How to avoid rookie running mistakes

POUNDING PAVEMENT: Running is a great cardiovascular workout, but correct technique is more important than you think.
POUNDING PAVEMENT: Running is a great cardiovascular workout, but correct technique is more important than you think.

Thinking of throwing on some trainers and starting a running routine? The sport has seen a massive resurgence in popularity boosted by an increasing number of races at both the amateur and more experienced levels, but it's not something you can just stride right into. It's important to learn correct technique and training habits to get the greatest health benefits out of a running program.

"Deciding to integrate running into your exercise program is a very positive step to take and will provide you with physical and mental health benefits," says David Chamberlain, sports scientist and running coach at DC Run. "But whilst on one level running is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, it's also a skill, so it needs to be learned and practised. Without a strong foundation of correct running technique, you're not going to be able to run efficiently or with ease. You also increase the risk of getting injured or experiencing discomfort when you run."

To make sure you start your training regimen on the right foot, Chamberlain explains the most prevalent rookie running mistakes he sees...

1. Poor posture

"When we run, we should be relaxed and upright with our whole body aligned. All too often, new runners have their hips set too far back resulting in an inefficient 'head chasing' style. This tends to be magnified in people who sit at a desk all day.

Building strength in the glutes and core is essential for new runners and helps to develop a more optimal running style. It doesn't have to mean lifting heavy weights in the gym, it can be as simple as regularly squeezing your butt cheeks together or attending a Pilates class."

2. Over striding

"Many new runners think that to run well they need to take big long strides, landing on their heels well in front of their body. But by striking the ground in this way, you're effectively 'braking' with each stride, working against gravity, not with it.

By focusing on landing underneath your hips with a slightly bent knee, and leaning your body forwards from the ankles as opposed to the hips, you're able to take advantage of the free energy provided by the force of gravity. You also reduce the amount of impact on your knees and lower back."

3. Pushing into the ground

"To run well, we want to glide across the ground, not slam and thud into it. To optimise efficiency and reduce the risk of injury, think about 'pulling' your foot from the ground as opposed to 'pushing' down into it. This relatively quick 'pulling' action will also help to increase your foot speed or cadence, reducing the amount of time that your feet are actually in contact with the ground. This adds to improvements in speed and efficiency, and reduces impact."

4. Doing too much, too soon

"Running requires a certain level of fitness and strength, which takes time to develop. Many people decide to start running having entered an organised event. If you're new to running, make sure that you give yourself enough time to prepare for the race you've entered and follow a structured running program that's appropriate to your fitness level. And listen to your body, if you're getting constant niggles or pains take a day off, reduce your distances or take part in a complementary activity such as swimming or yoga."

5. Not doing strength and mobility training

"Strength and mobility exercises are often neglected by both new and experienced runners. If you don't have a solid foundation of strength and a sufficient level of joint mobility to build your running fitness on, you're far more likely to end up getting injured and you won't reach your full running potential.

Resistance work that focuses on the legs, particularly the glutes and hamstrings, as well as the core should form approximately 20 per cent of your training. This could come from activities such as weights classes, Pilates and even cycling. Yoga is great for developing mobility, particularly in the hips, which is essential for becoming an efficient runner."

- Daily Life