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Connecting Ultrarunners Across The Globe

International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation



Claire Dorotik LMFT


Is running something you have always wanted to do, but perhaps have been hesitant to try? Maybe you have heard that running is bad for your knees. Maybe you have been told that humans are not meant to run. Or perhaps you have visions of hours of painful toiling away on a never-ending stretch of road.

Well the truth is, none of those things are true about running. First of all, running is a survival mechanism, and therefore, humans are meant to do it. Secondly, running is not bad for your knees, and certainly much better than our current sedentary lifestyles for ensuring longevity. Lastly, running should be enjoyable. After all, don’t kids love to run?

So if you are considering beginning a running program, there are several things that you can do to increase your enjoyment and consequently, your success.

  • DO NOT CHECK YOUR WATCH: While you will want to know how long or how far you have run in order to keep track of your weekly mileage, checking your watch during a run is the surest way to decrease your enjoyment. Why? When you check your watch you remove yourself from the qualitative process of running. You forget about your form, and focus on how far or how long you have gone. The surest way to make time go slow is to focus on it. This is exactly what you do when you check your watch. In addition to this, when you stop focusing on your form, you tighten up, and the run immediately feels harder. Now not only does the run feel harder, you are focusing on it more. Instead, focus on your form intermittently, and for the rest of the time, try to RELAX and let your mind wander.
  • LOWER YOUR ARMS: This is one of the most common mistakes of beginner runners. The arms are held too high, too close to the chest, and the arm swing is restricted. When your arms are in this position, not only are you biomechanically compromised, but you are also compressing your lungs. As the shoulders raise and pull forward, the arm swing comes across the chest, causing the intercostals muscles between the ribs to contract unnecessarily, decreasing the ability to expand the ribcage. Additionally, the muscles of the trapezius (upper shoulders) tighten straining the neck. With a restricted arm swing, the length and propulsion of the leg swing is also restricted, reducing speed and power. With less power, compressed lungs, and strained shoulders, it is no wonder running feels hard! Instead lower your arms, and allow your hands to swing straight past your sides as if you are wiping them off on your hips.
  • STAY UPRIGHT: This may sound like a rudimentary concept, however, leaning too far forward is a very common error of beginner runners. While the ideal body angle is ninety degrees, or perpendicular to the ground, most first time runners lean forward by five to ten degrees. This excessive forward lean causes several stresses on the body. Primarily, the muscles of the lower back are strained as they are absorbing more of the core weight than the abdominal muscles. To check this out on yourself, simply trying standing on your toes on leaning forward. You might notice that it doesn’t take long for your lower back to start talking to you. However, straining your lower back isn’t the only strain that occurs when you lean too far forward while running. With even a five degree forward lean, your quadriceps absorb a disproportionate amount of your weight than your hamstrings. Because your hamstrings actually have three insertion points, they are much better equipped to stabilize your knee upon landing than are your quadriceps. But when you lean forward, your quadriceps are forced to absorb the majority of the shock, placing stress on your knee, and potentially compressing your patella. The more this happens, the tighter the quadriceps muscle tend to become, and the more compressed the patella becomes. This results in a common condition called “runner’s knee.” Instead, pull your shoulders back, keep your eyes level (do not look down), and your back straight. Then pull your hips underneath you and tuck your tailbone under as well (the equivalent of a dog tucking his tail). This position will keep your back straight, and your lower back and knees free from strain.

While you may have imagined running to be difficult, and painful, remember, it is supposed to be enjoyable. Hopefully by paying attention to these three tips, you can change your perception, and you can learn to love running.