Jacqueline Crockford, DHSc by Jacqueline Crockford, DHSc

Running. People either love it or loathe it more than anything. There’s no question that running for fitness can be a great way to improve many measures of health, including resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition and bone density, among others. But how can we help our clients get the most out of their running, and turn “I guess I have to go for a run now” into “Is it time to run yet?!”

Here are a few tips you can offer clients that can help them improve their running economy and decrease their risk of injury so that they can enjoy the many benefits of running.

1. Start slowly

If your client has never been a runner, going out for a first “run” should be more of a brisk walk with a few short jogging intervals. Encourage your clients to try walking for 30 minutes and every five minutes, jog slowly for one minute. Over time, they can work toward jogging more and walking less, 30 to 60 seconds at a time. Once they have succeeded at 30 minutes of consecutive jogging, then they can begin to work on improving speed.

2. Ground contact

While jogging (slower form of running), it is important to be efficient with each foot strike. Ask your clients to think about contacting the ground with their mid-foot, rather than their heels. This way the foot will contact the ground under the hip and propel the body forward (when heel striking, the leg tends to act as a break and will slow the body down and put more stress on the knees).

3. Arm swing

While running, the arms should be swinging from the shoulders, with the elbows bent at about 90 degrees and the hands relaxed. Urge your clients to pretend they are holding two swords, one in each hand. If these swords cross over each other at any time during the arm swing, then the arms are crossing the body, which is a sign that energy is being wasted due to inefficient arm movements.

4. Body lean

The trunk should be tall, as if being pulled up from a string attached to the top of the head. Leading with the chest, the body should lean slightly forward (about 5 degrees) to propel the body in a forward direction. Encourage your clients to think of the trunk as a gas pedal in a car. Pressing it forward (not leaning forward) gently allows for an increase in speed.

5. Cadence

When an individual begins a running program, it may make sense to take long strides so as to cover as much ground as possible with each step. However, this can result in high ground-impact forces, which can lead to injury, early fatigue and inefficient running. Advise your clients to adjust their stride frequency to higher than 150 bpm (180 is ideal)—this would be the equivalent of running to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” or Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” from Top Gun