Kipping it Real with Cameron!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. November’s Athlete of the Month is Cameron Osburn. Cameron was chosen because of his willingness to prioritize good movement patterns and technique over lifting heavier weights. His work ethic is very evident in the way that he continues to push through workouts even when it gets really hard. He never gives up and always tries his best. His hard work is paying off and we love having Cameron as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Cameron below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? Since October 2019, I believe. I’d been talking to my former coworker/now boss about CrossFit for a few months before coming in. He used to coach at a CrossFit gym in Olathe. He spoke very highly of his experiences and so I finally decided to jump in.

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? My first class was a Saturday bootcamp class. I’m fairly sure it was Leah and Cody coaching. I thought the first workout was tough, but it was what I was looking for as far as getting into CrossFit.

What has been your favorite workout so far? I enjoy any workout that has heavy lifting in it. Building to a 1RM, especially when I’ve been working on that particular lift for a few weeks, and then seeing the progress is usually a mental boost. Plus, I honestly like those lifts.

What is your favorite cheat meal? I don’t really have a cheat meal; more like cheat snacks. Graham Crackers or Nutty Bars are currently the cheat snacks of choice and I don’t keep those in the house unless I’ve done something good.

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? At one point, I really wanted to be a pharmacist. Then I got to college and figured out I didn’t like Chemistry that much. I work at Garmin in Olathe as an Industrial Engineer, supporting improvement projects and the warehouse systems in the Distribution Center.

What do you like to do outside of work? I’m a homebody (especially right now) so I spend most of my time outside work with my wife and children. I enjoy watching sports, cooking shows, and any bingeable streaming shows. Recently I’ve been into cooking Thai and Indian style food and always love a good cup of coffee and the occasional gaming session (Roonskie on Xbox and PSN).

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? There are actually a lot of little things that helped me. I think my main bit of advice would be to just go to classes and trust the coaches. Don’t stress about times or max weight (but do track them so you can show where you started). Find the best class times for you, make a schedule you can commit to, then come in and do the workouts. Once you get into a good rhythm, you can start stacking things like nutrition and setting new goals, but building the base starts with getting in the door first. The coaches are there to help with form and every OPCF coach has been great with constructive criticism and motivation.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? Favorite: Deadlift – I’ve always felt once I started deadlifts seriously that they were the best for multiple reasons. Lease Favorite – Any and all versions of Snatch lifts. They are the only lifts that I’ve done in CrossFit that scare me. I’ve been going lighter on those for this reason and also to make sure that I hammer home form to gain confidence. I want these to become a favorite instead of a least favorite.

What’s one CrossFit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? My goals: Bench/Deadlift/Squat 1RM total over 1000 again, and 1 strict pull-up with near perfect form.

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? Generally lifting and working out help me mentally and with everything going on, which has been the biggest change.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? I feel like I’ve seen the biggest improvements in my conditioning and endurance when lifting and going into the metcon. I’ve gotten more confidence to go a bit heavier during the workout to where I’m not as worried about being gassed during the metcon.

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? For me, I had to shift my personal schedule to include the 5:30 AM class (Shoutout to the Zero Dark Thirty group!). This provided me with the best way to fit working out into my schedule while not negatively impacting how my wife and I balance our lives at home. Plus, working out first thing in the morning helps me feel more energetic through the rest of the day.

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? I’ll answer this in 2 ways: for a long time I’ve wished I had some kind of higher level artistic skill like playing piano or painting. Otherwise, I haven’t traveled to England/Europe or Japan, and both of these are trips I’d like to take.

10-Minute Mobility Routine

A common trait that most of us share is our busyness. With ever-increasing technology that is supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient, it just seems like we are constantly finding ways to fill our time with other tasks or activities. The same goes for working out. Most CrossFit classes are one hour in length which conveniently fits into most of our busy schedules. However, when it comes to doing the extra stuff like accessory work, mobility, technique practice, etc., we often claim to be too busy to work on these things as well. But what if you just stayed for ten extra minutes after every class? It would add up to being several hours of extra practice in just a few short weeks. Oftentimes, the problem with this is that many athletes don’t know how to spend those ten extra minutes.

Take mobility for example: when most people hear the ‘term’ mobility they try to change the subject or quickly walk away from the conversation. Why? Because this word can often be intimidating and confusing at the same time. If you Google ‘mobility’ on the internet, hundreds of pages of answers will pop up, which makes it very difficult to know where to start. So, if you only have ten minutes to spare, what mobility drills will give you the most bang for your buck? Here are three mobility drills that every CrossFit athlete should be doing:

Deep Lunge with Rotation (aka Spiderman)

The first mobility exercise is one that is pretty common and is often used in general warm-ups, especially on a day where squats are involved. To complete this stretch, take a long lunge step with one leg so that your knee is up close to your shoulder. While keeping your front shin vertical, rotate your torso away from your knee so that your elbow (if left leg is out in front then left elbow) touches the ground (or gets as close to the ground as you can get it). Then, rotate your torso back towards your knee and reach your arm straight up in the air so that your shoulders are stacked over each other. Rotate back and forth between these two positions for several reps. Then switch legs and do the same thing on the other side. If one side feels tighter than the other, spend more time on the tighter side. 

Standing Hip CAR’s (Controlled Articular Rotations)

Start by standing by a post and facing sideways. Raise your outside leg (the one farthest from the post) so that you bring your knee up as high as you can. Then move your leg towards the outside of your body so that your knee is in line with your side (avoid rotating your entire torso). Then rotate your leg so that your quad is pointing forward and your leg is at a right angle. Then bring your leg back while slowly making an arc-like motion, finishing with your raised leg in front of you once again. 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=70&v=w1v2pyzl-2c&feature=emb_title

Tabletop Bridge

This is a great exercise to work on shoulder extension, which helps improve the overhead position, as well as prime the glutes for your squats. It is also beneficial for opening up the front of the shoulder which is good when trying to get in positions such as the bottom dip portion of the muscle-up. In order to complete this movement, start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Your hands should be on the floor behind you with arms locked out. From here, drive your hips up and squeeze your glutes so that your stomach and hips make a flat surface that faces toward the ceiling. Hold this position for several seconds before returning back to the ground.

Sources:

Types of Stretching and When You Should Do Them

We’ve all heard our coaches say it: “Make sure you stretch before you leave!” While this advice is well-intentioned, it can sometimes be frustrating for the athlete if they don’t know what exactly to stretch or how to stretch. Flexibility is one of CrossFit’s 10 general physical skills and is defined as “the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.” Flexibility is important for overall health, improved strength, and better movement – all components of a healthier and more beneficial lifestyle. But the concept of flexibility can often be intimidating because of the different types of stretching and the questions of when you should stretch, how you should stretch, and what muscles to stretch.

It’s important for athletes to realize that there are several different types of stretching, such as dynamic stretching and joint rotations, static stretching, loaded stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching, and they each have their own time and purpose. Dynamic stretching and joint rotations refers to moving a joint through a full range of motion with minimal loading or stretching. These types of stretches are most effective when done before a workout or first thing in the morning. Static stretching is the most well known and it basically means holding a position for a period of time. It is usually most effective after a workout or when done in a dedicated stretching session and is used more as a recovery tool rather than to develop one’s range of motion. 

The other two types of stretching mentioned above, loaded and PNF stretching, are not very well known to most people. Loaded stretching involves working close to a joint’s end range of motion. Loading stretching can be done isometrically where the athlete uses an external object or gravity to enhance the stretch while they hold a position near their limits of flexibility, such as holding a narrow grip overhead squat with a pvc pipe or barbell. Loaded stretching can also be done while in-motion as well. This occurs when the athlete holds a position near their limits of flexibility and then contracts their muscles to come out of the stretch, and then goes deeper into the stretch. An example of this would be using a band to create dorsiflexion of the foot, then pointing the toes forward, and then moving deeper into dorsiflexion. 

PNF stretching can often be very intense. It involves using a partner or external object to move a joint close to its end range of motion before the athlete contracts against the resistance for about ten seconds. Once the contraction is complete, the athlete tries to relax and then move into a deeper stretch. PNF stretching and the two variations of loaded stretching can help to improve strength at the end range of motion, which is extremely beneficial for functional fitness. These types of stretches are best done after a workout when the athlete’s muscles are still warm. 

Sources:

https://journal.crossfit.com/article/flexibility-beers-2
https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/boost-your-mobility-with-pnf-stretching.html

BFR Training: Using Lighter Loads to Increase Strength

CrossFit has many acronyms associated with the sport: wod, metcon, amrap, emom, and the list goes on. But one acronym that you might not be as familiar with is BFR, which stands for blood-flow restriction. This is a method of training that involves wrapping a device – such as a pressure cuff, KAATSU device, knee wraps, or voodoo floss – around the upper portion of a limb to restrict blood flow out of a working muscle. It was first discovered by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato when he was attending a Buddhist festival. As he was kneeling, he experienced a reduction of blood flow to his calves which resulted in a painful increase in pressure in his lower leg muscles. As Sato started to massage out his calves, he noticed that they looked more defined, similar to that of a ‘pump’ you receive after performing isolated movements, such as calf raises. After this experience, he has spent his professional career researching and perfecting his methods. Even though BFR training has been around for fifty plus years, it is still relatively new to the fitness world. 

In more recent years, BFR training has been introduced to professional sports teams, such as the Houston Texans and Houston Rockets, as a method of strength training. The Houston Texans’ staff decided to start implementing BFR training with several of their athletes because they realized the potential of minimizing early muscular strength deficits while protecting tissue that was trying to heal, such as after a major surgery. The Texans had several athletes who were recovering from surgeries (the article was written in 2015) who reported that overall the players felt better and their legs were getting stronger. The athletes seemed to be showing better muscle control and making further progress than expected (such as moving from double-leg exercises to single-leg exercises faster than expected). Although it’s difficult to draw straightforward conclusions from only small pieces of data, the improvements that were reported for numerous Texan athletes were very promising. 

Another example of the benefits of BFR training can be seen in the athletic career of basketball player Dwight Howard. He was first introduced to BFR training when he was with the Houston Rockets. He had suffered a cartilage injury in his right knee and was forced to miss a large number of games because of the injury. His team doctor introduced him to BFR training as a way to continue to build muscle and strength in his legs while protecting his knees from unnecessary heavy loading. Howard has since moved on from playing for the Rockets and has continued to have a successful career in the NBA. These are only a few examples of the perceived success of BFR training. 

It is important to note that even though research has been done on the subject of blood flow restriction, there is still a lot of data that needs to be collected. With that being said, it is important to do your own research and ask the advice of medical professionals before deciding to use BFR as a part of your training methodology. 

Sources:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/your-complete-guide-to-blood-flow-restriction-training.html
https://bfrpro.com/blogs/news/blood-flow-restriction-bfr-training-what-is-it-where-did-it-come-from-and-how-can-i-utilize-it-in-my-training#:~:text=The%20origin%20of%20BFR%20training&text=It%20was%20discovered%20in%201966,in%20his%20lower%20limb%20muscles.
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/12352707/houston-texans-first-nfl-incorporate-blood-flow-restriction-training
https://www.owensrecoveryscience.com/

CrossFit and the Plant-Based Diet: Two Peas in a Pod?

Vegans, or individuals who eat a plant-based diet, often catch a lot of flak because they don’t eat meat. A common misconception about these individuals is that they are very lean with little muscle. This common stereotype often leads athletes to avoid this method of eating because they are concerned that they won’t be able to build muscle. However, there are several high-level athletes in a variety of disciplines who swear by a plant-based diet, such as weightlifter Kendrick Farris who was the only American male weightlifter to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics, IFBB pro bodybuilder Nimai Delgado, elite CrossFitters Dani Sidell and Jeremy Reijinders, and numerous other top professional athletes. If these top athletes can be successful on a plant-based diet, why isn’t it more commonly practiced in the fitness community? To help answer this question, it is important to understand what a plant-based diet actually is and some of the common misconceptions about it. 

A plant-based diet is exactly what it sounds like: a diet that is based on food that comes from plants and does not include any food products from animals, such as eggs, meat, dairy products, or honey. It is important to understand that just because something is plant-based, or vegan, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you. Take Oreos, for example: these cookies do not contain any animal-made products; however, if you read the nutrition label on the package, you will see that they contain a long list of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce, as well as being high in fat and sugar. Therefore, it is important to note that in order to be healthy, it is important to take a whole foods approach to your vegan diet, which means eating natural foods that include whole, unrefined, or minimally processed ingredients. 

There are several common myths about the plant-based diet that tend to make the fitness community turn their noses up in the air. Probably the most common misconception about the plant-based diet is that it is difficult to get an adequate amount of protein. It is common knowledge that meat is a significant source of protein so when you take this category of food out of one’s diet, then the question arises as to how that individual will get enough protein. However, protein is not only found in meat, but also in plant foods such as tofu, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you eat these plant-based foods throughout the day and are getting enough of a caloric intake, then you should be able to get enough protein to meet your needs. 

Another common misconception of the plant-based diet is that it is difficult to build and maintain muscle. This myth is closely related to the one discussed in the paragraph above. Research shows that increases in muscle mass and strength can be achieved with protein intake, regardless of the source. Basically, the intake of protein-rich plant food can just as effectively build muscle as animal-based foods. 

Finally, there are several health benefits associated with a plant-based diet as well, such as:

  1. Eating a plant-based diet may lower your blood pressure. 
  2. A plant-based diet can help keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. 
  3. Eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet can make it easier to lose weight and keep it off. 

Sources:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/scientific-benefits-following-plant-based-diet/

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/plant-based-myths-debunked#2

Orthorexia: An Eating Disorder that Plagues CrossFit Athletes?

Elite CrossFit athletes are known for their incredible strength, their unmatched stamina and capacity, and their ability to accomplish some of the most difficult physical tasks ever created. In addition to their many feats of fitness, many CrossFit athletes are known for their dedication to a strict diet plan, such as counting macros, following a Renaissance Periodization plan, eating strict paleo, etc. These methods of dieting are often collectively referred to as ‘clean eating’. However, sometimes athletes can take their healthy eating habits to the extreme, leading to something called Orthorexia, which is defined as an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

The term ‘Orthorexia’ was coined in the late 1990s by American physician Steve Bratman. Even though this disorder has been around for over ten years, it can be difficult to actually diagnose an individual with the disorder because it is not included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the manual used by most mental health professionals around the world as the authoritative guide to diagnose mental disorders. Furthermore, it is often difficult to distinguish between an actual eating disorder or simply a normal preoccupation with healthy eating. 

When trying to determine whether an individual has Orthorexia or not, look for the following warning signs:

  • Compulsively checking ingredient lists and nutritional labels.
  • Increased concern about the health of ingredients.
  • Cutting out an increased number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products, etc.).
  • Only eating a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’ and nothing else.
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating.
  • Spending multiple hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events.
  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available.
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram.
  • The individual may or may not actually have body image concerns.

Finally, like other eating disorders, Orthorexia can cause many negative effects. Some of the most detrimental physical effects include malnutrition, digestion problems and hormonal imbalances. Some psychological effects include intense frustration when the individual’s normal eating habits are disrupted; spending a large amount of time determining if foods are ‘clean’ enough, and having difficulty maintaining focus on their surrounding environment, including people. Finally, individuals with Orthorexia can suffer from social effects as well, such as not being willing to give up control when it comes to food; their strict eating habits can make it difficult for them to participate in social activities that are centered around food; their constantly intrusive food-related thoughts and the tendency to feel that their eating habits are superior to others can make it difficult for them to have good social interactions. 

Sources: 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/orthorexia-nervosa-101#what-is-orthorexia

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia

Kipping it Real with Kara!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. October’s Athlete of the Month is Kara Schweigel. Kara was chosen because every day she shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to improve her technique (she asks the coaches questions on how she can get better at different things); she is happy to accept feedback and try to implement it the best she can; she are very positive and always tries her best! Her hard work is paying off and we love having Kara as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Kara below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? I’ve been coming to OPCF since June. I was a member of another KC Crossfit gym for several years before moving to Overland Park.

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? I remember feeling happy to be back to working out after a forced quarantine break, but also that I was going to be sore.

What has been your favorite workout so far? I like the Hero workouts. I know they’re going to be super challenging, but finishing them feels so good.

What is your favorite cheat meal? Tacos and a margarita

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? I was (still am) an animal lover and wanted to be a vet when I was little. I definitely didn’t go the med school route, but instead I work in compliance for a pharmaceutical software company.

What do you like to do outside of work? I love being with my family; my kids are busy with sports, which means I’m busy cheering them on. I also enjoy running, reading, and baking.

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? Keep showing up, especially on the days that the workout scares you. Don’t be afraid to scale and ask the coaches questions; they’re always happy to help.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? I really like rowing and anything with a barbell. Burpees and the assault bike are THE WORST.

What’s one Crossfit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? I’d like to get double-unders and work towards a pull-up.

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? My strength has improved, which is cool but so has my form. I love getting feedback from the coaches on how to be more efficient, how to lift more, etc.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? Showing up consistently, especially when it’s a workout that I don’t think I’ll enjoy or be good at, is something I’m always proud of.

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? I make it a priority by looking at my week and making sure I’ve blocked out an hour of my day to work out.

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? I’ve always wanted to do a box jump, but they terrify me. I’ll get there though!

Do You Squat Crooked? 2 Drills to Help Fix Your Hip Shift

Has anyone ever told you that you squat crooked? Have you ever taken a video of yourself squatting and noticed that you tend to shift to one side as you stand up? This is called a hip shift and can occur for several different reasons, such as mobility imbalances, strength deficiencies, and motor control issues. Fixing a hip shift takes time and repetition, but using the following drills to help retrain your brain and change your movement patterns can be the key to building a stronger squat.

One possible cause for a hip shift is that an athlete’s pelvis is rotated more forward on one side than the other, which can cause the athlete to naturally shift to one side more than the other. To help correct this, the athlete is going to have to rely on some of their smaller muscles, their adductors, to help stabilize and reposition their pelvis so that they are more centered when they squat. Using the smaller muscles that are close to the pelvis to help correct the hip shift issue then frees up the bigger muscles, such as the hamstrings and glutes, to create the power needed for a strong squat. In the following drill, the goal is to restore the pelvis’ ability to stabilize in the sagittal plane (movement front to back). 

  1. Lie on your back with your feet up on a wall and your legs at ninety degrees. Place a foam roller between your knees.
  1. Start by taking a big breath in through your nose, and then slowly let it out through your mouth. As you exhale, feel your front ribs fold down towards your belly button, which pulls your pelvis back underneath you.
  2. From here, lift your tailbone off the ground slightly (just an inch or so), while maintaining a braced core. Lightly squeeze the foam roller with your knees (this will recruit the adductors on both sides). 
  3. From here, shift one side down so that one knee is lower than the other. (If you start by shifting your left knee down, then the roller should spin counter-clockwise. You will then bring your left side back up, and shift the right side down. You can shift back and forth from side to side several times). This restores the body’s ability to shift forward/backward, one side at a time, as you are squatting. 
  4. Finally, you can practice stabilizing your pelvis by pressing one side down (so one knee is lower than the other) and then taking the opposite foot off the wall. Hold this position for two breath cycles. Remember, your tailbone should still be lifted slightly off the ground. It is best to practice this on the side that you tend to shift to when you squat. (If you shift to the left, then practice keeping the left knee down, which teaches you to stabilize the left side of the pelvis, and teaches you to recruit the left hamstring.)   

A second method that can aid in fixing a hip shift is called RNT, or Reactive Neuromuscular Training. This is the idea that you use resistance to actually increase the dysfunction that is occurring when you squat. For example: if you tend to shift to the left when you squat, then you are going to increase the resistance towards the left so that you have to over-exaggerate squatting to the right. In order to do this, tie a band around a post (or have someone hold it for you) and then step both feet into the band. You want the band to lay right around your right hip so that it is shifting you towards the left. You want just enough resistance so that you push reflexively towards the right, but not enough so that it pulls you off balance. You can practice doing air squats, goblet squats, even light barbell squats with this band around your waist to train your body to push away from the side that you normally shift to. 

Sources:

http://www.andrewheming.com/2016/07/how-to-fix-hip-shift-in-squat.html

Fixing Your Squat: The Knee Cave

How many times have you heard a coach yell, “Knees out!” while you are on your last rep of a heavy set of back squats? Or, have you ever glanced over at your buddy as he’s standing up a heavy clean and cringed because his knee caps are almost touching? If you’re a competitive athlete, you will probably do just about anything to get those extra few pounds on your lifts, but this mindset to push your body to its max capacity can often lead you to develop bad habits, such as letting your knees cave when you squat. It is important to reinforce good movement patterns – from the warm-up phase to the heaviest sets or lifts – in order to reduce the likelihood of injury and increase your overall efficiency. 

The main reason athletes allow their knees to cave during a heavy squat is actually due to a timing issue. Athletes are unable to turn on their lateral glute muscles (gluteus medius – see image below) at the right time, and keep them engaged, in order to maintain proper knee alignment and keep them pressed out over their toes. In order to learn how to properly engage these muscles, the coach may cue the athlete to press their knees out. Sometimes an athlete can turn their knees out too much, causing their feet to roll to the outside and putting them off balance. To avoid this, the athlete should keep their feet firmly planted on the ground maintaining three points of contact: the big toe, the pinky toe, and the heel. 

    In order to get the most out of your glutes when you squat, it is important to warm them up properly. Here are a couple of exercises that you can use in your warm-up routine to help you learn how to activate your glute muscles properly:

Monster Walks

Place a mini band around your ankles and stand about shoulder-width apart in an athletic stance (quarter squat, toes forward, knees pressed out). Start taking steps sideways, maintaining this athletic stance and keeping the tension on the band. Focus on forcing the hips back and initiating each step with your hip/glutes, and then control each following step by pushing weight into the hips.

Banded Squats

Place a mini band right above your knees. Initiate the squat by setting your hips back slightly and then descend straight down, keeping your knees pressed out so that tension remains on the band. As you stand back up, continue to press your knees out, with feet planted firmly on the ground, keeping tension in the band.

Sources:

https://barbend.com/activate-glutes-warmup/

Running Mechanics 101: The 5 Basic Stages of Proper Running Form

As the weather is turning colder, gyms are opening their bay doors to let in the sunlight and let out athletes to run before winter. The increased volume of running can lead to various aches and pains such as shin splints, sore calves and hamstrings, etc., that weren’t prevalent during the colder months. As more and more running is programmed, it is important to return to the basics and practice proper technique to prevent injuries. 

Most of us probably assume that running is a natural movement pattern and there is no need to practice proper form. However, all running-related injuries can be pinpointed to poor running mechanics. Therefore, it is important to understand the five basic stages of proper running form, which are posture, lean, pull, shift, support, and land, and how to integrate them into your running. 

Having the correct running posture is imperative to being an efficient runner. A compromised posture can result in an overload or misuse of the muscles and joints that are in action while running. In order to avoid these problems, it is necessary to establish a neutral posture (flat back) and then stabilize this position by engaging your core (similar to what you would do before starting a deadlift). In order to run with the most efficiency and handle the force placed on your body each time you land, you have to turn on the muscles in your trunk to lengthen and flatten your back; you will need to set your hips and ribcage in a stable position as well. In order to feel what a good position is, you can practice holding the hollow body position and focus on engaging your glutes and contracting your core by drawing your rib cage down towards your belly button and then bringing your belly button in towards your spine.

The second stage of running is called the ‘lean’, and this is the idea of using gravity to actually pull your body forward and let it do as much work as possible. Most of the time when athletes run, they push off the ground with one foot while also stepping forward with the other one. This starts putting the body into motion, but is actually counter-productive because every time they push their foot away from the ground, they are using their own energy to propel their body, therefore, working against gravity. 

However, a much better approach is to actually shift your general center of mass over your base of support so that the power of gravity will take over and actually force you forward. To prevent falling to the ground and keep your momentum moving forward, you have to alternate your feet and put your supporting foot underneath your general center of mass to keep up with your forward fall. The farther you fall forward, the quicker you have to move your feet to keep up with your general center of mass, and ultimately, the faster you will run. The degree of your fall determines how fast you will have to move your legs to keep up.

In order to correctly execute the foot pull, draw your heel toward your butt using the power of your hamstrings while maintaining a neutral foot position. Some things to be aware of and avoid when performing this component: dorsiflexion of the foot (pulling your toes up), lifting your knee up (instead of simply letting it shift forward), and extending your leg back behind your body. All of these faults can cause you to put forth more energy than necessary and increase your susceptibility to injury. 

When you shift supports (move from one foot to the other) there is a brief moment when both of your feet leave the ground and you are completely suspended in midair. This is what distinguishes running from walking. If you are falling forward and pulling your feet correctly, then your feet should cross paths and your legs should remain under your body. A common fault during this stage of running is pushing off with a forward leg swing. One leg trails behind your body and you are then landing on the heel of your forward foot. This slows down your momentum, restricts the efficiency of your stride and increases your chances of injury.

The final stage of running is the ‘land’. There are several different points of the foot that you can land on – the heel, the heel and ball of the foot, or the ball of the foot. The best and most effective foot position to land on is the ball of the foot for several reasons: you will be able to use your arch as it was designed, you will be able to absorb the shock of your bodyweight, and you will engage the muscular-tendon elastic system that helps reduce impact and preserve energy. 

Keep in mind, landing on the ball of your foot does not mean that your heel never makes contact with the ground. When performed correctly, your foot should be relaxed and your heel should touch the ground for a split second before you go back to being on the ball of your foot before you shift supports. This will reduce the load placed on your calves, Achilles, and ankles during the striking phase of running, which will in turn minimize the injuries that can occur with a ball-of-the-foot landing. 

Source:

Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training by Brian Mackenzie