals. Let common sense and a smart training schedule determine how much you should be running. More: 10 Common Running Mistakes
  2. Treat your feet right. Be sure that your shoes aren’t worn out and that you have the right model for your feet and running style. The wrong shoe can actually aggravate existing problems, causing pain in your feet, legs, knees or hips. Wearing shoes that have lost their cushioning may also lead to injury. Go to a specialty running shop where you can be properly fitted for running shoes, and replace them every 350-500 miles. If you have a biomechanical problem with your feet, you may also look into getting fitted for heel lifts or orthotics.
  3. Find the right surface. Once you have the right shoes, you want to make sure you’re using them on the best surface. Ideally, you want the ground to absorb shock, rather than passing it along to your legs. Avoid concrete as much as possible: It’s about 10 times as hard as asphalt, and is a terrible surface for running. Try to find grass or dirt trails to run on, especially for your higher mileage runs. Consistency is important, too, because a sudden change to a new running surface can cause injuries. You’ll also want to avoid tight turns, so look for slow curves and straight paths. More: Where to Run
  4. Stay loose. A regular stretching program can go a long way toward injury prevention. Be diligent about stretching after your runs — your body will make you pay if you get lazy about it.
  5. Keep your balance. Injuries sometimes pop up when you’re paying too much attention to your running muscles and forgetting about the others. For example, knee injuries sometimes occur because running strengthens the back of your legs more than the front of your legs. Your relatively weak quads aren’t strong enough to keep your kneecap moving in its proper groove, which causes pain. However, once you strengthen your quads, the pain will often go away.
  6. Make sure you’re ready to return. To prevent re-injury, ease back into training with water running, cycling, or using an elliptical trainer. Overtraining is the number one cause of injuries, so try to remember that progress takes time.

Learn more about these common running injuries, their causes, and treatments, click on the links below.

Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are often caused by the twisting or rolling of your ankle and result in swelling and pain above and around the ankle.

Black Toenails
Runners, especially those training for long-distance events, can suffer from black toenails, caused by the toes rubbing up against the front of the running shoe. A blood blister forms under the toenail and the nail eventually falls off.

While not a serious injury, blisters — those fluid-filled bubbles of skin on your feet — can be painful and keep you from running.

Chafing is caused by repeated motion — specifically, skin rubbing against loose fabric or other skin.

Illiotibial Band Syndrome
Marked by a sharp, burning knee or hip pain, Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a very common injury among runners.

Muscle Pulls or Strains
Muscle pulls and strains are common and annoying injuries for runners, marked by pain and tightness in the affected muscle.

Runner’s Knee
A common complaint among long-distance runners, runner’s knee feels like a soreness around and sometimes behind the kneecap.

Links to sources and information on barefoot running techniques:

Christopher McDougall’s interview:

Two good ones from Newton Running:

Written by: Julie McCan, CPT Julie is on the team of personal trainers. Get You In Shape has is a Fitness Company in the Dallas, TX area. Coppell boot camps, Dallas boot camps, private training, 24 Day Challenge, weight loss, sports performance and nutrition are the main services of Get You In Shape.